First Day Hikes draw 3,469 to parks

firstdayhikes1On the first day of the 2016 centennial year, North Carolina’s state parks welcomed 3,469 hikers for the annual First Day Hikes event, a record number that together traveled 8,228 miles on state park trails.

With brisk winter weather returning, visitors enjoyed 54 guided hikes. Though 46 hikes were originally planned, large crowds convinced some parks to add hikes. A week of soggy weather resulted in some muddy trails, but only Jordan Lake State Recreation Area was forced to cancel its hikes. Once again, the largest crowd at 809 hikers was drawn to Eno River State Park, where a New Year’s Day hike has been a tradition for more than 40 years. Raven Rock State Park drew the second largest crowd with 225 hikers.

At Medoc Mountain State Park, Ranger Sandra Fambrough said, “We had beginners and experienced hikers in our group. One family had not been to Medoc Mountain since the early 1970s. A good time was had by both young and old. A cloudy, chilly day spent with new friends, all enjoying the beauty of Medoc in the New Year.”

For the first time ever, visitors were allowed to hike the three miles up the scenic entrance road to Chimney Rock. At Crowders Mountain, 150 hikers took up the challenge of walking over six miles into South Carolina to the Kings Mountain National Military Park. The hike at Merchants Millpond State Park drew participants from five North Carolina counties and from four locations in Virginia. A group of 50 girl scouts joined in exploration of the trails at William B. Umstead State Park.

Related events during the day drew 76 people to a “Polar Plunge” at Hanging Rock State Park and 110 runners to the inaugural First Day 5K at Haw River State Park.

This was the fifth year that First Day Hikes were held throughout the state parks system. The event was the first of a string of special celebrations plansed throughout the state for the 2016 centennial year.

Here’s a gallery of some of the First Day Hikes. Click any photo to begin.

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