The Wisconsin State Park System is offering plenty of opportunities to welcome the new year with healthy outdoor activities.
The park system will host first-day hikes on 17 state properties in all corners of the state this New Year’s Day. The hikes give visitors a chance to “begin the New Year rejuvenated and connected with nature,” according to a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources press release.
At Devil’s Lake State Park, a guided hike will depart from the Steinke Basin parking lot off Highway DL at 4 p.m. The group will traverse the Johnson Moraine trail. Devil’s Lake State Park Naturalist Sue Johansen said the annual first-day hike has become a popular event at the park, drawing as many as 80 participants.
“People have been cooped up over the holidays, and they’re ready to go out and explore,” she said. “It’s promoted as a way to kick off the New Year outdoors and get some exercise.”
The National Weather Service in Milwaukee forecasts a cold, sunny New Year’s Day with a high near 6 degrees. Park staff will set up a campfire to warm up before and after the hike, and will have snowshoes to loan as well.
Johansen said the Johnson Moraine trail, which is about a 2-mile hike, offers numerous views of glacial landforms.
“That’s where the glaciers came in, so you can see moraines and kettle ponds or kettle lakes, where the ice broke off and created depressions,” she said. “It’s nice to get out and hike the trail on that first day.”
Another 2-mile hike will depart at noon from the beach picnic area at Mirror Lake State Park. Participants can “observe the lake and the beautiful sandstone rock outcroppings that surround Mirror Lake” as they traverse the park’s Echo Rock and Sandstone trails.
Last year, 679 participants hiked 1,748 miles at 13 Wisconsin state park properties, according to DNR figures. Nationwide, more than 62,000 people took part in guided hikes that covered over 114,165 miles on 1,300 hikes across the country, according to data from the National Association of State Park Directors.
The Lodi Valley Chapter of the Ice Age Trail Alliance also will hold a first-day hike Monday.
Trail coordinator Bill Welch said the group will meet at the old parking area at Gibraltar Rock on Highway V south of Okee at 1 p.m. and make a 1½-mile trek to the top of the rock.
“We walk through a prairie along the rocks that lead up to the summit to the overlook,” he said. “Once we’re at the overlook, we’re up about 300 feet. It’s quite a view and it’s always a beautiful place to visit.”
Welch said the trek generally takes about one hour. Hot chocolate, cookies and other sweets are traditionally served at the end of the hike.
“It’s always nice to see people get out,” Welch said. “A good way to start the year is by getting out in nature and exercising and being with like-minded people who enjoy those activities.”