First day hikes will take place at 14 Minnesota state parks Jan. 1, as part of a nationwide effort, led by America’s state parks, to promote starting the new year with fresh air and physical activity.

More than 400 hikes are scheduled in all 50 states. Minnesota’s events include five daytime hikes, four snowshoe hikes and three full moon hikes. These hikes are free. This year, for the first time, there’s an underground option, too. 

Guided tours of the cave at Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park will take place hourly from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Discovered in 1937, Mystery Cave is the longest cave in Minnesota, spanning more than 13 miles underground.

Typically, public cave tours are offered only between April and October. During the summer months, visitors often find the cave a cool and refreshing escape from the heat. In the winter, it will be the opposite.

People will be able to come in from the cold weather to warm up, because the air temperature in Mystery Cave stays at a constant 48 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. Reservations for the cave tours are recommended, but tours also will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis, if space is available.

For information about tour prices and to make reservations, visit the DNR Web site at www.mndnr.gov, or call 866-857-2757.

People should dress for the weather, so ideally in layers that can shed when they warm up as they get moving. They may also want to bring a light backpack to store a water bottle, a nutritious snack, binoculars, a camera and those extra layers of clothing.

A vehicle permit ($7 for a one-day permit or $35 for a year-round permit) is also required to enter Minnesota state parks.

For more information, contact the DNR information center at info.dnr@state. mn.us or 888-646-6367 (8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday).

Image courtesy of the Minnesota DNR