(11/P146) TRENTON - The Department of Environmental Protection will sponsor eight free guided hikes and a horseback ride in state parks and trails in New Jersey on New Year's Day as part of a nationwide America's State Parks First Day Hikes initiative.
This initiative, which is being held in all 50 states, offers individuals and families an opportunity to kick off the New Year by taking a healthy hike at a state park.
"We are excited to host First Day hikes as part of this national effort to get people outdoors and into our parks,'' said DEP Assistant Commissioner of Historic and Natural Resources Amy Cradic. "First Day hikes are a great way to start the year, cure cabin fever, and burn off extra holiday calories by offering opportunities for invigorating walks, hikes, or horseback rides in one of New Jersey's beautiful state parks."
"What better way to kick off the year than with a hike at a state park," added Ruth Coleman, President of the National Association of State Park Directors. "Think of it as the start of a new and healthy lifestyle for the whole family.''
New Jersey's state parks, forests and recreation areas boast a variety of beautiful settings for year-round outdoor recreation, and each First Day hike will offer an opportunity to explore the unique natural and cultural treasures close to home. DEP park staff and volunteers will lead the hikes, which range from one or two miles to 15 miles.
At Double Trouble State Park in the Pine Barrens, for example, you might spot tundra swans gathered on flooded bogs. Or you can enjoy a walk with your family and let the naturalists open your eyes to the wonders of winter ecology at the Round Valley Recreation Area, Belleplain State Forest, or Washington Crossing State Park.
Or explore pieces of the trail that was once a railroad bed with volunteers from the Paulinskill Valley Trail Committee - either on foot or horseback - through Kittatinny State Park.
For a bigger challenge, take the all-day guided hike from the White Lake Wildlife Management Area in Warren County to Swartswood State Park in Sussex County, an amble that will showcase ridge and valley connection to the Paulinskill Valley Trail. A more sedate pace will be set at Ringwood State Park where hikers can explore historic buildings as they meander along a one-mile trail.
Whichever New Jersey hike you chose, you will take in spectacular views and vistas and experience the quiet beauty of nature in winter, while benefiting from the company of a knowledgeable park guide.
New Year's Day guided hikes will take place at the following locations:
Belleplain State Forest, 10 a.m., (609) 861-2404
Double Trouble State Park, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (732) 341-4098
Kittatinny State Park to Swartswood State Park, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., (908) 343-8374
Paulinskill Valley Trail (at Footbridge Park), 10 a.m., (908) 684-4820
Paulinskill Valley Trail at Halsey Farm, 11 a.m., (973) 948-3814 (Horseback Ride)
Ringwood State Park, 10:30 a.m. & 1 p.m., (973) 962-7031
Round Valley Recreation Area, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., (908) 236-6355
Washington Crossing State Park, 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., (609) 737-0609
Details about hike locations, difficulty and length, terrain and tips regarding proper clothing can be found at www.njparksandforests.org.
First Day hikes originated 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.
America's State Parks is an alliance of all 50 state parks directors in the U.S. It is committed to promoting outdoor recreation in state parks as a way to address obesity, especially among children.