first day hike Taughannock Falls winter

First Day Hike: 10 NYS Parks to Visit January 1, 2021

Celebrate the New Year outdoors with a guided or self-guided First Day Hike on January 1, 2021. It’s also the 10th anniversary of NYS Parks First Day Hikes!

Many require pre-registration so they’ll have the right amount of staff and volunteers to make each hike a safe and memorable experience.

Enjoy a First Day Hike in these NYS Parks:

Visit each New York State Park event page for details on meet-up times and locations.

  1. Hamlin Beach
  2. Letchworth
  3. Taughannock Falls
  4. Knox Farm
  5. Niagara Falls
  6. Fort Niagara
  7. Fort Ontario
  8. Green Lakes
  9. Genesee Valley Greenway: Cuba
  10. Allegany

1. Hamlin Beach

Friday, January 1, 2021

Kick off your New Year with a First Day Hike at Hamlin Beach State Park!

Starting in Parking Area 1, follow signs along this self-guided path to learn some of the natural and park history that makes Hamlin Beach State Park such a special place while enjoying stunning views of Lake Ontario.

Self-guided and easy hike, approximately 1 mile long. No fee to attend. Leashed pets allowed.

First Day Hike Letchworth
Jan. 1, 2019

2. Letchworth

Friday, January 1, 2021

Start your 2021 off right with a First Day Hike (or 2, or 3, or 4!) at Letchworth State Park! There will be two “base camps” for the day, one at each end of the park, and both locations will have guided and self-guided hike options available.

Pre-registration is required for all guided hikes by calling (585) 493-3682. Masks will be required for all guided hike participants over the age of 2.

Refreshments will be provided at each location by the Friends of Letchworth.

SELF-GUIDED First Day Hike

1. Self-Guided North: Start at South Highbanks Shelter. Follow signs out and back to Hogsback Overlook, a most unique feature of the Genesee River in Letchworth State Park. – 1 ½ miles

2. Self-Guided South: Start at Trailside Lodge. Follow signs out to and around Trout Pond to discover some of the wonders of the winter world. 1 – 1 ½ miles

GUIDED First Day Hike: Humphrey Nature Center

1. 10:00 AM: “Hike to Hike” – Enjoy an invigorating hike to view the gorge that gives Letchworth the nickname “Grand Canyon of the East”. – 2 ¼ miles, 1 ½ hours

2. 1:00 PM: “Hike to Learn” – This slower paced hike will provide interesting insights into the natural and human histories that make Letchworth State Park such a special place. – 2 miles, 2 hours

GUIDED First Day Hike: North Highbanks Section

1. 10:00 AM: “Hike to Hike” – Discover some of the unique geology and flood history on this quicker paced hike to the Mt. Morris Dam. – 2 miles, 1 ½ hours

2. 1:00 PM: “Hike to Learn” – Slow down with us and enjoy some beautiful yet often missed views of the Genesee River and learn a bit about the park’s history. – 1 mile, 1 ½ hours

First Day Hike: Taughannock Falls winter hiking
Taughannock Falls

3. Taughannock Falls

Friday, January 1, 2021

Start off the New Year by making a healthy resolution you will love to keep: a breath-taking hike at Taughannock Falls.

State Park staff and volunteers will greet hikers at the start of the Gorge Trail.

Masks are required. Self-guided and easy hike, approximately 1.5 miles long. No fee to attend. Leashed pets allowed.

4. Knox Farm

Friday, January 1, 2021

Start your New Year off right with an invigorating hike through Knox Farm State Park and visit the park’s largest trees.

For more information & registration call (716) 549-1050.

Niagara Falls USA winter skyline
Niagara Falls in winter

5. Niagara Falls

Friday, January 1, 2021

Join us for an afternoon stroll as we welcome the first day of the New Year at Niagara Falls. Along the way we’ll share stories of America’s oldest state park.

For more information & registration call (716) 282-5154.

6. Fort Niagara

Friday, January 1, 2021

Join us for a tour of the Officer’s Club to view the stunning murals and museum displays, followed by a walk to view the War of 1812 Cemetery, and the lighthouse overlooking Old Fort Niagara. (The Fort is Closed on New Year’s Day.)

For information and registration call (716) 282-5154.

7. Fort Ontario

Friday, January 1, 2021

Take a self-guided photographic tour of Fort Ontario as U.S. Army general Hospital #5 during the Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918-19 which claimed the lives of 72 soldiers, nurses, and civilians at the post.

The tour will take patrons around the 75-acre military reservation national register district to the points relevant to the fort’s hospital and pandemic history.

