Usher in the New Year with a First Day Hike at a Virginia State Park. On Jan. 1, all 36 parks will offer hiking opportunities, contests and special events.
This is the fourth year Virginia State Parks has participated in this America’s State Parks initiative to get people outdoors and into parks.
The first 100 participants at each park will receive First Day Hike bumper stickers. Groups of two or more which complete a hike can enter to win overnight stays, annual passes and special First Day Hike hats. A First Day Hike photo contest will give participants more chances for prizes.
For all contest details, visit http://bit.ly/2015hikes.
A complete list of First Day Hike offerings is available at http://bit.ly/VSP1stday. Some programs require advance reservations or have limited space. While specific programs are planned, park visitors can choose a self-guided activity at a fitness level that meets their needs.
Local events set for First Day Hikes:
• Grayson Highlands State Park, 829 Grayson Highlands Lane, Mouth of Wilson, 276/579-7092, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. Meet at Massie Gap parking area.Is your resolution this year to get fit? Then start 2015 off on the right foot with a hike New Year’s Day. Ranger Amelia will be your guide on the Rhododendron Trail as it meanders to the rocks of Wilburn Ridge. The views along the trail are fantastic with snow-capped mountains, and we may even see the wild ponies of Grayson Highlands.
The hike will be a total of four miles so be sure to dress warmly, as the highlands experience particularly cold and windy weather during winter months. You may want to bring a water bottle, snacks, binoculars, a camera, your family, and/or your dog.
• Hungry Mother State Park, 2854 Park Blvd, Marion, 276/781-7400, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. Meet at Discovery CenterYes, it’s cold outside and snow is in the air but it is still a great time to get outdoors and enjoy the season. Come and enjoy the beauty of winter’s blanket on the lake. Enjoy the crisp cool air as we celebrate Virginia’s First Day Hike. Join an interpreter as we stomp out in the cold and trek part of the Lake Trail to see who can spot the most wildlife moving about. Learn how to tell if animals have been nearby as we point out various signs of animals in this winter wonderland.
Or if you like to hike by yourself or in a small, familiar group, stop by the Discovery Center any time on Jan. 1 to pick up a First Day Hike brochure. Running .5 miles on the Lake Trail, this self-guided hike will introduce you to the history of Hungry Mother State Park and the legacy that the Civilian Conservation Corps has left behind. This trail is easy and great for people of all ages and abilities.
• Natural Tunnel State Park, 1420 Natural Tunnel Pkwy, Duffield, 276/940-2674, 1:30 – 3 p.m. Meet at Visitor CenterNatural Tunnel is a beautiful destination in all seasons - and why not New Year’s Day? Start your year off right with a mile-long, moderate hike to the south portal of the 100-foot tall naturally carved tunnel. Bring your family and friends out to enjoy firsthand the idyllic winter landscape. This First Day Hike offers visitors an up-close-and-personal opportunity to engage with a park ranger and learn about the winter landscape as well as the details of the Tunnel’s hidden wonders. Boots or weather-proof shoes are best; water, and layered clothing are encouraged. Yes, dogs are allowed; just remember to keep them on a six-foot leash.
First time visitors, this is the perfect occasion to enjoy this breathtaking tunnel named 19th in The Weather Chanel’s Worlds Most Amazing Tunnels.
• New River Trail State Park, 116 Orphanage Dr., Foster Falls, 276/699-6778, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Meet at Foster Fall Boat and Bike LiveryJust because it’s a little cold outside doesn’t mean it’s frightful. Start off the New Year enjoying the great outdoors with a guided bike ride along the New River Trail. We will cover around 10 miles of trail, talking about the history and marveling at the nature that surrounds us. Be the first to leave new tracks on the New River Trail. Don’t forget to bring camera, binoculars, plenty of water, proper clothes, and bag lunch or snacks.
For more information or if in need of bike rental that day please call the park office.
• Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park, 10 W First Street, Big Stone Gap, 276/523-1322, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Southwest VA Museum Front GateThe Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park will provide an informational pamphlet for those interested in taking a First Day Hike in Big Stone Gap. The Museum’s First Day Hike is a self-guided walking tour of the town of Big Stone Gap, focusing on sites of historical significance. Participants may pick up information at the Museum’s front gate the day of the hike or in advance at the Museum’s front desk.
• Wilderness Road State Park, 8051 Wilderness Rd, Ewing, 276/445-3065, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Wilderness Road Trail and Historic Martin Station. Enjoy a fresh new start to a brand new year with a special winter-themed self-guided hike which takes you from a modern setting into a glimpse of the 18th century Virginia frontier. Hikers will visit seven stops on the trail with interpretive signs about the bison which grazed in the area, the river cane Boone tagged the Beargrass, the Indian camp, Joseph Martin’s first cabin, the blacksmith shop, Martin’s Station fort, and the Robinson cabin, an authentic 18th-century structure recently relocated to the park. An informative brochure will provide details for the hike, including what mother nature had in store for those settlers who navigated the Wilderness Road during winter’s harshest times.
• Caledon State Park in King George County will feature its annual Possum Present Hunt (a Christmas version of an egg hunt).
• Half the fun of visiting False Cape State Park in Virginia Beach is getting to the park. After a bus trip through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, participants will enjoy a geocaching challenge.
• Jim Klakowicz, retired park manager and Friends Group president, will share his experiences from the early days of Leesylvania State Park in Woodbridge as part of the park’s First Day Hike experience.
• New River Trail State Park in Foster Falls is offering a First Day Hike 10-mile bike ride. Use your own bike or rent one from the park.
• Twin Lakes State Park near Farmville will have its second annual GPS Poker Hike, which combines GPS navigating and trivia questions into a hiking challenge.
• Seven state parks will provide refreshments ranging from hot chocolate to eggnog: Bear Creek in Cumberland County, Belle Isle in Lancaster County, Caledon in King George County, James River in Gladstone, Pocahontas in Chesterfield County, Sky Meadows in Delaplane and Smith Mountain Lake in Huddleston.
Virginia State Parks are managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. For more information about Virginia State Parks activities and amenities or to make a reservation for one of the more than 1,800 campsites or 300 climate-controlled cabins, call the Virginia State Parks Customer Care Center at 800/933-7275 or visit www.virginiastateparks.gov.