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Start the New Year With a 'First-Day' Hike

From the San Mateo Coast to Santa Cruz Mountains, California State Parks host New Year's Day hikes kicking off the sesquicentennial, celebrating 150 years.

Burleigh Murray Ranch State Park Photo: Avis Boutell
Burleigh Murray Ranch State Park Photo: Avis Boutell

On Jan. 1, 2014, all 50 states are offering "First Day" hikes in state parks across the country. For California State Parks, the “First Day" hikes are the kick-off for the sesquicentennial, celebrating 150 years. 

The following "First Day" hikes are made possible by California State Park Docents, California State Parks, Mountain Parks Foundation and Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks:

Stroll Burleigh Murray Ranch State Park on New Year’s Day

Wednesday, January 1 from 9:00 AM to 12:00 NOON

Higgins-Purisima Road 1.5 miles east of Highway 1 Half Moon Bay, CA

Take a journey back in time along Mills Creek where a variety of birds roam the skies and plant communities reach up toward the sun. This easy walk will be along a one-mile gravel ranch road (for a two-mile round trip) following the course of Mills Creek with only a small gain in elevation. Docent Avis Boutell will lead this guided walk. Along the way you will learn about the lives of early pioneers and farming families who first settled here in the 19th century.  The centerpiece of the park--a unique dairy barn at the end of the road--was built beginning in 1889.  A heritage orchard on the property, probably planted around 1920, is being restored by volunteers organized through the California State Parks Foundation Park Champions program.  Travel back in time today with plenty of water, snacks, and sunscreen.  Wear long pants, layered clothing and sturdy shoes. Trip limited to 20 participants – please contact HMBParksVolunteer@parks.ca.gov or Angie at (650)726-8819 to reserve a space.

Spend New Year’s Day on the Pescadero Marsh Trail

Wednesday, January 1 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon

Meet at Pescadero State Beach central parking lot

Highway 1, approximately ¼ mile north of Pescadero Creek Road, Pescadero, CA

Take an easy stroll through the Pescadero Marsh where you may meet a variety of wildlife and lively bird species that use this important stop along the Pacific Flyway. Join State Parks Docent Rita Jennings for a guided walk on the mile-long Sequoia Audubon Trail.  Explore the remnant levees from past farming and discover the byways of the Pescadero and Butano creeks as they race to the edge of the California Coast where they meet the Pacific Ocean in this restored marsh.   Start your trek at the mid-parking lot of the Pescadero Beach. Bring plenty of water, snacks, and sunscreen.  Wear layered clothing and sturdy shoes.  The walk is 2 miles total. For questions please contact HMBParksVolunteer@parks.ca.gov or Angie at (650)726-8819.

Wilder Ranch Coast Nature Walk—Wednesday, January 1st at 11:00 AM

On this 2.5 mile easy to moderate hike along the Old Cove Landing Trail, you will explore the plants, animals, and geology of the spectacular coastal bluffs with Wilder Ranch Docents Liz Ryan and Bill Perry.  Meet at the Wilder Ranch Interpretive Center at 11:00a.m for the two-hour guided hike for all ages. Bring a snack, water, binoculars, and wear good walking shoes.  Rain cancels.  Wilder Ranch is located at the northern end of Santa Cruz off Highway 1 at 1401 Coast Rd. For additional information, call (831)426-0505.

Hike to “A River Wild” with Docent Barry Grimm, Henry Cowell Redwood State Park

Wednesday, January 1 at 11:00 AM 

On this 4 hour / 5 mile moderate-pace hike along multiple trails, we’ll visit some of the park’s less traveled “back-country”.  Initially traversing old growth Redwood and Douglas-fir forest, we’ll descend into the San Lorenzo River canyon and take our lunch break on river side sand bars.  Maximum elevation change is about 500 ft.  Suitable for adults, and young adults who are diligent hikers. Dress in layers for changeable weather and temperatures. Bring sturdy walking shoes, water and a trail-side lunch. Meet at 11:00 AM in front of the Nature Store (edge of parking lot) at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.  Enter the park from Hwy 9 just south of the town of Felton, CA. Heavy rain cancels.  For more information call831-335-7077. 

Observation Deck Hike with Docent Joel Hill, Henry Cowell Redwood State Park Wednesday, January 1 at 12:00 noon

On this 3.5 hour / 4-5 mile moderate hike we’ll explore four amazingly different habitats – riverside (riparian) broadleaf forest, old growth redwood forest, upland pine-oak woodland and the rare and endangered Santa Cruz sandhills.  Because these diverse habitats are very close together with abrupt transition zones we can experience a wide variety of plants and animals in a very short distance.  From the park’s Observation Deck we’ll enjoy 360 degree views of the Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay.  Maximum elevation gain is about 500 ft. 

Suitable for adults, and young adults who are diligent hikers.  Dress in layers for changeable weather and temperatures. Bring walking shoes, water, sun protection and snacks.

Meet at 12:00 noon in front of the Mountain Parks Nature Store (edge of parking lot) at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park located just south of the town of Felton off Highway 9. Heavy rain cancels.  For more information call 831-335-7077.

“Critter Safari” with Docent Nancy Parker, Henry Cowell Redwood State Park

Wednesday, January 1 at 1:00 PM 

On this 2 hour leisurely walk we’ll uncover the tracks and other “signs” that animals leave.  We’ll reconstruct the hidden lives of deer, hawks, ducks, bobcat, lizards and more – to see how they survive in our rivers, forests and grasslands.  Children from age 6 are encouraged – when accompanied by a parent.  Dress in layers for changeable weather and temperatures. Bring walking shoes and water. Meet at 1:00 PM in front of the Mountain Parks Nature Store (edge of parking lot).  The park is located just south of the town of Felton off Highway 9.  Heavy rain cancels. For more information call 831-335-7077. 

New Year’s Day Redwood Loop Walk at Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Wednesday, January 1, at 1:00 PM

How do these grand redwoods grow to be so old? So tall? How are they important to humans? Join us for this fun and informative guided half-mile easy stroll through a magnificent old-growth redwood forest. Meet the famous Mother Tree, the Father of the Forest and the incredible Chimney Tree on this 90-minute walk on the half-mile redwood loop trail that is stroller and wheelchair accessible. Meet at Park Headquarters.  The park is located at 21600 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek.  For more information call (831) 338-8883. Rain cancels. Please leave pets at home.

Plan Your First Day Hike with Coffee Talk and Crafts at Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Wednesday, January 1 from 9:00 AM to NOON

Come to the Sempervirens Room next to Park Headquarters for free coffee or hot chocolate! This is a great way to start your day (and year!) in Big Basin. Docent Norm Beeson will be happy to answer your questions about the park and help get you going on the right trail. And bring the kids for a fun craft activity!  The park is located at 21600 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek.  For more information call (831) 338-8883.


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