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Originally published: 2012-12-28 10:08:03
Last modified: 2012-12-28 10:08:03

State parks host hikes Jan. 1

North Carolina’s state parks will host First Day Hikes on Jan. 1, offering residents a chance to start a new tradition and celebrate nature.

On New Year’s Day in 2012, 1,392 hikers joined rangers and volunteers to walk a combined 4,573 miles along trails at state parks and recreation areas, according to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.

“Exploring the year-round splendor of nature is quickly becoming a New Year’s Day tradition,” said Lewis Ledford, state parks director. “Every one of our state parks and state recreation areas is open on the holiday, and the ranger-guided hikes are an excellent way to keep fit during the holidays, connect with nature and develop a deeper appreciation for the rich natural resources that distinguish North Carolina.”

Hikers are encouraged to wear sturdy shoes and layered clothing and pack water. At least 40 guided hikes are planned across the state on Jan. 1, ranging from easy to challenging.

Elk Knob State Park

Meet at the Summit Trail parking area at 2:30 p.m. for an invigorating hike to the summit of Elk Knob. Plan for a two-and-a-half to three-hour outing in the elements. Call (828) 297-7261 for more information.

Grandfather Mountain State Park

Rangers will lead a “sensory hike” along the first mile of the Profile Trail, encouraging walkers to slow down and experience the journey. Field guides and binoculars are recommended, and hot chocolate will be available after the hike. Hikers should meet at 10 a.m. at the Profile Trail. For more information, contact Ranger Luke Appling at (828) 963-9522.

Mount Jefferson State Natural Area

Meet at the picnic area at 2 p.m. for a hike into an Appalachian Mountain forest wonderland. The group will explore the natural beauty of winter on Mount Jefferson as it makes its way to the dramatic vistas surrounding Luther Rock.

New River State Park

Meet at the U.S. 221 access at 10 a.m. to join a park ranger on an informal hike down the Hickory trail. The group will begin at the park’s Visitor Center and return there for a 1.5-mile hike to the river and back. Call the park office at (336) 982-2587 for more information.