January 1, 2021
The North Carolina state parks offer free guided First Day Hikes each New Year's Day, the perfect chance to begin a resolution for exercise and a connection with nature (#optoutside). If rain or snow is in the forecast, call the park office to see if the hike is still on. Here are the 2021 First Day Hikes in the Asheville area of the Blue Ridge Mountains and foothills:
**Due to COVID, please double-check NC Parks website before going as things can change.
- Chimney Rock Park: A rare treat, hike up the 3-mile park road from the village to the top parking area. Take a shuttle back down after (or walk back). Starts at 8 AM. Park in village and meet rangers at park stone entrance. Hikers can also return to the park free all day. Advanced registration is required, and attendance is limited to the first 50 registrants. You may register on Chimney Rock's website. Please call the Park office at 828-625-9611 if you have any questions.
- Gorges State Park: Join Park Rangers for a casual hike from the park visitor center to the Upper Bearwallow Falls observation deck. This moderate, 2.4-mile hike is great for the whole family. Start at 10 AM with hot cocoa! Please be prepared with proper hiking shoes, water and dressed for the weather. Phone: 828-966-9099
- Lake James State Park: Meet Park Ranger at the Paddy’s Creek Area bathhouse breezeway at 10 AM for a 2-mile hike with plenty of environmental education along the way. Phone: 828-584-7728
- South Mountains State Park: Hike up to the Chestnut Knob Overlook with a Park Ranger. Meet at 10 AM at the Chestnut Knob Trail Head. Take in the views along the trail and learn about the effects the 2016 wildfire. Hike length is 5.2 miles, taking 3-4 hours. Phone: 828-433-4772
- Mt Mitchell State Park: Meet a ranger at 1 PM at the Deep Gap Trailhead at the picnic area at the lower section of the summit parking lot for a ridgeline hike atop the Black Mountains ridgeline to Mount Craig. Learn about the unique high alpine environment that is more similar to Canada or Upstate New York, the flora and fauna found here. The hike is about 2 miles roundtrip, with roughly a 275 ft. elevation change each way. It will take approximately 2-3 hours. Winter weather apparel and insulated hiking boots with traction devices such as crampons are recommended as the trail can be icy and snow covered. Bring a water bottle or hydration bladder at the very least and a granola bar or snack if you would like. Trekking poles are recommended for more stability. If the Blue Ridge Parkway and/or State Park is closed due to icy road conditions the hike will be rescheduled. The hike could also be changed due to inclement weather or unsafe trail conditions occurring on the day. Phone: 828-675-4611
First Day Hikes are part of a nationwide initiative led by America’s State Parks to encourage people to get outdoors. On New Year’s Day, hundreds of free, guided hikes are organized in all 50 states. Last year, 28,000 people collectively hiked more 66,000 miles on these hikes across the country.
For more things to do, see our New Year's Guide for parties and more.
Be sure to dress in layers for changing weather conditions. Except the warmest temperatures at Lake James, South Mountains and Chimney Rock. Often, temperatures atop Mt. Mitchell can be 15-20 degrees colder than Asheville.