13 trails where you can embark on a First Day Hike in Pennsylvania

Harvey Sutton and his family would have seen sights like this as they trekked through the Pennsylvania portion of the Appalachian Trail. (Shutterstock/DrewTheHobbit)

By Kalena Thomhave

December 22, 2023

A First Day Hike is a rejuvenating way to usher in a new year, and Pennsylvania’s state parks will host more than 40 guided hikes on Jan. 1.

The tradition of taking a hike on New Year’s Day has been practiced at some US state parks for more than 30 years and was made into a formal US tradition by the National Association of State Park Directors in 2012. By taking a First Day Hike, you can get a head start on your resolutions to get outside more or exercise more, all while exploring the natural beauty of Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania’s state parks—which are completely free to enter—will host more than 40 guided hikes on January 1. Many require registration in advance, so be sure to plan ahead. We’ve put together a list of some of these hikes across the state—you can also check the website of a state park near you to see if a guided hike is scheduled.

Be sure to dress for the weather—early January will be cold and possibly icy or snowy. Then, pull on your hiking shoes, head to a Pa. state park or a nearby trail, and get ready to feel rejuvenated in the fresh air.

We’ll meet you at the trailhead!


Laurel Hill State Park, Somerset

From 4 to 5 p.m., park staff will lead a 3.5-mile hike over the moderate terrain of the park to visit a historic waterfall. Registration is required for this hike.

Maurice K. Goddard State Park, Sandy Lake

The group Friends of Goddard, which supports the state park, is leading this easy, 1-mile hike mostly along the paved John C. Oliver Multi-Purpose Loop. It’s recommended that participants bring binoculars, though the group will have a few pairs to loan. Will you spy any winter birds? Register here.

Want a self-guided hike?

Jonathan Run Trail at Ohiopyle State Park, Ohiopyle

This trail, just over 1.5 miles long, should be your New Year’s hike choice if you want to view waterfalls in winter. You’ll be able to view both the Upper Falls and Lower Falls of Jonathan Run, but there are also other, smaller waterfalls along the trail, including Sugar Run Falls and Fechter Run Falls.


Ralph Stover State Park, Upper Black Eddy

Delaware Canal State Park staff will lead this 2.5 mile hike beginning at Ralph Stover State Park in Pipersville. The hike will travel over uneven terrain with a few steep hills. Register here.

Marsh Creek State Park, Downingtown

Marsh Creek State Park, located about an hour from Philly, will host a family-friendly, three-mile hike from 9 a.m. to noon offering views of Marsh Creek Lake as well as surrounding wildlife. The easy-rated hike will lead to the Marsh Creek Dam, and hike guides will explain the history and importance of both the dam and the lake. Registration is not required and leashed dogs are welcome.

Lackawanna State Park, North Abington Township

This state park will host two iterations of its First Day Hike, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The approximately two-mile hike will follow portions of the Snowflake Trail and Frost Hollow Trail. The trail is rated moderate as there will be occasional uphill climbs, rocks, roots, and possible ice or snow. Lackawanna State Park is located about 20 minutes from Scranton. To participate in either hike, meet at the South Shore Boat Launch at 9:00 a.m. for the morning hike or 1:00 p.m. for the afternoon hike.

Want a self-guided hike?

Forbidden Drive at Wissahickon Valley State Park, Philadelphia

That’s right, this trail is located inside the city limits of Philadelphia. This approximately 5-mile, multi-use gravel trail follows Wissahickon Creek and offers picturesque views of the park as well as history lessons. For instance, Forbidden Drive used to be the Wissahickon Turnpike, a road that was dotted with mills and taverns during the nineteenth century. Now, the trail is dotted with the footprints of the thousands of hikers that visit it each year.


Lyman Run State Park, Galeton

Lyman Run State Park is hosting a family-oriented nature walk from 1 to 2 p.m. led by park staff. Park volunteers will lead the way and help hikers explore the Spurline and Rock Run Trails.

Kinzua Bridge State Park, Kane

Starting at 11 a.m., join fellow hikers at Kinzua Bridge State Park for an easy 1.5-mile hike on the General Kane Trail, which weaves through a forest of maple and cherry trees. Because parts of the trail are open to hunting, it is a good idea to wear blaze orange.

In addition to your hike, a trip to Kinzua Bridge State Park isn’t complete without visiting the pedestrian skywalk to gaze out at the ruins of the Kinzua Bridge (partially destroyed by a tornado in 2003) within the Kinzua Creek Valley.

Want a self-guided hike?

Pine Creek Rail Trail in the Pa. Grand Canyon

Hike a portion of the 62-mile Pine Creek Rail Trail, a trail built on an old railroad route that wanders through the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon (also known as the Pine Creek Gorge). The Pa. Grand Canyon offers beautiful scenery—winter might be an opportunity to see the trail covered in snow as well as the stillness of the season. You could walk just over a mile from the Ansonia to Darling Run trail access areas. Or, for a longer day hike, you may choose to walk between the Blackwell and Tiadaghton areas, a journey of about 8 miles.


Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center, Reading

Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center’s hike promises a mindful start to the year by encouraging individuals to embark on the outdoor adventure with a deliberate intention to be fully present in the moment, immersing themselves in the sights, sounds, and sensations that the natural environment offers. Due to the mindful, quiet nature of this hike, it’s adult hikers only, and no pets. The hike is set for 10 a.m. to noon, and registration is required.

Gifford Pinchot State Park, Lewisberry

Led by the park naturalist, Gifford Pinchot State Park is hosting a family-friendly hike from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. that will cover approximately 1.5 miles through the park, which is made up of fields and wooded hills. Hikers should meet at the main building in the Conewago Day Use Area on the eastern side of Pinchot Lake.

Want a self-guided hike?

Thousand Steps, Standing Stone Trail, Mapleton and Mount Union

If you’re looking for a more strenuous hike for your New Year’s trek, something called “Thousand Steps” sounds just perfect, right? The Thousand Steps are so named because there are many—more than a thousand—steps carved into the mountainside. (Note that if it’s wet, icy, or snowy, you may want to choose a different trail unless you are an expert winter hiker.)The steps are on just one 1.5 miles section of the Standing Stone Trail (which itself is 85 miles long). The parking area for the Thousand Steps’ trailhead is located on Route 22. Find exact coordinates on AllTrails.




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