On January 1st, America’s State Parks will host special events and guided hikes to kick off the new year with healthy, family-friendly activities. Join in the fun at Virginia First Day Hikes, offering free entry to all Virginia State Parks, special programs, and a photo competition with some nice prizes. Fairfax County Parks are also joining the fun with their own First Hike Fairfax contest.
Northern Virginia State Park First Day Hikes
Some of our favorite Northern Virginia state parks are offering guided hikes that are ideal for families, infrequent hikers, and anyone who’d like to explore a park with a group. Everyone is also welcome to skip the guided events and create their own first day hikes.
In 2018, the parks are holding two First Day contests. Enter the 1st Day Hike New Year Challenge (before midnight on New Year’s Eve) or take some pictures during your visit and enter the First Day Hike Photo Contest. Both contest give you the chance to win state park gift certificates, parking passes, and other prizes.
Here are 4 Virginia State Parks within a two hour drive of Fairfax, all offering special events and a variety of hiking trails.
Leesylvania State Park
Bring in the New Year with a guided first day hike led by two former staff that are experts on Leesylvania State Park. The hike will begin at the Visitor Center with a quick tour of the history museum and viewing of the Leesylvania program. Then enjoy a 90 minute, 2 mile walk down the Potomac Trail to Freestone Point, through Lee’s Woods Trail, and back to the Visitor Center. Register for the hike by December 31st (Sarah.Percival@dcr.virginia.gov or 703-583-6904). Pets are welcome to join, but the trail is not accessible for strollers. 2 hikes: 10:00 – 12:00 and noon – 2:00.
>>> Learn more about the Leesylvania State Park loop hike!
Mason Neck State Park
Mason Neck State Park is offering three guided hikes of varying lengths and difficulties. Each trail has a rating, but none are more than moderate in difficulty and all feature the opportunity to see some wildlife. At 10:00, join a 3.5 mile hike of moderate difficulty but at an easy pace. At 1:00 the challenge increases with a fast-paced hike incorporating several trails that will cover 6.2 miles (10K). Finally, at 3:00 pm join a leisurely stroll on the lovely Bay View Trail covering 1 mile and at an easy pace. Mason Neck is a dog friendly park, but your four legged friend must be on a leash at all times.
>>> Read about Hiking and Eagles at Mason Neck State Park now!
Shenandoah River State Park
The Friends of Shenandoah River State Park will join guests in a one mile, easy walk down the Overlook Trail to the Culler’s Overlook and gorgeous views of the river. The mostly flat, compacted dirt trail is suitable for strollers, and light refreshments will be served at the visitor center after the hike. 1:00 – 2:00.
Sky Meadows State Park
Start the new year with a stunning sunrise from one of the overlooks at Sky Meadows State Park. The gates will open at 5:30 am on New Year’s Day and admission to the park is free all day. Later, join a park historian and naturalist for a fun fusion of history and nature with an easy, 2 mile guided hike along farmland vistas and forested bottomlands. You’ll learn about the New Year’s traditions of the people who called Sky Meadows home for the past 300 years. Stop in the Log House for a sample of Hoppin’ John and other New Year’s fare after the hike, and tour the historic Bleak House. The guided hike begins at 11:00 am.
>>> Learn more about a scenic loop hike in Sky Meadows State Park!
First Hike Fairfax at County Parks
The Fairfax County Park Authority is joining the First Day hike fun to get you outside and on the trail. They’ve picked five family-friendly starter hikes at some really great parks in Fairfax County. Visit First Hike Fairfax to pick your hike, grab a friend or family members and hike together, and share it on social media using #FirstHikeFairfax. Don’t forget to take a picture and enter to win great prizes that will help you start getting active after the hike.
>> Learn more about the Fairfax First Hike parks in these related articles:
Virginia State Park Mobile App
Did you know there’s a free mobile app you can use to find and research Virginia state parks, check event calendars, and even download terrain maps for offline use? The maps can be slow to load, so we recommend downloading over a fast connection before you head to the park. Once you hit the trail, you can record your route, add waypoint pictures along the way, and share your finds on social media.
Will you be kicking off the new year with Virginia First Day Hikes? Please tell us about your first day hiking experience in the comments below. Thank you and happy hiking!