First Day Hikes to launch 2016 state parks centennial

The 2016 centennial of North Carolina’s state parks system will launch with First Day Hikes on January 1, an opportunity for the state’s residents and visitors to begin the New Year with exercise, family adventure and a reconnection with nature.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn North Carolina, this popular tradition began at Eno River State Park more than 40 years ago, and last year, 2,980 visitors collectively walked more than 7,000 miles on state park trails on New Year’s Day. There are 46 guided hikes scheduled for New Year’s Day in the state, ranging from short “leg-stretchers” to six-mile treks, and many of them feature interpretive programs by rangers along the way. All seasonal state park facilities will remain open on the holiday.

“The year 2016 will be a special one for state parks in North Carolina as we celebrate our 100th anniversary with events throughout the state. Spending some quality time with friends and family in these stunning landscapes is a perfect way to begin that celebration,” said Mike Murphy, state parks director.

Each state park and state recreation area puts its own stamp on its First Day Hike. At Elk Knob State Park in Watauga County, rangers and area artists will unveil an “art trail,” adding flair to a mountain trek. William B. Umstead State Park in Wake County will feature a photography hike, while nearby Falls Lake State Recreation Area plans four scavenger hunts. Along with its traditional mountain hike, Hanging Rock State Park will introduce a “polar plunge” in the park’s lake to tempt more people to an outdoor adventure.

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 28,000 people rang in the New Year by collectively hiking over 66,000 miles.

A complete list of First Day Hikes in North Carolina can be found at www.ncparks.gov/first-day-hikes

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