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New Yorkers can start 2024 outdoors with 'First Day Hike'


Wed, Dec 27th 2023 07:00 am

Events at more than 80 state parks, historic sites, wildlife areas, canal trails & public lands on New Year's Day

Gov. Kathy Hochul encourages New Yorkers to spend time in the outdoors this holiday season and celebrate the new year at state parks, historic sites, wildlife areas, canal trails and public lands across the Empire State on Jan. 1, 2024. The 13th annual “First Day Hikes” program is offering varied hike options for people at more than 80 locations across the state to enjoy.

"New York’s public lands are something to behold. We lead the nation on state public lands, and we house the nation’s oldest state park. As New York State Parks celebrates its centennial next year, our ‘First Day Hikes’ is the first of many celebratory events,” Hochul said. “I invite all New Yorkers to begin the New Year by experiencing New York’s beautiful landscapes and enjoying the environmental and cultural legacy we call home.”

A press release noted the walks and hikes are family-friendly, and typically range from one to five miles depending on the location and conditions. More than 90 hikes are being offered at state parks, historic sites, DEC state lands, wildlife areas, forest preserve and canal trails and environmental education centers. Noteworthy for 2024 is an exploration of Camp Hero State Park on Long Island; a hike along the newly completed Quaker Run Multi-Use Area Trail at Allegany State Park; post-hike art activities at Olana; a hike along the Erie Canal at Herkimer Home; and a hike focusing on Indigenous history at Peebles Island. The Catskill Visitor Center hike leads up to the Upper Esopus Fire Tower qualifying for DEC’s annual “Fire Tower Challenge.” DEC’s North-South Lake Day Use Area hike leads to the Catskill Mountain House, which is celebrating its 200th anniversary since it opened its doors to the public.

While the following locations are offering organized activities, most of New York’s public lands are accessible on this day and throughout the winter season.

List of “First Day Hikes” by region:

Western New York

Allegany State Park – Quaker Area, Salamanca; 716-379-6941

Brockport Welcome Center, Brockport; 585-637-1000

Buckhorn Island State Park, Grand Island; 716-475-0192

Evangola State Park, Irving; 716-475-0192 

Fort Niagara State Park, Youngstown; 716-282-5154 (2 hikes)

Genesee Valley Greenway, Hinsdale; 585-493-3614

Genesee Valley Greenway, Cuba; 585-209-5512

Genesee Valley Greenway, Fillmore; register here

Genesee Valley Greenway, Avon; 585-278-5100

Genesee Valley Greenway, Nunda; 585-905-2117

Genesee Valley Greenway, Rochester; 585-256-2130

Genesee Valley Greenway, Scottsville; 585-943-2611

Genesee Valley Greenway, York; 585-493-3614

Genesee Valley Park, Rochester; 585-490-4463 or register here

Hamlin Beach State Park, Hamlin; 585-964-2462

Letchworth State Park Humphrey Nature Center, Castile; 585-493-3680 (3 hikes) 

Letchworth State Park Highbanks Picnic Shelter, Mt. Morris; 585-493-3680 (2 hikes)

Macedon Canal Park, Macedon; 315-986-5631

Mount Pleasant State Forest, Chautauqua; 716-363-2052

Niagara Falls State Park, Niagara Falls; 716-282-5154

Phillips Creek State Forest, West Almond; 607-382-9770 (2 hikes)

Reinstein Woods Environmental Education Center, Depew; 716-683-5959 

Wilson Tuscarora State Park, Wilson; 716-282-5154 

Finger Lakes and Central New York

Bowman Lake State Park/McDonough State Forest, Oxford; 607-775-2545, ext. 121 (several hikes available)

Catharine Valley Trail, Watkins Glen; 607-481-0584

Chenango Valley State Park, Chenango Forks; 607-648-5251

Clark Reservation State Park, Jamesville; register here

Delta Lake State Park, Rome; 315-337-4670 (2 hikes)

Fort Ontario State Historic Site, Oswego; 315-343-4711 (guided and self-guided options)

