Popularity of First Day Hikes Continues to Grow

Excellent weather throughout the state helped California State Parks set participation records for National First Day Hike event on New Year’s Day.

More than 3,000 participants hiked more than 11,000 miles as part of this national program involving all 50 states. This is the sixth year California has participated in the First Day Hikes program. The program is part of a nationwide initiative led by America’s State Parks to encourage people to get outdoors.

“Public outdoor places support healthy, affordable, physical and social activities,” said California State Parks Director Lisa Mangat. “California’s state parks are a gateway to these benefits and to the opportunities to connect with families, friends and communities.”

In all 54 California State Parks hosted 88 different hikes. Four parks hosted hikes for the first time – Malakoff Diggins and Santa Cruz Mission state historic parks and Caswell Memorial and Hearst San Simeon state parks. Eight parks hosted more than 100 hikers each with Año Nuevo State Park leading the way with sell out of 440 visitors drawn by the famous elephant seal colony.

Supervising State Park Ranger Scott Liske and Park Aides Nicole Bartley and Catherine Poggi led the hike at Auburn SRA.

Some other highlights:

  • Jack London State Historic Park, which was narrowly spared by wildfire in October and November, turned its hike in to a First Day Gratitude Hike for first responders, medical personnel, utility crews, State Parks staff and anyone else who helped the community survive and continue to recover from the devastating fires in Sonoma.  Local fire chief Rusty Sims led the 8-mile hike to a mountain top where survivors contemplated the destruction.
  • Chino Hills State Park – The City of Chino Hills Healthy Hills program partnered with California State Parks on this hike providing free back packs filled with items to promote healthy living and exercise.
  • Mount Tamalpias State Park – Nearly 300 hikers made the 8-mile round trip to the top of East Peak for a view of the North Bay Area and San Francisco.
  • Calaveras Big Trees State Park in the Sierra had a visitor from Japan participate.
  • Red Rock Canyon State Park – Five hiking clubs from through Southern California turned out for a 9.5 mile hike through desert canyons.


Hikers whale watched, explored tide pools, tromped through the state’s largest hydraulic mining site, visited a Spanish mission, craned their necks at tall redwoods, and enjoyed wildflowers and wildlife. They explored Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area on off-road vehicles and paddled Stone Lagoon. Ages ranged from an 11-month-old to several spry visitors in their 70s who hike daily and endorse the activity as a means to aging well.

red rock 3
A hiker enjoys a vista at Red Rock Canyon State Park.

While California was blessed with mild weather and sunshine, hikers in the central and eastern portion of the nation braved cold and snow to carry on the First Day Hike tradition.  One park in North Dakota reported hikers braving -45 degree temperatures.

Tijuana NP FDH Anne Marie Tipton
Anne Marie Tipton explains a king tie to hikers at the Tijuana Esturary Nature Preserve.

A huge thank you to all the docents, volunteers, State Parks employees and partners who worked this grass roots effort to make First Day Hikes a growing and continued success. We look forward to your participation next year.


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