A brisk hike burns calories, builds cardiovascular endurance, strengthens muscles and stimulates endorphins leading to a sense of well-being. Hiking with family members or friends provides a bonding experience through the natural world where birds take flight, alligators sunbathe along water's edge, turtles pile themselves along logs, insects buzz and gopher tortoises munch on vegetation. Those and many more sights and sounds can be found along the more than 1600 miles of trails in Florida's 171 state parks and trails.
On Wednesday, January 1, 2014, there will be First Day Hikes offered at more than 40 Florida State Parks. Start the New Year off with a hike to work toward a fitness goal or to introduce hiking to a child. The First Day Hikes include nature walks, tours and ranger-led hikes.
“We are excited to host First Day Hikes as part of this national effort to get people outdoors and into Florida’s award-winning state parks,” said DEP’s Florida Park Service Director Donald Forgione in a past DEP bulletin. “First Day Hikes are a great way to enjoy the Florida sunshine 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.”
First Day Hikes began more than 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation, a state park in Milton, Massachusetts. The idea designed to promote healthy lifestyles throughout the year at state parks and recreation sites caught on and spread across the country. Last year more than 400 state parks across the U.S. offered First Day Hikes at their locations.
Hikes being offered on January 1, 2014, in the Central Florida area include:
- Blue Spring State Park - 8:00 - sunset. Join Blue Spring State Park for a self guided hike on Pine Island Trail or up the spring run while helping us find "Baby Blue" taking part in the scavenger hunt . The maps, information sheet and scavenger hunt will be available at the Ranger Station from 8:00 AM until Sunset. Each trail is approximately 1 mile.
- DeLeon Springs State Park - 9:00 - 11:30 a.m. Join Assistant Park Manager Dave Garcia on this First Day Walkabout through Floodplain and Mixed Upland forest. While we walk we'll discuss the park's natural and cultural history including the lifeway’s of pre-European arrival inhabitants. We'll explore the many naturally occurring materials found in the forest and how early inhabitants made use of the plants and animals that sustained them.
- Gamble Rogers State Recreation Area - 11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Join park staff on a ranger-led hike on the Joe Kenner Nature Trail to celebrate America's State Parks First Day Hikes program. This hike takes visitors on a one mile loop trail that winds through a shady coastal forest of scrub oak and saw palmetto. Participants will journey through one of Florida’s breathtaking ecosystems while learning interesting facts about the hammock and the history of the park.
- Hontoon Island State Park - 10:00 a.m. & 1:00 p.m. This will be a guided hike by Hontoon Island State Park volunteers, highlighting the features and history of the park.
- Lake Kissimmee State Park - 8:00 - 10:00 a.m. Join a park ranger for a 2.5 mile hike around the Gobbler Ridge loop trail at Lake Kissimmee State Park. The hike is moderate level and is recommended for children 6 and up.
- Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park - 11:00 a.m. This beautiful Florida State Park is offering a Guided Hike for those who want to see Birds and Plants of Florida in a special way! You will start at Katie’s Landing and walk from there to Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park. You will be able to see some of the most pristine plant communities Florida State Parks has to offer. We will have an experienced person giving this program and informing you on what this property has to offer!
For more information about these First Day Hikes and many others throughout Florida visit the Florida State Park website.