By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
State parks offer free outings on New Year's Day
Mount Tamalpais
Hikers can earn a commemorative pin once they've reached East Peak at this event at Mount Tamalpais State Park in Marin County. The 7.5 to 8.5 mile hike has three different routes to choose from that day (easy, moderate and strenuous) all of which will end at East Peak. - photo by Photo Contributed

The holiday season is a time to relax and commune with family which can make the New Year an ideal time to step outside and get moving. With the National Parks and Recreation Department opening up the parks across the country for free guided tours through their First Day Hikes initiative, locals can kick off the New Year by exploring new territory with friends and family.

This year marks the third year of the annual First Day Hikes with California serving as a leader in the national program in which state parks in all 50 states participate. More than 40 California State Parks will host more than 45 outings on New Year's Day with the hikes varying in both scale and rigor so that the entire family can enjoy.

"We are excited to host First Day Hikes as part of this national effort to get people outdoors and into our parks. 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," said California State Parks Acting Director Lisa Ann L. Mangat.

Last year nearly 28,000 people hiked over 68,811 miles at state parks across the country allowing the parks department to not only promote the parks but encourage a healthy lifestyle. With a diverse range of activities – from paddling and whale watching to hiking a rigorous trail –the healthy exercise is often a good break as well as a learning experience with the help of knowledgeable state park guide.

"Studies have proven that getting outdoors is one good way to relax and recharge the body, mind and spirit," said Lewis Ledford, NASPD’s executive director. "We hope that hiking along a trail in a state park will become part of an individual’s or family’s regular exercise routine."

First Day Hikes originated over 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation, a state park in Milton, Massachusetts. The program was launched to promote both healthy lifestyles throughout the year and year round recreation at state parks. Last year marked the first time all 50 state park systems have joined together to sponsor First Day Hikes.

Below is a partial list of California First Day Hikes. For a complete list, visit

Kern County

Red Rock Canyon State Park — Nightmare Gulch Trial, 9 a.m.

This nine-mile moderate/strenuous hike is an all-day hike into Nightmare Gulch with a side trip into the well hidden "Secret Silent City." Participants will be back by approximately 4 p.m.  Participants are asked to bring lots of water, sun protection, food for a snack and lunch, comfortable hiking shoes and layered clothing. No dogs allowed on hike.  Meet at dirt lot on east side of Highway 14, 3/4 mile north of Abbot Road in Red Rock Canyon State Park.   For cancellation information, visit

Marin County

Angel Island State Park — Perimeter Road to Battery Ledyard Overlook, 10 a.m.

This two-mile, easy hike (steep climb out of cove for five minutes, then basically level) is a hike for everyone. Stroller friendly and bikes are welcome.  Participants should meet at Ayala Cove Dock.  Access only from Tiburon Ferry. Visit the Angel Island-Tiburon Ferry website for times at Participants encouraged to bring camera, binoculars, water and sense of exploration.  If event is cancelled it will be posted on website:

Mount Tamalpais State Park — Rock Springs Trailhead, 9:30 a.m.

Participants on this hike can earn a commemorative pin once they've reached East Peak. There will be three different hikes to choose from that day (easy, moderate and strenuous) all of which will end at East Peak.  This 7.5 to 8.5 hike is open to hikers of all ages.  Meet at Rock Springs parking area/trailhead.  Things to bring: Hiking boots, clothing layers, water, lunch or snacks.  There will be snacks and refreshments up at East Peak as part of the celebratory New Year’s hike. 

Monterey County

Asilomar State Beach and Conference Center — Poetry Hike, 10 a.m.

Asilomar State Beach and Conference Grounds is inviting Monterey Peninsula residents and visitors to join in a unique "Poetry Hike." Led by State Park staff, Asilomar First Day Hikers will learn about the native Monterey Pine forest, the Asilomar Dunes Preserve, and experience amazing scenic ocean views, bracing salt air, and exult in the dashing waves upon the rocky seashore coves as they walk through the spectacular natural environment. Meet at the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Social Hall Deck. Plan on wearing comfortable shoes, wear layered clothing and bring your own water if desired. Young children must be accompanied by adults, and be able to walk or ride in strollers over the approximate 1.5-mile trail loop. Following the hike, participants are invited to purchase lunch at the Asilomar State Beach Conference Grounds Dining Hall or at Phoebe's Cafe, located in the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Social Hall.

Sacramento County

Folsom Lake SRA — Sweet Water Creek Trail, 9 a.m.

