An annual nationwide tradition continues on Jan. 1, 2024, as North Carolina joins other states in offering First Day Hikes at state parks, the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation announced.Fresh off celebrating the Year of the Trail, North Carolina state parks will host more than 50 staff-led hikes to showcase the wonders of the Great Trails State. Visitors can choose from easy and short strolls on relatively flat trails to long excursions across mountainous landscapes.
“After a few years of smaller First Day Hikes programming, we are excited to offer a wide variety of guided hikes and events at most of our state parks for 2024,” said State Parks Director Brian Strong. “We hope our visitors take the opportunity, as we wrap up the holiday season, to bring family and friends and begin a new year of outdoor adventures together.”
A few state parks are hosting unique events on Jan. 1. At Goose Creek State Park in Beaufort County, 2024 marks 50 years since the park was first established, so park staff and partners will have First Day Hikes as part of the anniversary celebrations. Food, music, and historical demonstrations will be available for visitors in between the guided hikes. Meanwhile, at Mayo River State Park in Rockingham County, park staff will be celebrating the grand opening of a brand-new trail, so First Day Hike participants will be the first to tread the Fox Trail at the Mayo Mountain Access.
Other parks are continuing what have become traditional offerings. Crowders Mountain State Park has partnered again with Kings Mountain State Park in South Carolina to lead a First Day Hike traversing three parks in two states along the Ridgeline Trail. Several parks will have themed discussions on hikes to celebrate the North Carolina State Parks 2024 annual theme, Year of the Bear. At some parks, the park’s local friends group will provide refreshments to attendees, and others, like the Eno River Association, will have volunteers help lead hikes to allow for more choices and smaller groups.
A few parks are unable to offer guided hikes for 2024 but will still be open for visitors to hike on their own. Doing so at any state park is a great option for those who wish to avoid large crowds, as First Day Hikes have become extremely popular, especially when the weather is ideal for winter hiking. Even parks with typically smaller visitation can draw participants in the dozens or hundreds for the First Day Hikes.
Nationwide, First Day Hikes is organized by the National Association of State Park Directors. The annual event began in 1992 in Massachusetts, and as of 2012, all 50 states have participated.
“I am thrilled to see the continued growth and success of the First Day Hikes program,” said Lewis Ledford, executive director of the NASPD. “This initiative has become a cherished tradition, providing individuals and families with the opportunity to embrace the outdoors, and kick off the year with a commitment to health and well-being.”
The full list of First Day Hikes for North Carolina State Parks is available at ncparks.gov/first-day-hikes. Visitors are encouraged to share photos and videos from their hike on social media using the hashtags #ncstateparks and #FirstDayHikes.
About North Carolina State ParksNorth Carolina State Parks manages more than 250,000 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.About the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural ResourcesThe N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR) manages, promotes, and enhances the things that people love about North Carolina – its diverse arts and culture, rich history, and spectacular natural areas.
Through its programs, the department enhances education, stimulates economic development, improves public health, expands accessibility, and strengthens community resiliency.The department manages over 100 locations across the state, including 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, five science museums, four aquariums, 35 state parks, four recreation areas, dozens of state trails and natural areas, the N.C. Zoo, the N.C Symphony, the State Library, the State Archives, the N.C. Arts Council, the African American Heritage Commission, the American Indian Heritage Commission, the State Historic Preservation Office, the Office of State Archaeology, the Highway Historical Markers program, the N.C. Land and Water Fund, and the Natural Heritage Program. For more information, please visit www.ncdcr.gov.