DURHAM – With many sights to see and trails to walk or run across the state of North Carolina, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) and the state parks department have teamed up to offer the public a free hiking program from the mountains to the coast.
HIKE NC is part of BCBSNC’s mission of “Get Outside North Carolina,” which was launched in 2012 to encourage North Carolinians to go outside and be active. Through this program, dozens of guided hikes are ready to be explored.
Hikes are free, family-friendly and open to all ages, stages and levels. A trained guide leads each trek, making it easier for participants to enjoy the outdoors and explore some of the best natural beauty Tar Heel State has to offer.
“Through this partnership over the past year we’ve been able to get more exposure to the general public on some of the things we offer through our state parks system,” said Chris Helms, Superintendent of Carolina Beach State Park. “Many of our state parks already have guided hikes, but with Blue Cross and Blue Shield getting involved, we’re trying to give people more incentive to get outdoors, promoting healthy benefits and the beauty of our state.”
In teaming up with the North Carolina State Parks system, Hike NC secured some of the state’s most knowledgeable experts to guide each hike. With more than 60 guided hikes on the schedule, the series is divided into six regions across the state.
A complete list of treks from Asheville, Charlotte, Greenville, the Triad, Triangle and Wilmington are listed here. Spring hikes run through mid-June. They range from short distances to some as long as nine miles.
Locally, there will be several hikes offered at Carolina Beach State Park, Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, Brunswick Nature Park and Jones Lake State Park.
Helms is part of a group of park rangers who will guide you through Carolina Beach State Park. Local interns from UNCW are also trained to give guided hikes. The main walk at the beach park is the Venus flytrap hike. It’s reoccurring every Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m.
“As the area continues to grow with more and more development, it means less and less outdoor space,” Helms added. “Finding areas where you can roam multiple miles makes it nice. Even though we’re one of the smallest state parks at 761 acres, you go through a diversity of habitats.
“We’ve got a total of about eight miles of trails. You can do a good bit of mileage. Some of our mountain parks and foothills are thousands of acres, but for the coastal region you get the diversity you can’t find anywhere else.”
Carolina Beach State Park saw over 600,000 visitors last year.