Start 2013 off right with a “First Day Hike” and a commitment to a healthier lifestyle in the New Year.
In Georgia, several state parks have planned guided hikes where families can connect with nature and each other. Last year, more than 600 Georgians kicked off 2012 on these guided hikes — a nationwide event sponsored by America’s State Parks.
According to state park officials, winter is a particularly scenic time for hiking because the open canopy means people can see farther through the woods.
“In winter, you can appreciate the unusual and beautiful shapes of trees and their branches,” said Georgia State Parks Director Becky Kelley. “You’ll notice moss-covered boulders and small waterfalls that are normally hidden behind by the forest. Plus, it’s fun for families to look for deer and other wildlife.”
Kicking off the New Year with an invigorating hike fits into the mission of the Georgia State Parks “Tons of Fun Initiative” — to encourage citizens to lead healthier lifestyles through outdoor recreation. The TonsofFun.org website includes exercise ideas, healthy recipes, nutritionist and personal trainer advice, and more.
First-Day Hikes in Georgia’s State Parks for New Year’s Day 2013
North Georgia Mountains
Amicalola Falls State Park and Lodge – Dawsonville, GA New Year’s Day Hike at Amicalola Falls January 1, 2013 10 – 11 a.m. Start 2013 off with a brisk walk full of winter views to the highest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River. Meet at the West Ridge Falls Access Trailhead. Distance is 0.6 of a mile roundtrip. $5 parking. 706-265-1969.
Cloudland Canyon State Park – Rising Fawn, GA First Day Hike at Cloudland Canyon January 1, 2013 Call for time. Join guides for a short but challenging hike to Hemlock and Cherokee waterfalls to learn about the unique geology and history of this park. All participants staying in the campground will receive a 25% discount off their stay. Register in advance. $10 hike plus $5 parking. 706-913-7170.
Fort Mountain State Park – Chatsworth, GA First Day Hike January 1, 2013 9 – 10 a.m. Celebrate the first day of 2013 with a short hike guided by our naturalist. $5 parking. 706-422-1932.
Smithgall Woods State Park – Helen, GA First Day Hike at Smithgall Woods January 1, 2013 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Hike 2.6 miles with Smithgall staff to the park’s beautiful cottage facility where hot cider will be waiting. Let the “First Hike” be your first step toward good health, then continue through the year with progressively longer hikes. “A Walk in the Park” brochure offers guidance for hike distance and difficulty. $5 parking.706-878-3087.
Tallulah Gorge State Park – Tallulah Falls, GA First Day Hike at Tallulah January 1, 2013 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Join a ranger on a moderate 3.5-mile hike along the rim and through the woods. Children must be at least 8 years old. Bring water and snacks. $5 plus $5 parking. 706-754-7981.
Unicoi State Park – Helen, GA First Day Hike Along with a Little Luck January 1, 2013 10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Welcome the New Year with a 2 1/2-mile moderate hike around Unicoi Lake. Finish the trail at our campfire where hikers can add a little luck to their year by enjoying a small meal of blackeyed peas, greens and pork cooked in Dutch ovens over an open fire. Register in advance. $5 parking. 706-878-2201 ext. 305.
Vogel State Park – Blairsville, GA First Day Hike at Vogel January 1, 2013 9:15 a.m. Join members of the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club for a healthy hike on New Year’s Day. We’ll explore the 4-mile Bear Hair Gap Trail which has a beautiful overlook with Lake Trahlyta in view. Vogel Volunteers will provide lunch afterward. $5 parking. 706-745-2628.
Panola Mountain State Park – Stockbridge, GA Motivational New Year’s Day Hike January 1, 2013 1 p.m. Hike to the top of Panola Mountain to make a fresh start on the New Year. Join a park ranger on a journey by writing out, then burning, last year’s burdens. Hike to the top of the mountain picturing all the great things you will accomplish in 2013. We will finish around a campfire sharing hot chocolate and our plans for the New Year. Register in advance. $7 plus $5 parking. 770-389-7801.
Sweetwater Creek State Park – Lithia Springs, GA First Day Hike at Sweetwater Creek January 1, 2013 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Join us for a three-hour hike focusing on the first inhabitants of our area, the Native Americans or American Indians. We’ll explore some seldom-visited areas on the eastside, which includes a trip to the “Indian Cave.” $5 plus $5 parking. 770-732-5871.
Fort Yargo State Park – Winder, GA First Day Hike at Fort Yargo January 1, 2013 1 p.m. Start off the New Year by going for a moderate, 2.5-mile excursion along the lake and on our new trail, Turtle Creek. Bring water and snacks. Meet at the Nature Center. $5 parking. 770-867-3489.
Middle & Southern Georgia
F.D. Roosevelt State Park – Pine Mountain, GA First Day Hike on the Pine Mountain Trail January 1, 2013 1 p.m. Bring your friends and family to explore the woodlands along the Mountain Creek Trail with guides from Pine Mountain Trail Association and Roosevelt State Park. This easy, 3.2-mile trail will begin at the Training Post in the campground. Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring water. $5 parking. 706-663-4858.
General Coffee State Park – Nicholls, GA Kids Hike at General Coffee January 1, 2013 10 – 11 a.m. Start your year off with a rousing guided hike along our new kids’ fitness trail. $5 parking. 912-384-7082.
Reed Bingham State Park – Adel, GA First Day Hike January 1, 2013 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Start off the New Year in a healthy way by taking a ranger-led hike. Reservations required. The nature nook will be open from 10:30-11 a.m. before the hike. $1 for nature nook. $5 parking. 229-896-3551.
High Falls State Park – Jackson, GA First Day Hike at High Falls January 1, 2013 10 a.m. – Noon This staff-led, 3.5-mile moderate hike will take you past several scenic and historic sites including the falls, the old powerhouse, and through a mixed pine/hardwood forest. You will learn about the park history and the local ecology. Meet at the park office, wear comfortable shoes, and bring water and a snack. $5 parking. 478-993-3053.
Kolomoki Mounds Historic Park – Blakely, GA New Years Day Hike near the Mounds January 1, 2013 2 – 4 p.m. The New Year inspires reflection on the year past and hopeful resolution for the things to come. Start off right with a ranger-led hike on our Trillium Trail. The hike will focus on the new beginnings in the natural world. Appropriate clothing is recommended. Meet at Picnic Shelter 3. Warm drinks and sweet treats will be provided. Sponsored by the Friends of Kolomoki. $5 parking. 229-724-2150.
Stephen C. Foster State Park – Fargo, GA First Day Hike on Billy’s Island January 1, 2013 10 a.m. to Noon Take a guided boat tour to Billy’s Island. See turtles and alligators basking on the logs. Keep your fingers crossed for a river otter sighting. Once we arrive, we will tour the island. You’ll see how the Hebbard Cypress Company once had their boom town laid out. You’ll also be able to see the Lee Family Cemetery. $5 parking. (912) 637-5274.
Crooked River State Park – St. Marys, GA First Day Hike January 1, 2013 1 – 2:30 p.m. Greet the New Year with a “First Day” hike. Meet at the Nature Center for a walk on the Bay Boardwalk trail. Vistas include wetland habitats plus our unique longleaf pine/saw palmetto ecosystem. Enjoy the great outdoors, camaraderie on the trail plus cookies, hot apple cider and party hats. $2 plus $5 parking. 912-882-5256.