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State parks offer first day of the year hikes

Participants of a past First Hike make their way across a stream during a four-mile hike. The annual New Years Day hike brings out hikers to brave the cold and begin their year on a healthy note. 

File photo

Each year Missouri State Parks offer the public a way to get back to nature and encourage everyone to participate in their first day of the year hikes.

St. Francois State Park Naturalist Mary Crowell said they are planning on having two first day hikes this year: one for senior citizens and moms with their young ones, and a traditional hike.

“The first one we will have is a stroller walk,” said Crowell. “It will be for those who are either little ones in strollers or early walkers or toddlers. Also if any senior citizens want to join us, we are going to do the walk at 9:30 a.m.”

Crowell said it will start at the ball field and they will walk the old portion of the road. She said everyone may remember they used to have a low-water bridge and they had a new one built, so it bypassed a portion of the original road.

“So that old section of road from the low-water bridge to the new bridge is closed and we will walk down that and come back up,” said Crowell. “It will be nice and easy and it’s paved. This is our first time having a stroller walk and it’s a great way to get moms and little ones out.”

Crowell said later that afternoon at 1 p.m. they will have the traditional hike at the Mooners Hollow Trail. She added it’s a much longer trail, about two and three-quarters of a mile long.

“You will have to cross the creek at the beginning and the middle of the hike,” said Crowell. “There are also some springs you will cross over, so depending on how cold it is we may see a little bit of water or may see some ice on the trail.”

Crowell said she looked at the weather for that day and there is a chance for some snow. She said she would put it on their Facebook page by that morning if the hikes are still on or not.

“If it’s covered in snow we probably won’t be able to do the stroller walk,” said Crowell. “I think if there is just a little bit of snow we could probably still do the hike, but the main issue will be the road getting into the park.”

Crowell said the idea is to get everyone off on the right foot because a lot of people have New Year’s resolutions to exercise more or lose weight.

“So this is a way to get a jump-start on exercise, get outside and bring the New Year in with other people who enjoy nature,” said Crowell. “Both events are listed on our state park webpage and Facebook page.”

St. Joe State Park Specialist Sandy McCain said they will have their hike at 10 a.m. at the Blankshire Trailhead and it will be a two-mile hike.

“It will last about two hours and it will consist by a gradual uphill walk through a wooded terrain, followed by a return downhill along a paved surface,” said McCain. “Any interested parties need to be prepared and dress for cold weather and rocky surfaces.”

McCain said as in years past they will have hot chocolate and coffee at the office afterward. Mark Hodges is the interpretative technician that works at the mines state historic site and he will lead the hike this year.

McCain added if anyone needs questions answered prior to the event they can contact Hodges at 573-431-6226.

“Even in years past we have always had a lot of people participate,” said McCain. “Some days it was really nice and sunny and others was snow-covered. It really gets people back to nature and lets them realize how nice the woods are this time of year.”

McCain suggests everyone wear good sturdy boots and dress for the weather.

In its seventh year, the annual event is part of America’s State Parks First Day Hikes effort, which gives people the opportunity to start the year off right with an outdoor hike at a state park. A list of state parks with guided First Day Hikes and other related activities is available at

“Anyone who wants to kick off 2018 in a fun, healthy way outdoors can do so with a First Day Hike at one of our 36 hosting parks,” said Ben Ellis, director of Missouri State Parks. “We encourage everyone to join us in this growing annual tradition of getting a head start on a year of outdoor adventures.”

According to a press release from Missouri State Parks, nationwide last year, more than 62,000 people took part in guided hikes that covered more than 114,165 miles on 1,300 different First Day Hikes in state parks across the country.

Details on every state’s 2017 hikes are located at As in the past, participants are encouraged to log their adventures on social media with #FirstDayHikes. 

Renee Bronaugh is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3617 or



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