State parks celebrate the New Year with day hikes

For the fourth year in a row, Virginia State Parks will kick off the New Year by participating in the America’s State Park’s initiative called “First Day Hike.”

All 36 parks in the state of Virginia will be participating in the initiative that aims to get people into the parks, including Shenandoah River State Park in Bentonville.

“This is one of our more popular events on the calendar,” said Jennifer Saik, the park’s education specialist and volunteer coordinator.

Saik added that part of the reason First Day Hike might be so popular is due to the fact that the park “doesn’t have any other events during the winter.”

For the hike, anyone can visit the park and partake in either a one-mile hike with a guide or the far more adventurous circuit hike that is about 3 miles in length.

Saik said that a majority of First Day Hike participants choose the one-mile hike.

“We usually get a lot of people with dogs and kids and they do the one-mile hike,” Saik said.

Following the hike, Saik said that the visitor’s center will have refreshments available for participants.

Saik also noted that the first 100 attendees will receive a First Day Hike bumper sticker.

According to VirginiaOutdoors.com, people can register for a Team Challenge in groups of two or more people. Once completing the hike, teams can confirm their hike no later than 10 p.m. on Jan. 2 in order to enter a raffle.

A random drawing on Jan. 3 will determine the winners of one of three prizes, including annual state park passes for each member and hats for each member.

The state is also hosting a photography contest. By submitting pictures on the Virginia State Parks Facebook or Twitter pages, participants have the chance to win prizes such as a week-long cabin stay any time of the year or an annual parking.

Saik said that the contests are not “park specific.”

Regardless of circuit length, Saik explained that winter is actually a great time for a hike. “There are no leaves on the trees, so you get better views of the area,” Saik said.

Although Saik noted that Shenandoah has averaged about 25 or 30 participants per year, she expects that number to go up.

Saik added that anyone planning on visiting the park on New Year’s Day should plan on dressing for the weather.

More information on the Virginia State Parks contests as well as a list of participating parks can be found online at http://tinyurl.com/ps6f3m3.

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com