AUSTIN— Three, two, one ... Happy Birthday, Texas State Parks! Park lovers everywhere are invited to help Texas State Parks begin celebrating 100 years Jan. 1 with a First Day Hike. Almost every Texas State Park will host ranger-guided and self-guided walks, bike rides, paddling trips and polar plunges in honor of the national initiative aimed at getting people outdoors.
“Texas State Parks is excited to kick off our 100-year celebration with the most First Day Hikes we’ve ever offered,” said Rodney Franklin, director of Texas State Parks. “Whether you’re visiting for the first time, or you’ve visited many times before, more than 80 parks across Texas are ready to help you start 2023 off on the right foot. We can’t wait to share all the exciting things happening in Texas State Parks this upcoming year with you. We invite everyone to make some memories in nature with friends and family!”
The events scheduled throughout New Year’s Day are designed to help introduce people of all skill levels to the outdoors and make the experience “a walk in the park.” Last year, 4,440 visitors ushered in 2022 by hiking, biking and riding a total of 8,764 miles statewide. Find a list of this year’s First Day Hikes on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) calendar page.
Trails at Texas State Parks range in length and difficulty levels across the state. Some short, easy trails are perfect for family-friendly scenic strolls, while more strenuous ones can challenge experienced hikers. Trail maps for all Texas State Parks can be found on TPWD’s website, the recently redesigned official Texas State Park app and individual park webpages.
Anyone planning a trip to a Texas state park is strongly encouraged to reserve a day pass in advance since some parks are expected to reach their capacity limit. Reserve day passes online through the TPWD reservation website or by calling (512) 389-8900.
At Goliad State Park and Historic Site, visitors can walk through history and see the timeline of Mission Espiritu Santo and the state park. The 1.5-mile loop begins at the picnic area at the San Antonio River Trail, continuing to the Longhorn camping loop, the Angel of Goliad Hike and Bike Trail, then to the mission grounds and the Aranama Nature Trail before ending back at the picnic area.
First Day Hikes aren’t for the birds except at Lake Casa Blanca International State Park, where visitors can participate in one of three guided birdwatching walks on New Year’s Day.
At Lake Tawakoni State Park in northeast Texas, visitors can hit the trail at any time and for any length on a self-guided hike. Guided hikes are available at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., starting from the Spring Point trailhead.
Late risers don’t have to wake up with the roosters to take part in a First Day Hike. Lockhart State Park is hosting a First Day Sunset Hike from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Creekview Trailhead.
Folks looking to try something new or challenge themselves can take part in the “T.R.Y.athalon” at Tyler State Park. T.R.Y. stands for Trekking, Riding and kaYAKing. (How else were we going to fit in the “Y” in there?) Stations will be set up across the park so visitors can learn from the enthusiasts themselves. Members of the East Texas Trekkers, East Texas Trail Advocacy and park rangers will be available as guides.
Along with First Day Hikes, Texas State Parks will celebrate the Centennial with signature events at all 89 parks across Texas. Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation is partnering with TPWD to celebrate all year long. H-E-B, the presenting sponsor of the Centennial Celebration, donated $1 million to help all Texans in discovering and exploring their parks. For more information on the Centennial Celebration, including signature events, the history of Texas State Parks and how to make a day visit or overnight reservation, visit the 100 Years website at TexasStateParks.org/100years.