Destination SpotlightCategory|

Step Into the New Year and Embrace the Outdoors on a First Day Hike 

Hocking Hills State Park - Photo Credit: arthurgphotography/Shutterstock
Kick off 2024 with a First Day Hike at parks from coast to coast

With the New Year often comes the resolve to focus on ways to invest in your mental and physical well-being. To help Americans in this quest to start the year off on the right foot, the America’s State Parks First Day Hikes initiative invites people to head into nature on Jan. 1 to explore the trails at parks from coast to coast.

It’s a day when people are encouraged to head to a state park to relish the beauty of nature while embarking on an outdoor exercise journey. But the program isn’t just about a single day—it’s about fostering a healthy lifestyle all year round.

In recent years, all 50 state park systems have supported First Day Hikes, with nearly 55,000 people joining this tradition in 2023. There are two options available: 

  • Ranger-led hikes: Guided excursions with set start times, often requiring pre-registration. For specific details and prerequisites, consult your state’s First Day Hikes website. 
  • Self-guided hikes: Flexible opportunities allow you to explore at your own pace along well-marked trails. While park staff or volunteers might be available for guidance, they won't accompany you throughout the journey. 

To ensure an inclusive experience for all ages, parks organize walks and hikes of different lengths and difficulty levels, aiming to create a delightful outing for the whole family. So, whether you hope to conquer peaks or relish serene moments of tranquility, there’s no better way to kick off 2024 than with a First Day Hike. 

Need some inspiration? Here are just a few of the breathtaking state parks you can enjoy this year: 

Frolic alongside mermaids at Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs 

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park - Photo Credit: Panpilas L/Shutterstock

Traveling with children or beginning hikers? Then a short stroll through a quintessential Old Florida site that’s home to the deepest freshwater cave system in the country is the perfect introduction to outdoor exploration. Along your less than 1-mile journey, stop to watch Weeki Wachee’s iconic mermaids perform in an underwater theater, or embark on a kayak trip for even more adventure. Then, settle into a stay at Homewood Suites by Hilton Tampa-Port Richey, which is also located near the waterways of another state park: Werner-Boyce Salt Springs. 

Homewood Suites by Hilton Tampa-Port Richey - Pool
Homewood Suites by Hilton Tampa-Port Richey - Pool

Discover a surprisingly scenic wonderland at Ohio’s Hocking Hills State Park 

Hocking Hills State Park - Photo Credit: arthurgphotography/Shutterstock

Tucked away in the heart of the Midwest, this stunning natural paradise features striking cliffs, stunning waterfalls, and deep, hemlock-shaded gorges. Though beautiful in any season, the park’s wintery ice formations make it an awe-inspiring choice for a refreshing hike on Jan. 1. And when it comes time to rest and recharge, head to Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton Chillicothe where you can enjoy a heated indoor pool and complimentary hot breakfast that provides the fuel you need for your excursions. 

Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton Chillicothe - Exterior
Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton Chillicothe

Enjoy acclaimed views of sandstone cliffs at Colorado’s Eldorado Canyon 

Eldorado Canyon State Park - Photo Credit: Yarik Sychov/Shutterstock

Located just outside Boulder, this not-so-hidden treasure is a popular draw for outdoor enthusiasts seeking remarkable hiking trails and epic climbing opportunities. Traveling here in winter offers a chance to escape the crowds found in warmer months, and many of the park’s trails can even be enjoyed by snowshoe. After a day of winter hiking, return to the warmth of your room at Hilton Garden Inn Boulder, which offers a spa that makes the perfect spot to unwind after days filled with exhilarating activities. 

Hilton Garden Inn Boulder - Lobby
Hilton Garden Inn Boulder - Lobby

Seek mountain views with milder temps at Georgia’s Amicalola Falls 

Amicalola Falls State Park - Photo Credit: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Situated along the border of North Georgia’s mountains is a nature lover’s utopia. Located just miles from the famed Appalachian Trail and within the Chattahoochee National Forest, the park is named after its most beloved feature, the magnificent 729-foot cascade of Amicalola Falls. And after you’re done exploring this world-class recreation destination in the southern Appalachian Mountains, you can enjoy a different type of adventure in nearby Atlanta. The Starling Atlanta Midtown, Curio Collection by Hilton serves as a posh home base for a getaway that’s the perfect mixture of country and cosmopolitan. 

The Starling Atlanta Midtown, Curio Collection by Hilton - Lobby
The Starling Atlanta Midtown, Curio Collection by Hilton - Lobby

Escape to untamed Utah at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park 

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park - Photo Credit: Layne V. Naylor/Shutterstock

For an unforgettable trek, hike through a sea of shifting red sand that’s in perpetual, wind-swept motion. A visit to these mountains and hills of sand is a unique, ever-evolving adventure that you can explore on foot or via an off-road vehicle, making for an adrenaline boost that’s sure to start the New Year off in an exciting way. You can find it all in Kanab, a small town with a Western vibe that serves as a hub for travel to other celebrated sights, such as Zion National Park. Stay in the middle of it all at Hampton Inn by Hilton Kanab

Hampton Inn by Hilton Kanab - 2 Queen Bed Guest Room
Hampton Inn by Hilton Kanab - Guest Room

Preserve historic heritage in Pennsylvania at Point State Park

Point State Park - Photo Credit: Jeff Holcombe/Shutterstock

For a completely different kind of experience, wander along a downtown Pittsburgh pathway dedicated to the French and Indian War. Here in the area’s “Golden Triangle,” a paved ADA-accessible promenade meanders along the riverfront, highlighting views of Pittsburgh’s waterways, hillsides, and bridges. It’s a uniquely beautiful journey that allows locals and visitors alike to stretch their legs and enjoy the fresh air without fear of twisting an ankle. The park is located near Joinery Hotel Pittsburgh, Curio Collection by Hilton, which also honors the city's working-class history and distinct culture.

Joinery Hotel Pittsburgh, Curio Collection by Hilton - Roof Terrace
Joinery Hotel Pittsburgh, Curio Collection by Hilton - Rooftop

Hilton Honors Double Points

From May 2 to September 2, 2024, Hilton Honors members can earn 2X Bonus Points on every stay with the Double Points Promotion.  Hilton Honors members who register for the promotion and stay at any Hilton brand property during those dates will earn double Bonus Points. There is no limit to the total amount of Bonus Points that may be earned during the Promotion Period with this offer.