North Carolina’s state parks system is marking its centennial anniversary in 2016, and the department is kicking off their year-long celebration with the annual First Day Hikes, which encourage people to get out and start the new year by enjoying the outdoors.
New Hanover County’s two state parks, Carolina Beach State Park and Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, both will be hosting guided hikes on New Year’s Day.
“A good way to kick off the year is to get out and go hiking,” said Carla Edwards, a park ranger at Carolina Beach State Park. “It’s a good way to start on some of those resolutions.”
Edwards will be leading a two-mile hike starting at 10 a.m. Friday from the Marina trailhead to Sugarloaf Dune and back. Hikers will learn about the natural history of the area along the way and see some of the Cape Fear region’s unique habitats.
Further south on Pleasure Island, Fort Fisher State Recreation Area will also be offering a two-mile hike to visitors. Hikers will be led down the Basin Trail from the Visitors Center at 10 a.m. The trail ends at an observation deck, where participants will turn around and head back.
“We’ll stop and discuss the ecology of the area,” said Park Ranger Alyssa Taylor. “It’ll give you a good look at some of the habitats like the maritime forest and the marsh.”
The guide will teach hikers about the flora and fauna of the area. Also found along the trail is the Hermit Bunker, a popular attraction that dates back to World War II.
Registration is not required, but those wanting to participate are encouraged to call in and sign up ahead of time so rangers can be better prepared, said Taylor. According to her, about 20 people participated in last year’s event. At Carolina Beach State Park, Edwards said about 30 people hiked on New Year’s Day last year.
The local hikes are two of 46 that are scheduled at state parks around North Carolina, which has been hosting New Year’s Day hikes for five years.
Nationwide, First Day Hikes are sponsored by America’s State Parks and the National Association of State Park Directors. Over 400 ranger-guided hikes are scheduled across the country this New Year’s. More information on events in other parks around the state can be found here.