CUSTER | Instead of ringing in the new year, why not hike into it?

Across the state, South Dakota state parks will sponsor free, guided hikes in 12 state parks on New Year’s Day as part of America's State Parks First Day Hikes initiative in all 50 states.

On Monday, Jan. 1, rangers are leading snowshoe hikes at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at Jewel Cave National Monument near Custer, according to a news release from the monument.

"In celebration of the New Year, these First Day Hikes are being offered to showcase the ponderosa pine forest during the winter season," the release says. "They also expose visitors to a Healthy Parks Healthy People program experience with the National Park Service."

If it isn't snowy, "dry" hikes will take place at the same times on the one-quarter-mile Roof Trail.

“The winter season is a great time to visit Jewel Cave," superintendent Bonnie Schwartz said in the news release. "Between a weekend cave tour with family and friends or snowshoeing on January 1, we hope that these program options get people out and about in their public lands.”

Jewel Cave is also offering guided cave tours on Dec. 29, 30 and 31, according to a news release from the monument. Each day there will be three scenic tours at 10 a.m., 12:40 p.m., and 2:40 p.m. One 20-minute Discovery Talk is available each day at 9:05 a.m.

Due to increased visitation during the holidays, officials encourage people to secure advance tour tickets online by visiting The call center is also open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday during the winter at (844) 245-6179.

For more information, call the visitor center directly at (605) 673-8300 or email at

Other hikes West River include: 

  • First Day Hike, Custer State Park, 10 a.m. Meet at the Peter Norbeck Outdoor Education Center. The hike will be approximately 2 miles long and last approximately two hours. Pre-registration is not required. Info: 255-4515
  • Birdwatcher’s Hike, Angostura Recreation Area near Hot Springs, 1 p.m. Meet at picnic shelter 3. Hike is about 2 miles. No pets. Pre-registration required. Info: 745-6996
  • First Day Snowshoe Hike, George S. Mickelson Trail, 1 p.m., pre-registration required. Info/register: 584-3896.

In Rapid City, there will be a "City of Presidents" New Year's Day Walk. Registration is at 1 p.m. at the Hotel Alex Johnson downtown. Contact 721-7191 for more information.

Contact Candy DenOuden at