State Parks to Offer First Day Hikes

50 guided hikes are scheduled in the state parks system on New Year’s Day
Photo courtesy of North Carolina State Parks

Ready to start the New Year on the right foot? A North Carolina New Year’s tradition of family adventure, exercise and reconnection with nature continues in 2019 with First Day Hikes in North Carolina State Parks on Jan. 1. In North Carolina, this popular tradition began at Eno River State Park more than 40 years ago, an annual event that now draws more than 800 visitors. All state parks will be open on the holiday. 

No matter where in North Carolina you are celebrating New Year's Day, you'll be sure to hit up a nearby guided hike as 50 guided hikes are scheduled in the state parks system on New Year’s Day. Ranging from short “leg-stretchers” to several-mile rambles, most of the hikes feature educational programs led by rangers along the way. Each state park and state recreation area puts its own stamp on First Day Hikes. 

“First Day Hikes offer an opportunity to connect fitness and the outdoors as the holiday season draws to a close. Family time surrounded by our state’s rich natural resources is a great way to spend the day,” says Mike Murphy, state parks director. “It’s also a reminder that your state parks are a year-round resource for recreation, wellness and learning.”

As an added bonus, visitors involved with the North Carolina State Parks 100-Mile Challenge — to walk, hike, paddle, cycle or otherwise explore 100 miles in the state parks — can add First Day Hikes mileage to their totals. Details about the 100-Mile Challenge can be found at

Nationally, First Day Hikes is promoted by America’s State Parks and the National Association of State Park Directors, with more than 400 hikes scheduled in state parks across the country.

A complete list of First Day Hikes at State Parks in North Carolina can be found at, but here are some local State Parks options in the Triangle. Please note that some events require pre-registration and have a limited number of spots. 


First Day Hike at Eno River State Park

Start Location: Fews Ford Picnic Shelter, 2 p.m.

Join for an annual First Day Hike at the park that started it all! This hike will run on the Fannys Ford Trail (2.5 mile round-trip) and runs through the forest and along the Eno River. Dogs are welcome as long as they are on a leash no longer than 6 feet long. Wear good hiking shoes and bring drinking water. Please call the Eno River Association (919-620-9099) for information.

First Day Hikes at Falls Lake

Start Location: Rolling View Recreation Area, 4201 Baptist Road, Durham, NC 27703, 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Join a park ranger for an easy scavenger hunt/hike on the 0.75 mile Neuse Bend Trail (TRACK Trail) in Rolling View Recreation Area Track Trailhead. The Scavenger Hunt Hike is designed for ages 6-12 but all ages are encouraged to participate. Anyone under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Wear appropriate clothes and shoes. Reservations are required. Please call the park office at 919-676-1027 to sign up. Registration is limited to the first 35 participants per time slot. Rolling View Recreation Area is located at 

First Day Hikes at Jordan Lake State Recreation Area

Start Location: New Hope Overlook Campground, 9-11 a.m., and Ebenezer Church Recreation Area, 1-3 p.m.

Start the first day of the year with two options for a guided hike walking in the woods with a ranger. Dress for the weather and bring plenty of snacks. If you're a birder, don’t forget those binoculars. No need to register; just show up for the hike. If you would like more information, please contact the park office at 919-362-0586. 

  • The first hike will be at New Hope Overlook. Participants will be hiking the Blue Loop Trail, which is 2.7 miles long. This is a challenging trail with several steep hills. Hikers will enjoy sweeping views of the lake, mature hardwood forests, groves of mountain laurel and much more. Plan to meet at the trailhead near the boat ramps at 9 a.m.
  • The second hike will be at the Ebenezer Church Recreation Area at the Old Oak Trail. The Old Oak Trail is an easy 1-mile loop trail that begins at the parking lot in the Ebenezer Picnic Area A. This trail can be cut to 1/2 mile by taking the shortcut loop, making this trail great for small children. Hikers will see large hollow oaks, two ponds, fence-rows and clues of the farms that used to fill the area. Plan to meet at the trailhead near Shelter 8 in Area A at 1 p.m.

First Day Hike at William B. Umstead State Park

Start Location: Reedy Creek Parking Lot (located off Interstate 40 Exit 287/Harrison Ave, Cary), 9 a.m.

This hike will combine beautiful scenery with some history about the park and the community that once lived here. Participants will see never-finished millstones in the woods, see some ruins and share some stories of the people who lived there. Participants will turn around at a huge rock that not many people know of and go back a different way to see an old scout camp in the woods.

White Oak First Walk

Start Location: 1216 Jenks Carpenter Road, Cary, 10-11 a.m.

Although not a State Park option, members of the Greenways Committee and the Cary Teen Council will guide you on a walk. The walk also helps to kick off Cary's New Year New You week, which runs Jan. 2-8 and highlights the town's group exercise classes with free programs. For questions, contact Doug Peters at (919) 460-4965. 

If you're looking for a less formal experience and don't want to be pinned down by a particular schedule, we also have a list of hikes designed for families below:


Sources: North Carolina State Parks, North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources


Categories: Exercise, Outdoors, Seasonal Fun, Things To Do