Pre-registration is recommended but optional

8. Green Lakes

Friday, January 1, 2021

Let’s get out and have some fun outdoors! Join us for an easy 1.9 or 2.9 mile hike.

We will be offering self-guided hikes around one or both lakes—Green Lake and Round Lake.

We ask that you please wear a mask if you can’t socially distance. Stop by the boathouse for a snack and souvenir celebrating NYS Parks First Day Hikes 10th Anniversary.

9. Genesee Valley Greenway, Cuba

Friday, January 1, 2021

Ring in the New Year with a delightful walk along Genesee Valley Greenway State Park in Cuba. Enjoy a relaxing, easy trail (2.5 miles round trip) and spectacular views along Griffin and Oil Creeks.

Meet at the trail head on Bull St (42.216592, -78.283329) for a self-guided hike.

Between the hours of 12:00-3:00, interpreter extraordinaire Michale Landowski will be on site for Q&A. Also during that time frame, The Palmer Opera House will hand out snack bags both at the trail head and for those visiting the Palmer (12 Main St, 1/2 mile from the trail head) for warmth and restrooms.

This is a free event and pre-registration is not required. Leashed pets are allowed to join the fun. For more information, please contact Kristine Uribe, Park Manager (585) 493-3614 or

10. Allegany State Park

Friday, January 1, 2021

Kick off the New Year by enjoying one of the many wonderful hiking trails in Allegany State Park.

Red Jacket, Bear Paw, the Red House Bike Path or Quaker Multi-Use trail offer a relaxing hiking experience that can be enjoyed with the whole family.

Moderate trails include Bear Caves, Blacksnake Mountain, Three Sisters and Hemlock Hollow.

Want more of a challenge? We suggest Beehunter, MT Tuscarora, Osgood or the Conservation trail.

If you have questions about these hiking trails or would like a specific trail map, please stop by Red House or Quaker Rental Office (open 9:00 AM.)

Hiking snow

Cold weather hiking advice from the American Hiking Society

Hiking during the winter can be fun as long as you prepare with these tips.

Dress in layers.

While it is perhaps nice to have a huge, fluffy parka on the ski slopes, it really isn’t practical for the trail. Instead, take several layers you can peel off or put on when you stop and go on the trail. Your base layer should be a wicking fabric that will pull your sweat away from the skin. Overheating is a dangerous threat since excessive moisture that isn’t allowed to escape can freeze and cause hypothermia. If you ever wondered why some of your jackets have zippers under the armpits, it’s to keep air circulating and prevent your clothes from getting wet.

Wear a hat!

Our heads are filled with oxygen-carrying capillaries which fuel our brains and consume one third of the body’s energy. During the colder months it is important to keep your head covered to maintain function and not lose precious body heat. You may want to bring a warmer/heavier hat for rest periods.

Keep your water bottle warm.

Whether you are at the campsite or on the trail, a foam sleeve like a koozie will help prevent the water from freezing in a bottle. Nothing warms your body or your spirits like warm liquid by a campfire. Boil water to take with you as you hike. Also, to keep water from freezing, keep your water bottle on the inside of your jacket – properly sealed, of course.

Wear sunscreen.

While this is most important if you are hiking in a snowy region, winter hikers often forget about the sun’s glare reflecting off of white snow.

Be prepared for shorter days.

As early as October, dusk settles earlier and more quickly than in the summer. Have a good idea of the usable daylight hours before going hiking. Always carry a headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries.

In addition to these tips and hints, remember to follow normal safety practices as well when hiking in the winter. Be sure of the gear you take with you and if you have any specific questions, ask a local outdoor expert so you can stay safe.

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Where is your favorite place for a first day hike?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments. Your insight and experience is invaluable!


2 thoughts on “First Day Hike: 10 NYS Parks to Visit January 1, 2021”

  1. Last year’s pond hike in Letchworth was great. It was frigid but all the trees were coated with fresh snow. The Greenway Trail is kinda dull. Doing Hamlin this year.

    1. I agree the rail trails can be dull, especially in winter. I do love the intersection at Wadsworth Juntion of the Greenway and Lehigh Valley Trail. This time of year man-made elements win the day for most interesting! The bridges over the river on the LV in Rush and the Erie & Attica are nice landmarks. This hike goes north though. I wish I could go this year as I would also like to do Hamlin.

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COVID-19 NOTE: Some of the information you find in our articles may currently be inaccurate due to closures and cancellations.

Please follow the most current recommendations from the CDC and New York State for spending time away from your home. The great outdoors can provide a well needed respite & escape during stressful times. Please move quickly through parking lots, trail heads, and scenic areas. If crowded, choose a different park, trail, or time to visit. Please day trip responsibly.