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Virginia State Parks to ring in the New Year with First Day Hikes, contests and more

virginia-newFor the fifth year, visitors of all ages are encouraged to start the New Year on the right foot with a First Day Hike Jan. 1 in a Virginia State Park.

Parking is free, and all 36 parks will offer at least one guided hike in addition to self-guided hikes. The first 50 visitors to each park will receive a special edition pin commemorating the 80th anniversary of Virginia State Parks.

The popular First Day Hikes photo contest and team competition will be offered. Details and links on how to enter can be found here: http://bit.ly/2016FDH. Each contest features a $500 gift certificate for Virginia State Park overnight stays as the grand prize.

A complete list of park offerings can be found here: http://bit.ly/ChooseYourHike.

First Day Hikes are an initiative of America’s State Parks and the National Association of State Park Directors. For more information, visit http://news.maryland.gov/dnr/2015/12/10/first-day-hikes-in-americas-state-parks-offer-invigorating-start-to-new-year/.

As National Parks celebrate their 100th anniversary, their #FindYourPark initiative includes all parks, including the 50 state park systems across the country. Virginia is home to 22 national parks.

More information on #FindYourPark is available here: http://findyourpark.com.

While specific programs are planned, park visitors can choose a self-guided activity at a fitness level that meets their needs.

A sample of what will be offered:

Caledon State Park in King George County will feature its annual Possum Present Hunt (a Christmas version of an egg hunt). Participants enjoy a warm fire and hot chocolate after the hunt.

The hike at False Cape State Park in Virginia Beach starts at the Back Bay Wildlife Refuge where participants board the Terra Gator beach transport for a trip down the beach to the park. After a ride to the North Carolina state line, there will be a 2 mile round trip hike along Monument Trail. This hike is $8, and reservations are required.

Not far from the highest peak in Virginia, Grayson Highlands State Park in Mouth of Wilson offers the most challenging winter weather, but year after year participants flock to hike and enjoy the snowcapped views and wild ponies.

High Bridge Trail State Park near Farmville will show off its newest trail access point that provides the closest parking lot to the High Bridge. The family friendly hike features a rediscovered African-American cemetery and forts built to guard the approaches to the bridge during the Civil War.

Hungry Mother State Park in Marion offers a hike to their most iconic view: Molly’s Knob.

James River State Park in Gladstone features a hike to the Tye River Overlook.

Natural Tunnel State Park in Duffield is offering two hikes with impressive views – a hike to Lover’s Leap Pinnacle for a view of the amazing Natural Tunnel from 600 feet above the creek bed and a hike down to the mouth of the tunnel along the Tunnel Hill Trail.

At Fairy Stone State Park in Stuart, enjoy a festive New Year’s Eve party the night before and then hike Iron Mine Trail up to Stuart’s Knob. Participants will learn about the mining history of the town of Fayerdale that was flooded to make Fairy Stone Lake.

Mason Neck State Park in Lorton offers four guided hikes of varying difficulty including a 3-mile round trip bike hike.

All hikes are pet friendly except at False Cape State Park, where pets are prohibited in Back Bay Wildlife Refuge.

Virginia State Parks are managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. For more information about Virginia State Parks activities and amenities or to make a reservation for one of the more than 1,800 campsites or 300 climate-controlled cabins, call the Virginia State Parks Customer Care Center at 800-933-7275 or visit www.virginiastateparks.gov.