On January 1, 2024, North Carolina joins the nationwide tradition of First Day Hikes, an event organized by the National Association of State Park Directors. The N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation announced that the state will host more than 50 staff-led hikes across its state parks.
State Parks Director Brian Strong expressed excitement about the expanded First Day Hikes program for 2024. “After a few years of smaller programming, we are offering a wide variety of guided hikes and events at most of our state parks,” Strong said. He encouraged visitors to bring family and friends for outdoor adventures, marking the end of the holiday season.
Although there won’t be any in Randolph County, there are some nearby hikes available within a reasonable drive.
Walk the 1-mile Ebenezer Church Trail at Jordan Lake State Recreation Area east of Pittsboro. Meet at 10 a.m. at the beach parking lot at the trailhead to the left.
Morrow Mountain State Park east of Albemarle will have a guided hike around the 0.6-mile Quarry Trail loop, rated as an easy trail. Meet at the lower picnic parking area, below the swimming pool, at 10 a.m.
Weymouth Woods in Southern Pines will have a guided hike around the 1-mile Boyd Tract beginning at 9 a.m., where you can meet the oldest known living longleaf pine tree in the world.
At 1 p.m., hike the 2-mile Weymouth Tract, rated as an easy trail. Meet at the visitor center.
At 3 p.m., hike the 1.5 mile Paint Hill Tract at Weymouth Woods. Note that it does have some elevation changes. Meet at the parking area at the Stoneyfield Drive access.
Although a few parks will not be offering guided hikes in 2024, they will remain open for visitors to hike independently. First Day Hikes have gained popularity, attracting large numbers of participants, especially in favorable winter hiking weather.
The First Day Hikes initiative, which started in Massachusetts in 1992, has seen participation from all 50 states since 2012. “This initiative has become a cherished tradition, providing individuals and families with the opportunity to embrace the outdoors, and kick off the year with a commitment to health and well-being,” said Lewis Ledford, executive director of the NASPD.
The full list of First Day Hikes for North Carolina State Parks is available at ncparks.gov/first-day-hikes. Participants are encouraged to share their experiences on social media using #ncstateparks and #FirstDayHikes.