State officials are encouraging Bay Staters to begin the new year in a healthy way — by hiking a state park.
First Day Hikes, which started in Massachusetts in 1992, is now a national event where state parks offer free guided hikes on New Year’s Day. It was rolled out nationwide in 2012. This year, seven Massachusetts parks will participate in First Day Hikes.
“We want to launch the year saying, ‘Get outside!'” said Priscilla Geigis, the state’s deputy commissioner for conservation and resource stewardship. “We’re a four-season operation. People might just think of parks in the summer. Our parks are beautiful in all seasons.”
Last year, nearly 3,000 people in Massachusetts and 55,000 people nationwide took part in First Day Hikes, Geigis said.
The hikes, led by park staff members, also offer hot chocolate, light snacks, and sometimes even extra entertainment. For example, at Walden Pond, hikers can listen to a historian dressed as Henry David Thoreau tell stories from 1847 beside a wood stove inside the Thoreau house replica.
Geigis said the scenic 1.6-mile walk that begins at South Boston’s Carson Beach is a new addition to First Day Hikes this year.
“We invited the National Park Service to come on our hikes this year,” Geigis said. “This specific hike starts out at Carson Beach and then goes to Dorchester Heights, which is managed by the National Park Service. We’re excited about that one.”
The moderate hikes are family-friendly, said Geigis.
“This has really become a wonderful tradition and a celebration of our state parks,” Geigis said.
First Day Hikes will take place at the following Massachusetts parks:
Nantasket Beach Reservation in Hull at 10 a.m.
Breakheart Reservation in Saugus at 11 a.m.
Carson Beach and Dorchester Heights at noon.
Walden Pond State Reservation in Concord at noon.
Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park in Uxbridge at 1 p.m.
Blue Hills Reservation in Milton at 1 p.m.
Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls at 1 p.m.
Officials recommend dressing in layers and wearing winter boots. Parking fees, if applicable, will be waived during this event, Geigis said. In the event of bad weather, call 617-626-1450 to find out if a hike has been canceled.