Glimmerglass State Park, Cooperstown; 607-643-1275

Green Lakes State Park, Fayetteville; 315-637-6111

Hemlock-Canadice State Forest, Canadice; 585-259-4505 (2 hikes)

Herkimer Home State Historic Site, Herkimer; 315-823-0398

Montezuma Audubon Center, Savannah; 315-365-3588

Newtown Battlefield State Park, Elmira; 607-732-6287

Rogers Environmental Education Center, Sherburne; 607-674-4733 (2 hikes)

Selkirk Shores State Park, Pulaski; 315-298-5737

Seneca Lake State Park, Geneva; 315-789-2331

Taughannock Falls State Park, Trumansburg; 607-387-7041, ext. 131

Two Rivers State Park, Waverly; 607-732-6287

North Country/Adirondacks

Cat Mountain, Lake George Wild Forest, Bolton Landing; 518-338-8173

Coney Mountain, Horseshoe Lake Wild Forest, Tupper Lake; 315-916-4038

John Brown Farm State Historic Site, Lake Placid; 518-527-0191

Paul Smith's Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC), Paul Smiths; 315-832-2695

Point Au Roche State Park, Plattsburgh; 518-563-0369

Prospect Mountain, Lake George Wild Forest, Lake George; 518-623-1268

Robert G. Wehle State Park, Henderson; 315-938-5302 

Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site, Sackets Harbor; 315-646-2321

SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry – Adirondack Interpretive Center,

Goodnow Mountain, Newcomb; 518-582-4551, ext. 113

Wellesley Island State Park, Fineview; 315-482-2479

Winona State Forest, Lacona; 315-785-2610 (taking place on Dec. 31, 2023)

Greater Capital District

Adirondack Ultra Cycling, Schuylerville; 518-583-3708

Five Rivers Environmental Education Center, Delmar; 518-475-0291 (2 hikes)

Grafton Lakes State Park, Grafton; 518-279-1155 (2 hikes)

Moreau Lake State Park, Gansevoort; 518-793-0511

Mine Kill State Park, North Blenheim; 518-827-8691

Peebles Island State Park, Cohoes; register here (2 hikes)

Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs; 518-810-6906

Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site, Fort Hunter; 518-829-7516

Thacher State Park, Voorheesville; 518-807-7640

Hudson Valley/Catskills

Bramley Mountain, Delhi; 845-428-0160

Catskills Visitor Center, Mount Tremper; 845-688-3369

Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park, Yorktown; 914-245-4434

Little Stony Point/Hudson Highlands State Park, Cold Spring; 410-456-8998

John Jay Homestead State Historic Site, Katonah; 914-232-5651

Minnewaska State Park Preserve, Peter's Kill, Kerhonkson; 845-255-0752 

Minnewaska State Park Preserve, Sam's Point, Cragsmoor; 845-647-7989

North-South Lake Day Use Area, Haines Falls; 518-303-6050

Olana State Historic Site, Hudson; 518-751-6938 

Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park, Dobbs Ferry; 646-303-1448

Rockefeller State Park Preserve, Pleasantville; 914-631-1470

Staatsburgh State Historic Site, Staatsburgh; register here

Sterling Forest State Park, Tuxedo; 845-351-5907

Stony Kill Farm Environmental Education Center, Wappingers Falls; 845-831-3800

Taconic State Park – Copake Falls, Copake Falls; 518-329-3993 (2 hikes)

Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park, Poughkeepsie; 845-834-2867

West Kill Mountain, Hunter-West Kill Wilderness Area, West Kill; 607-832-4413

Willowemoc Wild Forest, Livingston Manor; 845-693-4181

New York City and Long Island

Bethpage State Park, Farmingdale; 631-962-0217

Camp Hero State Park, Montauk; 631-668-5000, ext. 0

Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve, W. Babylon; 631-581-1072

Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve, Staten Island; 347-850-5355

