Skip to main content

Start 2019 Off On The Right Foot With A New Year’s Day Hike

By Joe Miller | December 27, 2018 | Explore NC

Feature Blog Image

New Year’s Resolutions date back some 4,000 years, to the ancient Babylonians, who for their New Year (which began in mid-March), used the occasion to settle debts to their gods and return borrowed stuff to their neighbors. Setting a clean slate is a concept that’s stuck. 

It’s a resolution that we often leap into. Fully committed, until the middle of January. Surveys suggest that most health-related New Year’s resolutions don’t make it through January. A big reason is that we may tackle too much too quickly and become discouraged.

And that, we believe, is part of the beauty of the traditional New Year’s Day hike; specifically, the First Day Hikes sponsored by North Carolina State Parks at each of their parks, natural areas and recreation areas.

At Crowders Mountain State Park near Charlotte, there’s a 9 a.m. First Day Hike that spans two states (North Carolina and South Carolina) and covers 8 miles. Also not for the first timer is the rugged 8-mile First Day Hike at Hanging Rock State Park, which includes a trek on the park’s new Ruben Mountain Trail (10 a.m.).

Many First Day Hikes are beginner-friendly

For example:

Morrow Mountain State Park, Albemarle (conveniently located roughly an hour from both Charlotte and the Triad). A ranger leads a hike on the 0.8-mile Quarry Trail, discussing the geology here in the Uwharrie Mountains and the Civilian Conservation Core’s roll in building the park. 10 a.m.

Haw River State Park, Browns Summit (near Greensboro). Kids especially will love this 1-mile hike, which includes walking down to the headwaters of the Haw River and passage atop lots of boardwalk over swampy sections. 10 a.m.

Some parks have hikes for beginners and experienced hikers

Pilot Mountain State Park, Pinnacle (north of Winston-Salem). Easy: 0.8-mile hike on the Jomeokee Trail, which includes a circumnavigation of the Big Pinnacle. 9 a.m. Not-so-easy: Ledge Spring Trail Hike, which, while it’s only 2 miles, includes some great climbing. Great views on both around 3 p.m.

Some offer incentives

Falls Lake State Recreation Area, Raleigh. this three-quarter-mile hike on the Neuse Bend Trail in the Rolling View Recreation Area includes a scavenger hunt for kids 6 to 12. 10 a.m. and again at 2 p.m.

Weymouth Woods-Sandhills Nature Preserve, Southern Pines. This 1-mile hike heads through a rare old-growth longleaf pine forest as well as an audience with the oldest known living longleaf pine in the world. 9 a.m.

Love a crowd?

Eno River State Park, Durham. The long-standing New Year’s Day Hike on the Eno, pioneered by the Eno River Association, is renowned for its crowds: if the weather is good, attendance of 500 or more isn’t out of the question. This year’s hikes include a 2.6- and 4.1-miler, along with “refreshments and merriment.” 2 p.m.

Eschew a crowd?

Medoc Mountain State Park, Halifax (northeast of the Triangle). We love this park, in part because it’s off-the-beaten-path location makes it among the least visited state parks in North Carolina. This is a 90-minute hike that sounds like it’s geared toward folks who’ve had some activity of late in their lives. 10:30 a.m.

Looking for a more mountain-like hike, minus the drive to the mountains?

Stone Mountain State Park, Roaring Gap. Here on the front flank of the Blue Ridge Escarpment, they’ll hold a 3-mile hike that will take in Wolf Rock and Cedar Rock (some climbing there) as well as the historic Hutchinson Homestead.

Or maybe you don’t mind driving to the mountains….

Mount Mitchell State Park, high above Burnsville. Hike the highest New Year’s Day hike on the East Coast on the three-quarter-mile Balsam Nature Loop Trail. (Be forewarned: in order for this hike to come off, 1. the Blue Ridge Parkway must be open; 2. N.C. 128 leading into the park must be open; 3. the park must be open; and if all that happens, then 4. You might need snowshoes because Mount Mitchell received nearly 3 feet of snow out of the last snowstorm and much of that is still around. You’ll want to call ahead and confirm on this one). 1 p.m.

For a full rundown of their First Hikes, go here.

North Carolina State Parks is offering great incentive and opportunity to help you get the new year off to an active start.