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MADISON — Start the New Year off on the right foot. Wisconsinites are encouraged to participate in First Day Hikes at Wisconsin State Parks, forests, trails and Recreation Areas this upcoming Jan. 1. Locally, Racine and Kenosha residents can visit Richard Bong State Recreation Area, 26313 Burlington Road, in Kansasville, Wis.

“Starting the new year by getting outside and being active is refreshing not only for our bodies but also our minds,” said Steve Schmelzer, DNR Parks and Recreation Management Director. “We invite everyone to a First Day Hike in the Wisconsin state park system as a great way to set the tone for the new year.”

First Day Hikes are free, but a Wisconsin state park vehicle admission sticker or a state trail pass may be required. For those without a state park daily admission pass, a free pass may be available to check out from your local library. Obtain a pass from the Kenosha Public Library or learn more about how you can get a free pass here.

Bong Naturalist Association members will be present at the event. More about the events they host can be found on their website. The group is reminding participants to dress appropriately for the winter weather.

First Day Hike details

The trail is to be determined, but it is likely that it will take place on the blue or green trail at the recreation area. The event will take place from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at the Richard Bong State Recreation Area. There will be a campfire going so that people can warm up before and after the hike.

There will be s’mores for sale, two for $2. Hot cider and hot cocoa with marshmallows will be available for a suggested donation of $1 per cup.

“In years past we’ve had a good turnout of people who want to stretch their legs, get the kids out of the house, and start the New Year in such a positive way,” said volunteer Carol Debell.

Dogs are allowed on this hike, but they must stay on a leash at all times and follow all rules of the park, according to the DNR. 

“We also ask that owners know and make sure their dogs will be comfortable and safe around a larger group of people and possibly other dogs before deciding to bring them on this hike,” said Emily Jacobson of the Wisconsin DNR.

For beginning hikers or those new to visiting state parks, this is a great introduction to winter adventures. Experienced hikers are also invited to join in and share their knowledge with the hiking community.

Self-guided hikes are available for participants to choose their own pace or difficulty level, from nature trails to advanced routes. Property staff may offer maps and recommendations for those self-guided adventurers.

First Day Hikes around Wisconsin

In addition to the First Day Hike available at Richard Bong, the following parks are also participating in this event:

  • Buckhorn State Park
  • Devil’s Lake State Park
  • Interstate Park
  • Kettle Moraine State Forest – Lapham Peak
  • Kettle Moraine State Forest – Pike Lake
  • Kettle Moraine State Forest – Southern Unit
  • MacKenzie Center
  • Mirror Lake State Park
  • Newport State Park
  • Peninsula State Park
  • Point Beach State Forest
  • Red Cedar State Trail
  • Richard Bong State Recreation Area
  • Roche-A-Cri State Park
  • Straight Lake State Park
  • Whitefish Dunes State Park
First Day Hike
Large gatherings of people flock to Richard Bong State Recreation Area for the traditional First Day Hike on New Year’s Day. – Credit: Bong Naturalist Association

More information about Wisconsin State Parks can be found online. Details about Richard Bong’s events, activities and updates at the park can also be found on their Facebook page.


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