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Colorado Parks and Wildlife hosts New Year’s Day hiking program

Ridgway State Park to hold hikes and other activities
Ridgway State Park will have two guided hikes and marshmallow roasting on New Year’s Day to encourage Coloradans to start off 2022 outdoors. (Washington Post file)

Residents of Southwest Colorado can start 2022 with fresh air and exercise.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Ridgway State Park will host guided and self-guided hikes throughout New Year’s Day. Visitors can also take advantage of free marshmallow roasting.

The events start at 10 a.m. Saturday with a 1-mile guided hike on the Forest Discovery Nature Trail, which loops out from the visitor center.

CPW will roast marshmallows at 11:30 a.m. and another 3-mile guided hike on Wapiti and Twin Fawn trails will leave at 2 p.m.

Visitors can walk self-guided hikes on the Oak Leaf, Dallas Creek and Forest Discovery nature trails with brochures from the visitor center.

“(First Day Hikes) is intended as a way to promote folks getting outside for the New Year getting exercise and experiencing nature where you live,” said Travis Duncan, statewide spokesman for CPW.

All activities meet at the visitor center off U.S. Highway 550 and require a pass for admission into the park.

The Uncompahgre River flows through Ridgway on Nov. 12. Ridgway State Park will have two guided hikes and marshmallow roasting on New Year’s Day to encourage Coloradans to start off 2022 outdoors. (William Woody/Special to The Colorado Sun, file)

Those who plan to hike can checkout snowshoes free at the visitor center, said John Livingston, a spokesman for CPW’s Southwest region.

“This time of year some of these hikes turn into snowshoe type deals,” he said.

Though the National Weather Service forecasts snow through the rest of the week and into Sunday for much of Southwest Colorado, Livingston said all state parks will be open New Year’s Day.

“We’ve highlighted guided hikes, but every state park in the state will be open for hikes,” he said.

The First Day Hikes program started in Massachusetts in 1992 and has since expanded across the U.S. with the help of America’s State Parks, an alliance of all 50 state park systems.

State parks in all 50 states will host guided hikes to encourage people to start 2022 outdoors.

CPW began hosting its First Day Hikes when the program went nationwide in 2012, Duncan said.

This year, the agency will run guided hikes and activities at seven state parks in Colorado.

The Western Slope features three locations, at Ridgway State Park, Sweitzer Lake State Park near Delta and Highline Lake State Park near Grand Junction.

Hikes vary in length and difficulty up to a 9.5-mile trek with 2,200 feet of elevation gain at Staunton State Park in Pine.

Staunton State Park also plans to hold a First Day Bike.

Participants must follow COVID-19 health guidelines in their area, and CPW encourages social distancing and masks when distancing is difficult to maintain.

CPW recommends bringing snacks, water, extra clothing and good hiking shoes. If trails are icy or snowy, visitors should consider trekking poles and snowshoes or shoe spikes.

Those who plan to attend can check the social media and websites for each state park to find updates or cancellations because of weather.

While events may change, state parks will remain open on New Year’s Day, Livingston said.

“As an agency, we encourage people to get out and enjoy our great natural resources at our state parks,” he said. “Wherever you are, there’s a state park where you can get out and get active, it just may look a little bit different depending on where you are in the state.”

ahannon@durangoherald.com

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