Special to Iredell Free News

RALEIGH — An annual nationwide tradition will continue on January 1, 2024, as North Carolina joins other states in offering First Day Hikes at state parks, the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation announced.

Fresh off celebrating the Year of the Trail, North Carolina state parks will host more than 50 staff-led hikes to showcase the wonders of the Great Trails State. Visitors can choose from easy and short strolls on relatively flat trails to long excursions across mountainous landscapes.

At Lake Norman State Park in Troutman, an early bird fitness hike is scheduled for 10 to 11:30 a.m. A late afternoon stroll is scheduled for 4 to 5 p.m. The Lake Norman State Park Visitor Center is located at 759 State Park Road in Troutman.

“After a few years of smaller First Day Hikes programming, we are excited to offer a wide variety of guided hikes and events at most of our state parks for 2024,” said State Parks Director Brian Strong. “We hope our visitors take the opportunity, as we wrap up the holiday season, to bring family and friends and begin a new year of outdoor adventures together.”

Several parks will have themed discussions on hikes to celebrate the North Carolina State Parks 2024 annual theme, Year of the Bear. At some parks, the park’s local friends group will provide refreshments to attendees.

A few parks are unable to offer guided hikes for 2024 but will still be open for visitors to hike on their own. Doing so at any state park is a great option for those who wish to avoid large crowds, as First Day Hikes have become extremely popular, especially when the weather is ideal for winter hiking. Even parks with typically smaller visitation can draw participants in the dozens or hundreds for the First Day Hikes.

Nationwide, First Day Hikes is organized by the National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD). The annual event began in 1992 in Massachusetts, and as of 2012, all 50 states have participated.

“I am thrilled to see the continued growth and success of the First Day Hikes program,” said Lewis Ledford, executive director of the NASPD. “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.”


The full list of First Day Hikes for North Carolina State Parks is available at ncparks.gov/first-day-hikes. Visitors are encouraged to share photos and videos from their hike on social media using the hashtags #ncstateparks and #FirstDayHikes.

About North Carolina State Parks

North Carolina State Parks manages more than 250,000 acres of iconic landscape within North Carolina’s state parks, state recreation areas and state natural areas. It administers the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, including its local grants program, as well as a state trails program, North Carolina Natural and Scenic Rivers and more, all with a mission dedicated to conservation, recreation and education. The state parks system welcomes more than 19 million visitors annually.