What to do on New Year’s Day? Take a (guided) hike to a waterfall

Southford Falls State Park.
Southford Falls State Park.

State environmental and park officials are sponsoring free, guided hikes on New Year’s Day in Connecticut, including one right up the road to a waterfall in Southbury.

The hikes are part of a nationwide effort to provide such hikes on Jan. 1 as part of the First Day Hikes program. Participants include the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and all 50 state park systems in the United States.

One close hike for Shelton residents will begin at 1 p.m. at Southford Falls State Park, 175 Quaker Farms Road (Route 188), Southbury. Participants should meet by the park’s parking lot for a moderate trek of 1.6 miles that will take about an hour. The Southford Falls email contact is: Diane.Joy@ct.gov.

Another nearby hike will begin at 1:30 p.m. at Sleeping Giant State Park, 200 Mount Carmel Avenue, Hamden. People should arrive by 1:15 p.m. and meet at the bulletin board by the kiosk. This hike is described as strenuous, with one-hour and two-hour routes to choose from. It is sponsored by Sleeping Giant Park Association; the email contact is: hike_the_giant@yahoo.com.

‘Great way to begin the new year’

State park staff and volunteers will lead hikes around the state, which average one to two miles or longer depending on the state park.

“With seasonably cold and dry weather predicted for New Year’s Day, taking a hike with your family and friends is a great way to begin the new year,” said Robert Klee, DEEP commissioner.

First Day Hikes offer individuals and families an opportunity to begin the new year rejuvenating and connecting with the outdoors by taking a healthy hike. People can get outside, exercise, enjoy nature, and welcome the New Year with friends and family.

Many hikers last year

Last year, 28,000 people hiked 66,811 miles in state parks across the country during the First Day Hikes program.

First Day Hikes originated over 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation, a state park in Milton, Mass. 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 joined together to sponsor First Day Hikes.

Other Connecticut hikes

The other First Day Hikes in Connecticut are:

Hammonasset Beach State Park, 1288 Boston Post Road, Madison, 1 p.m.,  meet at Meigs Point Nature Center. Easy, one-hour hike. Sponsored by Friends of the Office of State Archaeology and Friends of Hammonasset. Contact: Don Rankin, 203-245-9192.

James L. Goodwin Conservation Center, 23 Potter Road, Hampton, noon, meet at the center. Moderate, two-hour hike of 3 to 4 miles. Sponsored by Friends of Goodwin Forest. Email contact: EmmaLorusso@ct.gov.

Mansfield Hollow State Park, Bassett’s Bridge Road, Mansfield, 11 a.m. (arrive by 10:45), meet in the parking lot. Moderate, two hikes of 4.5 miles and 2.2 miles. Sponsored by Friends of Mansfield Hollow. Email contact: pedlinron@gmail.com.

Scantic River State Park, Melrose Road, East Windsor, 1 p.m., , meet in parking lot at end of Melrose Road off Broad Brook Road. Moderate, 2.5-mile hike, two hours. Sponsored by East Windsor American Heritage River Commission. Email contact: ahriver@sbcglobal.net.