State Parks offer first day hikes to kick off 2024

Published 3:14 pm Monday, December 18, 2023

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.

At Morrow Mountain State Park, 49104 Morrow Mountain Road, Albemarle, a ranger-guided hike will be offered 10-11 a.m. Jan. 1 on the 0.6-mile Quarry Trail loop, which is rated an easy trail.

Learn about the history of the Civilian Conservation Corps at Morrow Mountain, as well as the native wildlife of the Uwharrie region.

Meet at the lower picnic parking area. This is the large parking area below the swimming pool.

“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.