Connetquot River State Park Preserve, Oakdale; 631-481-3505, register here

Hallock State Park Preserve, Riverhead; 631-315-5475

Heckscher State Park, North Babylon; 631-581-1072

Hempstead Lake State Park, West Hempstead; 516-766-1029

Jones Beach Energy and Nature Center, Wantagh; 516-548-7823

Montauk Point State Park, Montauk; 631-668-5000

Mt. Loretto Unique Area, Staten Island; 718-313-8591

Orient Beach State Park, Orient; 631-323-2440

Ridge Conservation Area, Ridge; 631-444-0350

Robert Moses State Park, Babylon; 631-581-1072

Shirley Chisholm State Park, Brooklyn, 718-277-2420

Sunken Meadow State Park, Kings Park; 631-269-4333, ext. 0

Throughout 2024, there will be many ways for New Yorkers to celebrate the Parks Centennial. The “Centennial Challenge” showcases the broad variety of recreational and educational opportunities available at New York state parks and historic sites by offering the opportunity to earn prizes for experiencing 24 out of 100 suggested activities at a park or site. “First Day Hike” participation is a “Centennial Challenge” activity.

Hochul’s team said, “In 1923, Gov. Alfred E. Smith endorsed an ambitious plan for a statewide system of parks connected by scenic parkways and boulevards. In 1924, New York state established the State Council of Parks, and voters approved a $15 million bond to enact the plan. Over the next decade, New York established 55 new state parks. Today, the system has grown to include more than 250 parks, beaches, boat launches, trails and historic sites.”

A list of New York state “First Day Hikes,” location details, format, preregistration requirements and additional information can be found online for parks, DEC and canals. Interested participants are encouraged to check the details of their preferred host site and register where required.

Starting in Massachusetts in 1992, “First Day Hikes” are now a national event taking place in all 50 states.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Canal Corp. are partnering to host the many walks and hikes taking place throughout the state as part of the 13th annual “First Day Hikes” program.

New York State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, " ‘First Day Hikes’ is particularly meaningful this year, as it marks the beginning of our centennial celebration. 2024 will be a year in which all New Yorkers come together in celebration of our parks and historic sites. On Jan. 1, we invite you to connect with your community and revisit an old favorite or discover a new destination. We can’t wait to see you out there.”

New York State DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “The ‘First Day Hikes’ program is a tradition for New Yorkers and visitors alike to come together on New Year’s Day and celebrate the new year by spending time outdoors with friends and family. Once again this year, DEC is proud to join our State Parks partners to host 22 hikes at environmental education centers, state forests, wildlife management areas, fire towers, and special places across the state. I’d especially like to thank the hundreds of staff and volunteers helping to plan and host this year’s ‘First Day’ celebration to kick off 2024.”

Director Brian U. Stratton said, "The Canal Corporation is thrilled to once again join Gov. Hochul and our state partners to offer a number of free, guided hikes and snowshoe treks along the canalway trails as part of the 13th annual ‘First Day Hikes’ initiative. Through the expansion of the ‘On the Canals’ excursions program, we are not only making the state’s historic canals and trails more accessible, but also reminding all visitors that they are year-round recreational destinations. We hope New Yorkers will choose to ring in the New Year along the canal or in the multitude of our state's many public spaces."

Empire State Development Vice President and Executive Director of Tourism Ross D. Levi said, “I LOVE NY hopes that, by experiencing New York's world-class state parks and protected lands during ‘First Day’ hikes, residents and visitors alike will plan future getaways to explore other parts of the state throughout the year for equally amazing outdoor adventures. Choose a destination and come out to see just how easy it is to love New York.”

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 parks, historic sites, recreational trails, golf courses and boat launches, which saw a record 79.5 million visits in 2022. For more information on any of these recreation areas, visit parks.ny.gov, download the free NY State Parks Explorer app or call 518-474-0456. Join in celebrating the centennial throughout 2024, and connect on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the OPRHP blog.

DEC manages more than 5 million acres of public lands, including 3 million acres in the Adirondack and Catskill forest preserves, 55 campgrounds and day-use areas, more than 5,000 miles of formal trails, and hundreds of trailheads, boat launches and fishing piers. Many sites and trails are accessible to people with disabilities. Find recreation options by visiting Love Our NY Lands – NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation or visit DECinfo Locator – NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation. DEC's Adventure NY initiative connects more New York families and visitors to the great outdoors. Plan your next outdoor adventure and connect with DEC on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Instagram.

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