The New Year is a time for new beginnings, fresh starts.
For some, that may mean a new hobby. For others, it's a time to get back to good eating or exercise habits. For me, that involves getting outside.
Yes, even more than I already do.
I struggle to pound out mile after monotonous mile on a treadmill, but I could spend days on Wisconsin's trails — running, hiking, climbing and taking in all nature has to offer. It's the best kind of exercise — a physical and mental rejuvenation — but it's easy to let the busyness of life, the weather, or a lack of motivation push things like recreation and exercise to the back burner.
So if you're like me and are looking to reconnect with Wisconsin's great outdoors, or, better yet, connect with it for the first time, New Year's Day is as good a time as any.
This New Year's Day, many Wisconsin state parks are hosting hikes as part of America's State Parks' First Day Hikes program, a country-wide initiative to get people outdoors.
Here are some options for hikes around Wisconsin this Friday.
W8450 Buckhorn Park Ave., Necedah
What to expect: Hike the 1.5-mile Barrens Nature Trail with the Friends of Buckhorn from 2 to 4 p.m. and warm up with hot chocolate, coffee and treats after.
Why you should go: This gem of a state park in central Wisconsin doesn't get as much attention as the uber-popular Devil's Lake to the south, but with a location on a peninsula in the Castle Rock Flowage of the Wisconsin River, it's definitely worth a visit.
S5975 Park Road, Baraboo
What to expect: This 2.5-mile hike takes place at dusk through a restored prairie in the southeast corner of the park. Hikers are advised to bring snowshoes (if there is snow) and a flashlight.
Why you should go: Devil's Lake is Wisconsin's most popular park, but traffic slows a bit in the winter. Join this hike if you want unimpeded views of the stunning 500-foot quartzite bluffs that dominate the park.
531 County Road D, Belgium
What to expect: Enjoy a hike around Quarry Lake or the Shuttle Trail, which provides nice views of Lake Michigan. You don't need a vehicle admission sticker to get into the park, and the Friends of Harrington Beach will provide warming fires, hot chocolate and treats from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Why you should go: Harrington Beach provides a nice mixture of forest and shoreline along Lake Michigan and Quarry Lake, a popular fishing spot in the summer.
W329-N846 County C, Delafield
What to expect: The Waukesha/Milwaukee County Chapter of the Ice Age Trail Alliance will host a guided 3- to 4-mile hike through the woods along the Ice Age Trail beginning at 11 a.m. State park entrance fees are waived for this day and snowshoes will be available for rent; hikers can enjoy refreshments after at the Hausmann Nature Center.
Why you should go: Aside from Lakeshore State Park and Havenwoods State Forest, Lapham Peak is one of the most easily accessible state parks from downtown Milwaukee. Located about 2 miles south of I-94 off County Highway C, the park features more than 17 miles of trails of varying distances — including a 2.5-mile loop that is groomed and lighted for cross-country skiing — and an observation tower that provides panoramic views of southeastern Wisconsin.
3544 Kettle Moraine Road, Hartford
What to expect: Meet at the Pike Lake beach area at noon for a 2- or 4-mile hike along the orange loop and Ice Age trails.
Why you should go: While you're there, enjoy great views from the observation tower on Powder Hill (elevation 1,350 feet).
E10320 Fern Dell Road, Baraboo
What to expect: Meet at the beach area at noon for an easy 2-mile hike to Echo Rock — a lookout point for views of the placid Mirror Lake — and back. The Friends of Mirror Lake group will have a bonfire roaring near the beach for staying warm.
Why you should go: While beautiful any time of year, winter provides less-obstructed views of Mirror Lake and the 50-foot cliffs that surround it from a number of trails in the park.
If you want to make an overnight trip out of it, downtown Wisconsin Dells is only about a 15-minute drive north and features a plethora of hotels, waterparks, shops and restaurants for a winter getaway.
475 County Highway NP, Ellison Bay
What to expect: Bring your snowshoes or hiking boots for an easy 2-mile hike through this Door County park beginning at 10 a.m.
Why you should go: Located on Door County's quieter eastern shore, Newport is the state's only officially designated wilderness park. Trails wind along the 11 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and to backpack campsites.
9462 Shore Road, Fish Creek
What to expect: Choose from a 1- or 3-mile bird hike along the Sunset Trail led by the Friends of Peninsula State Park. The group also will have refreshments and a bonfire at Weborg Shelter. Participants are encouraged to bring binoculars and a field guide and to leave pets at home. The hike begins at 10 a.m.
Why you should go: Peninsula State Park's eight miles of shoreline on Green Bay is a great spot for seeing a variety of birds, including bald eagles.
26313 Burlington Road, Kansasville
What to expect: Meet at the Visitor Center at 1 p.m. for a short hike in this recreation area in southeastern Wisconsin.
Why you should go: The recreation area has over 41 miles of trails for a variety of activities, plus a Special Use Zone where visitors can do things like fly model airplanes, launch rockets and ride in hot air balloons.
What to expect: Meet at the parking lot in Nye and hike, ski or ride a fat bike anywhere from 1 to 23 miles along this trail beginning at 10 a.m. Enjoy hot chocolate after.
Why you should go: The former rail route passes through a variety of landscapes including hardwood forest, wetlands, prairies and picturesque lakes.
While all of these hikes are free, you may still need a vehicle admission sticker to enter some of the parks. Pick up a 2016 sticker on your way in for $28 (yearly) or $8 (daily).
For more on these events and others around the state on New Year's Day, see dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/getoutdoors/events.html.
Some events are weather-dependent; check the website and call the appropriate park for current conditions before heading out.
Updated: Dec. 21, 2015
- Day Out: Celebrate National Trails Day with hikes, bike rides
- Day Out: Remote Rock Island is worth the journey north (1)
- Best Summer Ever: Where to go camping in Wisconsin this summer
- Best Summer Ever: 8 beaches to visit this summer in Wisconsin
- Best Summer Ever: 25 things to do outside in Wisconsin in the summer (1)
- Day Out: Woodland Dunes a nature lover’s sanctuary
- Day Out: Small Door County parks shine on the peninsula (1)
- Day Out: Celebrate the National Park Service centennial in Wisconsin
- Day Out: Earth Day events bring out volunteers for spring cleanup
- Day Out: Fischer Creek a conservation success story (2)