YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARD

It’s a new tradition in the state of Wyoming, but First Day Hikes have been growing in popularity since they were instituted seven years ago.

This year, a free, guided hike will be offered at 16 state parks and historic sites around Wyoming, including Curt Gowdy State Park. Similar hikes will take place around the country as part of an initiative called America’s State Parks First Day Hikes.

Last year, more than 500 people participated in the state, including about 200 at Curt Gowdy, said Gary Schoene, public information office for Wyoming State Parks, Historic Sites and Trails. He said organizers are expecting a larger crowd this year.

“We’ve grown steadily each year,” he said.

At 11 a.m. Jan. 1 at Curt Gowdy, there will be a two-mile hike on Kate’s Trail. Participants should meet at the visitor center, and dogs on leashes are permitted. The trail is rated easy to moderate.

Other sites with scheduled hikes are: Bear River State Park, Boysen State Park, Buffalo Bill State Park, Edness Kimball Wilkins State Park, Fort Bridger State Historic Site, Fort Fetterman State Historic Site, Fort Fred Steele State Historic Site, Fort Phil Kearny State Historic Site, Guernsey State Park, Hot Springs State Park, Keyhole State Park, Medicine Lodge State Archaeological Site, Sinks Canyon State Park, South Pass City State Historic Site and Trail End State Historic Site.

At each site, organizers will plan a starting time and distance. Participants should dress for the weather.

Admission fees to participating sites will be waived for hikers. Hot drinks will be provided and a raffle will take place at many sites. Leashed dogs are welcome.

Schoene attributed the popularity of the event to the word getting out and changing perceptions about ways to celebrate the New Year.

“People are starting to realize it’s OK to do something on New Year’s other than watch football and sleep in late,” he said.

Nationwide, almost 55,000 people hiked more than 133,000 during hikes in all 50 states last year.

A list of First Day Hikes around the country, along with difficulty, length, terrain and clothing suggestions, is available online at America’s State Parks, www.stateparks.org/initiatives-special-programs/first-day-hikes.

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