If you’re a hiker, you don’t have to be sold on the benefits of exploring the numerous hiking trails in our area.

But if you’re not, and you’ve always wondered what all the fuss is about, here’s an opportunity to start the year on the right foot.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is once again sponsoring “First Day” hikes on New Year’s Day. It’s part of a national campaign the National Association of State Park Directors started 25 years ago “to encourage healthy lifestyles and stewardship of natural resources through outdoor recreation.”

The Grand Valley is experiencing a moment in which the abundance of public lands that surround us is quickly becoming a chief drawing card.

The irony shouldn’t be lost on us that there are locals who have never hiked Serpent’s Trail or Pollock Bench or Palisade Rim when there are folks moving here precisely for the easy access to such experiences.

Hiking, trail access and trail connectivity even factor into Mesa County Public Health’s goals to improve community wellness. It’s in the community’s best interest for people to understand, value and utilize the valley’s network of trails.

But to the uninitiated, hiking can seem intimidating. It’s no different than snorkeling or snowshoeing. If you’ve never done something, you might not know where to start. So you never try.

CPW’s “First Day” activities are not confined to hiking. As the Sentinel’s Dennis Webb reported in Friday’s newspaper, conditions at some state parks allow for participants to try cross-country skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, ice fishing or mountain biking on fat bikes through the snow.

But hiking is a first step in getting comfortable with the outdoors and there will plenty of Jan. 1 hiking opportunities in our vicinity. CPW has hikes planned at the James M. Robb Colorado River State Park’s Connected Lakes site, another at Vega State Park outside Collbran, and three different hikes at Ridgway State Park.

The hikes generally focus on wildlife, scenery and other natural attractions. The hikes are free, but a day pass or annual pass at the park is required.

Pete Firmin, manager of the James M. Robb park, will be leading the Connected Lakes hike. It starts at 10 a.m. No preregistration is required and there’s no cap on participants.

Just remember to dress warmly. The three-mile hike is expected to take place regardless of weather conditions.

Participants should park at the third parking lot coming into the park, where the bathroom is. For more information on the First Day hikes, visit https://cpw.state.co.us/firstdayhikes.

Discover for yourself that hiking is easy, healthy and fun.

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