Kansas' state parks will be hosting their annual "First Day Hikes" on New Year's Day. This year, 22 Kansas State Parks will be participating. These special events are the perfect opportunity to walk off some of those holiday calories, enjoy nature, and welcome in the New Year with family and friends. If you need more convincing, free First Day Hike t-shirts will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Sponsoring the First Day Hike event Igloo has provided Kansas state parks with coolers that will be giving away by drawing.
“We are excited to host First Day Hikes as part of this national effort to get people outdoors and into our parks,” said Linda Lanterman, Parks division director for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. “First Day Hikes are a great way to cure cabin fever and burn off those extra holiday calories by starting off the New Year with an invigorating walk or hike in one of our beautiful state parks.”
Kansas’ 26 state parks offer access to over 1,000 miles of Kansas hiking, cycling and horseback trails, ranging from short, paved paths to the 96-mile Flint Hills trails.
First Day Hike trails are generally a mile or two of family-friendly terrain. Park staff lead the treks to help to educate hikers along the way. Many hikes will be along the shores of large lakes, pass through tall, rugged woodlands and/or across broad native prairies. Odds of seeing things like bald eagles and other wildlife are very high, so bring your binoculars.
First Day Hikes began in Massachusetts about 25 years ago. All states, including Kansas, came on board in 2012. Many are held in Canada, too. Most Kansas state parks hosting hikers will offer drinks and snacks. Hikers are also encouraged to bring their own, too. Leashed pets are welcome. Children must have adult supervision.
The guided hikes are free. Participants need a vehicle permit to drive into the park. Daily passes are $5 and sold at self-serve stations in the park. Some park offices will be open to sell daily passes or $25 annual passes. People are encouraged to buy the 12-month Park Passport state park permit when they register their vehicles.
State park Facebook pages will carry the news if hikes are canceled because of bad weather.
- Cedar Bluff State Park - Meet at the park office at 10 a.m. to hike the 1.25-mile moderate terrain Bluffton Trail, open to hikers of all ages.
- Cheney State Park – Meet at the park office at 2 p.m. for the 1.5-mile West Side Nature Trail hike; easy to moderate terrain. All ages welcome.
- Clinton State Park – Meet at the entrance of Campground #3 at 10 a.m. to hike on the X-Country Ski Trail. The 1-mile route is through easy terrain; all ages welcome.
- Crawford State Park – Meet at the beach shelter house at 10 a.m. to hike the 2-mile Deer Run Nature Trail, which includes easy to moderate terrain suited for all ages.
- El Dorado State Park – Meet at the Walnut River Cabins at 1 p.m. for a 2-mile Walnut River Trail hike. The easy to moderate terrain is perfect for hikers of all ages.
- Elk City State Park – Meet at 11 a.m. at the Overlook trailhead for a 1-mile hike on the Table Mound Hiking Trail. The trail’s moderate terrain is open to hikers of all ages.
- Fall River State Park – Meet at the Fall River maintenance shop at 2 p.m. to hike the three-quarter-mile Post Oak Trail. The moderate terrain is ideal for hikers of all ages.
- Flint Hills Trail State Park – Meet at the old depot in Ottawa at 2 p.m. to hike 2 miles of easy terrain perfect for all ages.
- Green Recreational Trail in Pratt – Meet at 1 p.m. at the KDWPT barn/shop to hike 1 mile of easy to moderate terrain, open for all ages to enjoy.
- Hillsdale State Park – Meet at the park office at 10:30 a.m. to hike on the Hidden Springs Nature Trail. The 1.5 miles of easy terrain is recommended for hikers age six and up.
- Historic Lake Scott State Park – Meet at the trailhead at 10 a.m. to hike the Historic Lake Scott Multi-Use Trail. The moderate terrain hike is 1 to 2 miles long and is open to all ages.
- Kanopolis State Park – Meet at the park office at 10 a.m. to hike the Split Boulder Trail. The 1.6-mile trail can be navigated by hikers of all ages.
- Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park – Meet at the park at noon for one of two hikes: Life on the Rocks Trail hike or the Little Jerusalem Badlands Off Trail hike. The Life of the Rocks Trail is 1 to 2 miles over easy terrain, while the Little Jerusalem Badlands Off Trail is a 1-mile hike through advanced terrain. Both hikes are open to all ages.
- Meade State Park – Meet at the park office at 3 p.m. for the Eagle Trail hike. All ages are welcome for the 2.5-mile trail of easy terrain.
- Milford State Park – Meet at the Crystal Trail parking lot near the Walnut Grove Campground at 1 p.m. to hike on the Crystal Trail. The 2.18-mile trail includes moderate terrain and is open to hikers of all ages.
- Perry State Park – Meet at the day-use area in the Wild Horse Campground at 10 a.m. to hike the 1.5-mile Jack-O-Lope Trail. The easy terrain is ideal for all ages.
- Pomona State Park – Meet at the park office at 1 p.m. for a 2-mile hike around several campgrounds. Hikers of all ages are welcome to enjoy the easy terrain.
- Prairie Dog (Norton) State Park – Meet at the Nature Trail parking lot at 8 a.m. for a 1.4-mile hike over moderate terrain open to all ages.
- Sand Hills State Park – Meet at the park office/cabin at 10 a.m. to hike the 1-mile Dune and Prairie trails, which include easy to moderate terrain. All ages welcome.
- Tuttle Creek State Park – Meet at the park office at 10:30 a.m. to hike the Western Heritage Trail. This hike is open to hikers of all ages and includes easy terrain covering 1 to 3 miles.
- Webster State Park – Meet at the trailhead at 10 a.m. to hike the 3-mile Coyote Trail over easy terrain. Hikers of all ages are welcome.
- Wilson State Park – Meet at the Cedar Trail parking lot for the 1 p.m. hike on the trail. Easy terrain.
* Park information updated on 12/23/2019.