Shoe Year’s Day is a walk in the park at New Year’s

Greg Tasker

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to get in shape, then shift the first day of 2017 into high gear with an invigorating snowshoe hike at a Michigan state park.

“Shoe Year’s Day” hikes are taking place at several Michigan state parks and recreation areas, including three in Metro Detroit. The guided hikes are part of a nationwide effort, “First Day Hikes,” to encourage Americans to embrace a healthy lifestyle and get out and enjoy their parks.

“There are countless benefits to using Michigan’s great outdoors as your gym,” said Ron Olson, Parks and Recreation Division chief of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

“People tend to work out longer, enjoy their workout and burn more calories by exercising outside, while enjoying the beauty of our state.”

“Shoe Year’s Day” hikes at Michigan parks are being offered Saturday through Jan. 8. Participating parks in southeastern Michigan include Maybury State Park near Northville, Island Lake Recreation Area near Brighton and Waterloo Recreation Area, west of Ann Arbor.

“We know people are making New Year’s resolutions about fitness, and you hear how gyms are so busy at the beginning of the year,” said Stephanie Yancer, a DNR spokeswoman. “So we’re letting people know they can get outdoors and get some exercise.”

While Michigan is focusing on snowshoe hikes, many parks across the country offer hikes of various lengths, shorter treks for the uninitiated and longer for the adventurous. Not only does the program promote fitness but it also allows park rangers, naturalists and volunteers to share their knowledge of these natural areas and reacquaint the public with their attributes.

Island Lake Recreation Area offered a snowshoe hike last year, but in February. This year, the 4,000-acre park is participating in the New Year’s event with a guided snowshoe trek along a new trail, the 5-mile Hickory Ridge Hike and Ski Trail, which runs south of Kent Lake. Complimentary donuts and hot chocolate are offered afterward at a warming station.

“We’re hoping to bring awareness not only to the park, but the new hiking trail,” said Andrew Haapala, unit manager of Island Lake Recreation Area. “The trail has some great views of the Huron River and passes through some cool hardwoods.”

Hosted by Friends of Island Lake State Recreation Area, the guided snowshoe hike begins at 1 p.m. Haapala said the plan is to snowshoe about one mile to a mile and a half.

Like hikes at other state parks on New Year’s Day, the event is free; requiring only a state Recreation Passport. Guests can also hike or snowshoe on their own; a limited number of snowshoe rentals will be available for free.

This marks the first time Waterloo Recreation Area will join the First Day Hikes effort, though the 21,000-acre park hosts lantern-lit night hike and cross-country ski excursions.

“They’ve been very well attended. People have really enjoyed them,” said Greg Byce, Waterloo’s park supervisor.

“We only go a couple of miles. We usually light up two different loops. If you wanna ski more, you can ski around a loop a couple of times.”

The snowshoe hike is sponsored by the Ann Arbor chapter of Hike it Baby, a nonprofit group begun in Oregon in 2013 that is striving to create a community of families who enjoy the outdoors, with a regular schedule of hikes and other activities. The snowshoe hike begins at 11 a.m.

First Day Hikes originated more than 25 years ago at Blue Hills Reservation, a state park in Massachusetts. Last year, more than 55,000 people participated in guided hikes at state parks across the country, in all 50 states.

In Michigan, the hikes are being sponsored by the DNR, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the Michigan Recreation and Park Association.

Greg Tasker is a Michigan-based freelance writer.

Shoe Year’s Day

Maybury State Park, 10 a.m. Sat.

Island Lake Recreation Area,

1 p.m. Sun.

Waterloo Recreation Area,

11 a.m. Sun.

Yankee Springs Recreation Area, 1 p.m. Sun.