Compiled by Madison Fisler Lewis
Dec. 30, 2014. New Year’s Day is just around the corner; have you decided what your first activities of 2015 will be? If you’re like many High Country residents and visitors, a brisk hike on New Year’s Day might be exactly what you are looking for to bring a little fresh air with you into the first day of the new year.
State parks across the nation are offering First Day Hikes as a way to promote healthy lifestyles and year round recreation at America’s State Parks, according to NCParks.gov.
Each year, over 720 million people visit America’s State Parks and contribute $23 billion to the economy. State Parks are a “close to home” resource and an important part of our national fabric, enhancing our quality of life.
The area’s state parks have committed to hosting numerous hikes on New Year’s Day, to get folks out of the house and into nature on the first day of the year. So if you’re up for some cool air and a bit of trekking, head on outside and participate in one of these hikes to ring in the new year with family, friends or just you and your thoughts.
Elk Knob State Park
It has been said that whatever you do the first day of the year, you will do the rest of the year. Why not get outside and take a hike? Meet at the Summit Trail parking lot at 1 p.m. on Jan. 1, for an invigorating hike either to the summit or on the Beech Tree Trail, depending on the weather and the choice of the majority of the hikers. Dress appropriately for the weather keeping in mind that layering will allow you to regulate your temperature much more easily. Be sure to bring some water and plan for a two and a half to three hour outing on the Summit Trail or a 45-minute hike on the Beech Tree Trail. For more information, please call 828-297-7261.
Grandfather Mountain State Park
The First Day Hike will be held on Thursday, Jan. 1 on New Years Day at 11:30 a.m. at the Profile Trail Parking Lot. Join Ranger Sicard to hike the first mile of the Profile Trail. During the hike, participants will be using sights, sounds, and touch for a unique hiking experience. The hike will last for 2.5 hours and may include walking off of the trail. Please dress appropriately for the weather conditions.
Mt. Mitchell State Park
Start the New Year with a brisk winter hike! Join a ranger at 11 a.m. at the Summit Parking Lot for a winter walk along the Balsam Nature Trail. Total hike is approximately .75 miles. Please dress appropriately with hats, scarves, gloves, boots. Temperatures can be quite cold up here in the winter especially if the wind is howling. Please check the park website for accessibility prior to coming, or contact the Park Office at 828-675-4611.
Mt. Jefferson Natural Area
Come up to Mt. Jefferson for a First Day Hike on New Year’s Day 2015. Starting in the parking lot at 2 p.m. experience the ancient Appalachians on a mountain ridgeline trail. Enjoy a bird’s eye view as we hike above a vast ocean of mountains. Starting at the picnic area we will hike a little more than one mile round trip. Bring your winter coat and gloves as we celebrate the nature of Mt. Jefferson on New Year’s Day!
New River State Park
Start the New Year with some fresh air! Join one of the many “first hikes” in a beautiful North Carolina State Park. Join a park ranger for an informal hike down the Hickory Trail. The hike will begin at the Park’s Visitor Center at 2 p.m. and return there for a 1.5 mile hike to the river and back. Wear Sturdy shoes and bring water. Please call the park office to register for this hike or for more information at 336-982-2587.
Chimney Rock State Park
Kick off 2015 with a naturalist-led hike on the Hickory Nut Falls trail, discovering what makes winter in Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park such a great time to explore. This is a moderately difficult hike. Wear good, comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots. Bring water and energy bars/trail mix, etc.
For more information about first day hikes in your area, visit the North Carolina State Parks website here.