Thursday, November 30, 2023

DCR: Step Into the New Year With a First Day Hike

(Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation)

RICHMOND — The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) is urging residents to “Put your best foot forward” by starting off the new year at any of its Virginia State Park locations.

According to DCR, First Day Hikes “have become a tradition for many people and it is the perfect opportunity to get some exercise, explore outdoors and connect with nature all while enjoying the park’s unique beauty this season.”

Parking will be free at all Virginia State Park locations on Jan. 1, and visitors will receive a First Day Hike sticker while supplies last.

DCR recommendations a number of First Day Hike options, including a guided hike from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. at York River State Park:

  • If you are looking for a moderate to advanced hike to ring in the new year, Pocahontas State Park is the place for you. The park offers a New Year’s Eve hike starting at 11 p.m. that explores a 2.3-mile portion of Lakeview Bike Trail, which is not commonly open to hikers. The event is free, but registration is required by calling 804-796-4472 or emailing Additional hikes on various trails are offered at 8 a.m. until 3:45 p.m. on New Year’s Day.
  • Sky Meadows State Park provides an opportunity for you to celebrate the new year by watching the sunrise. On January 1, 2023, the park gates on Edmonds Lane will be open at 5:30 a.m. so you can enjoy a self-guided hike from the Backcountry Trailhead to view the sunrise at one of the overlooks on the Piedmont Overlook Trail, South Ridge Trail or the Ambassador Whitehouse Trail. There are ranger-led hikes available at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
  • Claytor Lake State Park will open at 6 a.m. on New Year’s Day, giving visitors the opportunity to watch the sunrise and partake in various hikes and activities. You can join a Virginia Master Naturalists on a short hike in search of different bird species at 10 a.m., learn to make syrup at noon and take a hike to the vernal pool at 2 p.m. Relish the evening by viewing the lights on the lake from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. by taking a walk down to the gazebo behind the Howe House. 
  • Twin Lakes State Park offers a 3-mile Otter’s Path trail for First Day Hikes. You must stop by the park office first to grab the geocache list for your hike and make sure to download the geocaching app before visiting. For First Day Hikes, each Otter’s Path Trail cache will contain a card with information about people important to the history of the park, allowing guests to learn more about the story of this site while on the trail.
  • Natural Tunnel State Park offers a guided hike to Lovers’ Leap where park rangers tell you the tale of the star-crossed lovers. The hike is around 2 miles long, begins at 9 a.m. and has several inclines and declines.
  • If you are in or near the Virginia Beach area, visit First Landing State Park for a guided hike on Bald Cyprus Trail. You will meet at the Trail Center picnic tables for this one-hour long hike that is offered at 10:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., and 2:00 p.m. or you can enjoy a self-guided hike on the many other park trails. 
  • York River State Park, located in Williamsburg, offers a guided hike from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. along the banks of the York River and Woodstock Pond.  The hike will cover 1.5 miles through upland woods and will end along the York River shoreline.  You can also enjoy a self-guided adventure along the several other hiking and multi-purpose trails.  

View a full list of First Day Hikes at DCR also requests participants share their first-day hike adventures on social media by using the hashtags #vastateparks and #firstdayhikes.

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