Originally Published: December 31, 2017 5:55 a.m.
Within an hour or two drive in virtually any direction from Prescott, a New Year’s Day adventure awaits.
Once again this New Year’s Day, Arizona’s State Parks are participating in the annual First Day Hikes – a program that encourages people to get off to an active start in the new year.
Nineteen state parks in Arizona will offer special programs for the day, ranging from ranger-led hikes, to bird watching, to a Celtic fiddling concert.
A news release from state parks states: “Spend the first day of 2018 in the parks and celebrate the New Year. Join us for First Day Hikes, a national effort to kick off the year on a healthy note.” (Park entry fees may apply.)
Within an easy drive from Prescott, for instance, visitors can choose from among:
• A 10 a.m. guided three-mile birding and nature hike along the riparian area of the Verde River at Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood (about an hour-and-15-minute drive from Prescott).
With the Verde River meandering through it, the park is home to ducks, bald eagles, raptors, and hawks.
At 1 p.m., the park will offer a guided upland desert hike overlooking the Verde Valley, providing sweeping views of the Verde River and Tuzigoot National Monument.
The National Weather Service predicts a mostly sunny day in Cottonwood on Jan. 1, with a high of 68 degrees. More park information is available at: azstateparks.com/dead-horse.
• A somber walk along the Hotshots Trail in Yarnell, at the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park (about an hour drive from Prescott).
The park, which opened in November 2016 to honor the Granite Mountain Hotshots, 19 of whom died fighting the June 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire, includes the 2.85-mile Hotshots Trail to an observation deck, along with a three-fourths-mile Journey Trail following the last steps of the Hotshots down to where they made their last stand.
State Parks predicts a mostly sunny day in Yarnell and highs of 67 degrees on New Year’s Day. More information is available at: azstateparks.com/hotshots.
• A 10 a.m. guided nature hike featuring the geology, wildlife, history, archaeology, and plant life of the Red Rock State Park in Sedona (about an hour-and-a-half drive from Prescott). State Parks notes: “You will also see some awesome panoramic views of Sedona’s red rock formations from trail overlooks.”
Mostly sunny skies are predicted, with a high of 64 degrees. More information is available at: azstateparks.com/red-rock.
• A 10 a.m. ranger-led hike down to the natural bridge and back at the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park in Payson (about an hour and 50 minutes from Prescott).
Later in the day, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., an open house and tour will take place at the Goodfellow Lodge; and a 2 p.m. ranger-led hike will explore the park’s natural history and the natural bridge.
Expect mostly sunny skies and a high of 66 degrees. More information is available at: azstateparks.com/tonto.
• Two 9 a.m. ranger-led hikes of varying lengths through the desert terrain of the Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction (about two hours and 15 minutes from Prescott).
“Join us for one of two hikes beginning at 9 a.m. – a short hike around lower Treasure Look Trail (one mile, easy) beginning at Cholla, or a longer hike from Saguaro to Green Boulder then down Prospector, across Jacobs Cross Cut, and back to Saguaro (about three and a half miles, moderate),” states information from Arizona State Parks.
Another ranger-led hike, a 2.4-mile route around Treasure Loop, beginning at Cholla, will take place at 2 p.m.
State Parks is predicting mostly sunny skies and a high of 74 degrees in Apache Junction on Monday. More information at: azstateparks.com/lost-dutchman.
• Guided hikes at 9:30 and 11 a.m. at the Bryce Thompson Arboretum State Park in Superior.
Although a bit farther from Prescott (about a two-and-a-half-hour drive), the park will offer a range of other activities as well, including a noon-to-2 p.m. New Year Concert featuring Celtic fiddle and flute by recording artist Arvel Bird; and a 2 p.m. “edible and medicinal plants” walk along the Curandero Trail.
The park is predicting mostly sunny skies with a high of 69 degrees on Monday.
Attendees at the various hikes should wear weather-appropriate clothes, sturdy shoes, a hat, and sunscreen, and should bring plenty of water. A camera and binoculars are also suggested.
The full Arizona State Parks listing of First Day Hikes is available at: azstateparks.com/fdh.