Texas State Parks Bid Farewell to Centennial Celebration & Welcomes 2024 with Adventure


AUSTIN — The year-long jubilee marking the Texas State Parks' Centennial draws to a close, but the spirit of celebration lingers as the Lone Star State gears up for an adventurous start to 2024. As the clock ticks to midnight, an invitation beckons: embrace a New Year's resolution to explore the great outdoors by joining the First Day Hike at various state parks. These hikes, featuring ranger-led tours and self-guided adventures, promise an array of activities including walks, bike rides, paddling trips, and even invigorating polar plunges, all in homage to a national initiative championing outdoor exploration.

The previous year witnessed an astonishing turnout, with nearly 8,000 participants shattering attendance records on New Year's Day. Revelers flocked to 83 participating parks statewide, collectively traversing an impressive 17,190 miles on foot, bicycle, and paddle.

Rodney Franklin, Texas State Parks Director, exuberantly expressed, "Texas set the bar high last year by leading the nation in First Day Hikes participation and miles covered. We're thrilled to invite everyone back for another year of festivity as we embark on the next century of memories. Whether it's your maiden voyage or a return to your beloved park, there's something for everyone to relish."

The trails at Texas State Parks cater to varying lengths and difficulty levels, offering scenic strolls for families and challenging terrains for seasoned hikers alike. Trail maps for all parks are easily accessible via TPWD's revamped official Texas State Park app, website, and individual park webpages.

Lewis Ledford, Executive Director of the National Association of State Park Directors, expressed his delight, remarking, "The enduring success and expansion of the First Day Hikes program have transformed it into a cherished tradition, fostering a commitment to health and well-being among individuals and families as they embrace the outdoors to kickstart their year."

To ensure a seamless experience, TPWD strongly advises reserving day passes in advance, especially for parks expected to reach capacity limits. Passes can be secured online through the TPWD reservation website or by phone at (512) 389-8900.

The lineup for First Day Hikes across Texas offers diverse experiences:

  • Balmorhea State Park invites thrill-seekers for a polar plunge at 9 a.m., promising a refreshing start to the year in its 72-75 degree pool, a West Texas oasis.

  • Government Canyon State Natural Area in San Antonio beckons bird enthusiasts for a guided hike from 8-11 a.m., offering an opportunity to explore wildlands.

  • Lake Colorado City State Park invites shutterbugs to participate in a photo scavenger hunt or guided hike at the Cactus Cut Trailhead at 2 p.m.

  • Lake Mineral Wells State Park will host a midnight hike starting at 11:30 p.m., exploring the Texas winter night sky, an adventure accompanied by creature sounds. Participants are advised to come prepared for the weather.

  • Ray Roberts Lake State Parks present the Tri-Park-A-Thon, encouraging participants to hike across one or all three units to claim an exciting prize.

  • Sheldon Lake State Park and Environmental Learning Center offers a First Day Dog Walk at 9 a.m., inviting furry friends and their owners for an ADA-accessible guided hike.

As Texans gear up to bid farewell to 2023 and embrace the dawn of 2024, the state's parks stand as gateways to adventure, promising memorable experiences for everyone, young and old, two-legged and four-legged alike.

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