RALEIGH — North Carolina’s New Year tradition of family adventure, exercise and reconnection with nature continues in 2019 with First Day Hikes throughout the state parks system on Jan. 1.
More than 40 guided hikes are scheduled for New Year’s Day, ranging from short “leg-stretchers” to multi-mile rambles, most featuring educational programs led by rangers along the way. All state parks will be open on the holiday.
Locally, Stone Mountain State Park will host its walk at 10:30 a.m. beginning at the lower trial head parking area. The hike will take participants to Wolf Rock, Cedar Rock and then past the historic Hutchinson Homestead. The approximate three-mile hike is considered moderate in difficulty. Those attending should bring appropriate clothing and shoes for the weather.
In addition, Pilot Mountain State Park will host a hike on the easy .8-mile Jomeokee Trail which circles the mountain’s knob. The hike will be from 9 to 10 a.m. and a park ranger will discuss the park’s history, geology and local flora and fauna during the walk. Those participating should meet at the summit parking lot.
For those looking for a much longer adventure, Hanging Rock State Park will use the hike as the grand opening of the Ruben Mountain Trail, an 8.3-mile walk. The trail takes hikers from the Lake Bathhouse, around the lake, through the valley between Moore’s Knob and Cook’s Wall, towards Huckleberry Ridge and completely around the new Ruben Mountain Loop trail. The hike will begin at 10 a.m., and could take until 2 p.m. It will end back at the bathhouse just in time for the annual Polar Plunge festivitities.
In North Carolina, the popular First Day Hike tradition began at Eno River State Park more than 40 years ago. Eno River’s first day hike alone draws more than 800 visitors.
“First Day Hikes are a time for the whole family or a group of friends to enjoy our state’s outstanding natural resources together,” said Dwayne Patterson, state parks director. “This is a great opportunity to introduce your children or a friend to hiking and start your year off right with fresh air and exercise.”
Each state park and state recreation area puts its own stamp on First Day Hikes. Follow up a hike at Dismal Swamp State Park with hot chocolate and cookies or brave the ice and snow for a hike at Elk Knob for spectacular views. Learn about some of the Piedmont’s flora and fauna at Haw River or discover the fire-dependent ecology of longleaf pine forests at Carvers Creek. Explore Goose Creek’s Spanish moss-draped live oaks or explore Medoc Mountain in the heart of the state.
As an added bonus, 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. First Day Hikes are also a great time to get started on one’s own New Year’s resolutions with the 100-mile challenge. Details about the 100-Mile Challenge can be found at www.nc100miles.org.
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.
A complete list of First Day Hikes in North Carolina can be found at https://www.ncparks.gov/first-day-hikes.
North Carolina State Parks manages more than 234,000 acres of iconic landscape within North Carolina’s state parks, state recreation areas and state natural areas. It administers the N.C Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, including its local grants program, as well as a state trails program, North Carolina Natural and Scenic Rivers and more, all with a mission dedicated to conservation, recreation and education. The state parks system welcomes more than 19 million visitors annually.
The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (NCDNCR) is the state agency with a vision to be the leader in using the state’s natural and cultural resources to build the social, cultural, educational and economic future of North Carolina. NCDNCR’s mission is to improve the quality of life in our state by creating opportunities to experience excellence in the arts, history, libraries and nature in North Carolina by stimulating learning, inspiring creativity, preserving the state’s history, conserving the state’s natural heritage, encouraging recreation and cultural tourism, and promoting economic development.
NCDNCR includes 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, two science museums, three aquariums and Jennette’s Pier, 39 state parks and recreation areas, the N.C. Zoo, the nation’s first state-supported Symphony Orchestra, the State Library, the State Archives, the N.C. Arts Council, State Preservation Office and the Office of State Archaeology, along with the Division of Land and Water Stewardship. For more information, please call (919) 807-7300 or visit www.ncdcr.gov.
About 50 visitors join the First Day Hike at Stone Mountain State Park in 2016, led by Park Ranger Jeffrey Jones.