NEW JERSEY – New Jerseyans are invited to ring in 2022 and kick off the new year with a healthy hike in a state park or forest, according to Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette.
In total, the State Park Service is offering 28 hikes and one lighthouse climb throughout the state.
“Spending time outdoors to appreciate New Jersey’s beautiful state parks and forests while breathing in fresh air is a great way to welcome the new year,” LaTourette said. “First Day hikes are the perfect opportunity to get closer to nature, look for birds and other wildlife and recognize the value of our open spaces.”
The State Park Service did not host any formal guided first day hikes on Jan. 1, 2021 due to COVID-19 outdoor gathering restrictions, but still encouraged park users to go for a hike with their immediate family.
“New Year’s Day is the perfect time to visit a new state park, forest or historic site for the first time,” said John Cecil, Director of the Division of Parks and Forestry. “We understand that some visitors may still be cautious of gathering in groups, and we are pleased to offer a number of self-guided options.”
In 2020, more than 2,000 hikers traveled 5,625 miles on First Day Hikes throughout New Jersey’s vast network of trails.
There are a variety of hikes available at all difficulty levels. Among them:
- Take a 1.5-mile walk through the New Jersey State Tree Farm and Trails within the Pine Barrens at the Forest Resource Education Center in Jackson Township, Ocean County, starting at 11 a.m. Hikers will see the headwaters of the Toms River and the center’s Maple Sugar Shack and are advised to dress appropriately for the weather. Leashed dogs are welcome. Call (732) 928-0987 to register.
- Do a self-guided walk up the 64 steps of the North Tower at the Twin Lights State Historic Site in Highlands, Monmouth County and enjoy amazing views. The North Tower will be open from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Hikers are advised to dress warm since the tower is not heated, and to bring binoculars. The site’s museum and gift shop will be open. All ages are welcome. Registration is not required.
- Experienced hikers and their leashed dogs may join Megan and her Furry Friends at 9 a.m. for an approximate 6-mile hike through Belleplain State Forest, visiting different trail systems that highlight the diverse forest landscape of Cape May County. After the hike tea, hot cocoa and homemade treats for humans and their pets will be offered around a campfire at the forest office. Children at least 10 years of age and supervised by an adult are welcome. Call (609) 861-2404 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to register for any of several hikes planned at the forest, or for more information. The hikes will be canceled in the event of extremely bad weather.
- Take a three-mile guided walk around Somerville in Somerset County to learn about the borough’s 18th century Tunison’s Tavern and Gen. George Washington’s passage through the area 245 years ago following battles in Trenton and Princeton. The walk meets at the Wallace House and Old Dutch Parsonage parking lot, starts at 2 p.m., and is open to all ages. Registration is required and may be made by calling (908) 725-1015 or emailing email@example.com.
Spend the day hiking a rugged 16 miles on the Warren Highlands Trail between Phillipsburg and Ragged Ridge in Warren County. The hike begins at 8:30 a.m. Children at least 10 years old who can hike 16 miles in the winter and are accompanied by parents or guardians are welcome, as are leashed dogs. Hikers should bring water, snacks and lunch. There are no restrooms or stores along the hike route. Registration is required by calling hike leader Mike Helbing at (908) 343-8374 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The hike will be canceled only in the event of severe inclement weather.
For a complete list of hikes and related details, visit www.njparksandforests.org/firstdayhikes/
All events are free, and some require preregistration. Some events also are weather-dependent. For a detail list on event start times how to dress, difficulty ratings and lengths of hikes, age requirements, accessibility issues, whether dogs are permitted and whom to contact in case of inclement weather, visit www.njparksandforests.org/firstdayhikes/
The State Park Service began participating in First Day Hikes after the program became a nationwide event in 2012. First Day Hikes began more than 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation, a state park in Milton, Mass. The program was launched to promote healthy lifestyles and year-round recreation at state parks.
The DEP’s Division of Parks and Forestry manages nearly 450,000 acres of land, including 40 state parks and forests.