Come see historic gold rush settlements and follow the water ditch system on the 5 miles round trip moderate hike. Meet at Salmon Falls (raft take out). Bring water and sturdy shoes with good footing —because the hike is along a narrow trail with uneven surface — and a camera. This hike is for participants 5 years old and up. Heavy downpour of rain will cancel this hike.

San Luis Obispo County

Pismo State Beach/Oceano Dunes State Vehicle Recreation Area — Dune Dwellers Hike:  Chumash & Dunites,  1 pm

A 2 1/2 hour, three-mile walk in the Oceano Dunes to visit sites of human habitation both pre-history (Chumash) and modern times (Dunites).  The walk can be tiring because hikers will be walking in the back dunes.  There is a creek crossing and the wind picks up in the late afternoon.  Warm layering of clothing and water is recommended. Meet at the Nature Center, Oceano Campground. 

San Mateo County

Año Nuevo State Park — Changes and Challenges: The Future of Our Parks, 10 a.m.

Join interpretive specialist Joseph Carr Ritchie at the Franklin Point trailhead (south of Gazos Creek Road, north of Rossi Road) for this easy .6 mile/1 km exploration of the changes and challenges waiting over the years to come — and some of the best views on the coast side. The hike will take approximately 90 minutes. The hike is recommended for ages 10 and up. For more information, call (650) 879-2025..

Gray Whale Cove State Beach — Hike Montara Mountain, 10 a.m.

Meet at of Gray Whale Cove State Beach parking lot along Highway 1 approximately 18 miles/29 km south of San Francisco. Enjoy a moderate two-mile, two-hour hike along the edge of the California coast. Enjoy ocean views, coastal plants, and bird watching on this leisurely hike. Wear long pants, layered clothing and sturdy shoes. The hike is limited to 20 participants — contact or Angie at (650)726-8819 to reserve a space.

Santa Cruz County

Castle Rock State Park — The Rockstars of Castle Rock State Park First Day Hike, 1 p.m.

What's the first thing you think of when you think of Castle Rock? Come see the towering, cavernous rock formations called "tafoni." The trail to Castle Rock hike is a .9 mile 90-minute hike of moderate difficulty. Hike meets in the day use parking lot off of Highway 35 (south of the intersection of Highway 35 and Highway  9). No water is available in the park; bring plenty of water and snacks for yourself.  Direct questions to

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park — New Year's Day Cathedral Redwoods Hike 12 p.m.

The hike goes along Rincon Fire Road, where it'll follow along the river and make a climb through some of the park's "back-country" on multiple scenic trails. This moderate hike is suitable for adults, and youth who are diligent hikers.  Dress in layers for changeable weather and temperatures. Bring walking shoes, water, sun protection and snacks. Please leave pets at home. Meet at noon in front of the Visitor Center at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.  Heavy rain cancels.

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park — New Year's Day Fall Creek Hike, 2 p.m.

On this 3 to 4-mile hike, participants will venture through the Fall Creek unit of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. We will also be visiting lime kilns, some of the remnants of a once successful lime processing industry.  This moderate hike is suitable for adults, and youth who are diligent hikers. Bring walking shoes, water, sun protection and snacks. Please leave pets at home. This trail is not suitable for strollers or wheelchairs. Meet at 2 p.m. at the Fall Creek Parking Lot located of Felton Empire Road.

Big Basin State Park — Shadowbrook Stroll, 10:30 a.m.

Join Docent Hal Anjo as he guides participants on a less-traveled trail that goes by Union Creek, to the Sempervirens Falls and back through the redwoods. This is a four-mile, 3.5-hour hike. Bring water and good hiking shoes. This moderate hike is suitable for adults, and youth who are diligent hikers. Meet at Park Headquarters, 21600 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek, CA, 95006.

Big Basin State Park — Discover Big Basin Redwoods, 12 p.m.

This hike will be individually tailored to the group — so distance can vary from two to eight miles, depending on hikers' needs. The pace is always moderate, with occasional short stops to discover the park's unique animals, plants and other natural features. Meet at Park Headquarters, 21600 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek, California, 95006. Heavy rain cancels.  For cancellation information call (831) 338-8883.

Big Basin State Park — Redwood Loop Walk, 1 p.m.

This informative and easy guided half-mile stroll will go through a magnificent old-growth redwood forest. The trail is stroller and wheelchair accessible.  Meet at Park Headquarters, 21600 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek, CA, 95006.