By Charlie Peek
A North Carolina New Year’s tradition of family adventure, exercise and reconnection with nature continues in 2017 with First Day Hikes in North Carolina State Parks on January 1, 2017.
For New Year’s Day, More than 40 guided hikes are scheduled in the state parks system, ranging from short “leg-stretchers” to seven-mile treks, most of them featuring interpretive programs by rangers along the way. All seasonal state park facilities will remain open on the holiday.
A record 3,469 hikers traveled 8,228 miles on state park trails on January 1 last year, exploring every one of the state parks and state recreation areas in brisk winter weather. In North Carolina, this popular tradition began at Eno River State Park more than 40 years ago, an annual event that now regularly draws more than 800 visitors to that piedmont park.
“As the holiday season draws to a close, the First Day Hikes event offers a rededication to fitness, family time and enjoyment of the outdoors and the rich natural resources that distinguish North Carolina,” said Mike Murphy, state parks director. “It’s also a reminder that the state parks are a year-round resource for recreation, wellness and learning for more than 17 million visitors.”
Each state park and state recreation area puts its own stamp on First Day Hikes. Chimney Rock State Park earns the distinction of offering the “first” First Day Hike with a trek up the famous mountain to begin at 12:01 a.m., with hikers gaining 1,200 feet in elevation. If there’s snow, Grandfather Mountain State Park’s event will morph into a “snowshoe hike” and at Weymouth Woods, visitors will seek the rare winter plant pyxie moss. Falls Lake State Recreation Area will offer four short hikes with scavenger hunts, and at Fort Macon, the new 3.2-mile Elliott Caues Trail will be explored.
Nationally, First Day Hikes is promoted by America’s State Parks and the National Association of State Park Directors, with more than 400 hikes scheduled in state parks across the country. Last year, nearly 55,000 people rang in the New Year by collectively hiking over 133,000 miles.
A complete list of First Day Hikes in North Carolina can be found at www.ncparks.gov/north-carolina-first-day-hikes.
An added bonus is that visitors involved with the North Carolina State Parks 100-Mile Challenge – to walk, hike, paddle, cycle or otherwise explore 100 miles in the state parks – can add First Day Hikes mileage to their totals. Details about the 100-Mile Challenge can be found at www.nc100miles.org.