NEW JERSEY — Every New Year's Day, state parks offer free and guided hiking events in every state across the U.S. It's the perfect way to introduce individuals and families to both the outdoors and a healthy lifestyle. But 2021 is different, thanks to COVID-19 — all organized First Day Hikes have been canceled.
According to the America's State Parks, nearly 85,000 people rang in the New Year out on the trails in 2020, hiking over 176,366 miles throughout the country on guided hikes. Numerous others hiked state park trails throughout the day. On average, each person hiked two miles; collectively, seven trips around the equator were made, and almost 416 million steps were taken.
So what can families do this year? Following are some ideas from njhiking.com, but be sure to check the weather — some forecasts call for rain — and follow up with organizers before you head out to make sure the programs will still take place.
Poets in the Woods New Year’s Day Walk: Step forward into the new year with the insightful prose of Revolutionary War poet Philip M. Freneau during this free walk at Freneau Woods Park, 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. Wear shoes/boots that are suitable for walking in the woods. Meet at 360 Monastary Lane in Aberdeen Township. Face coverings are required in all park buildings and outdoors when social distancing cannot be reasonably maintained. Download the park map.
Garret Mountain Reservation: A hike for those 10-years-old and older, from 12:30 to 2:00 p.m., will be held within the 568-acre park that is located primarily in Woodland Park in southern Passaic County. Meet at the Garret Mountain Reservation Boat House, and register for free here. Download the park map.
Want to create your own hike? Check out the East Coast Greenway, the walking and biking trail that runs from Key West, FL, to Calais, ME. There are almost one hundred miles of greenway in New Jersey, and it runs from Trenton, through New Brunswick and Jersey City, to Hoboken. From there, one can walk along the waterfront all the way up to Fort Lee, and cross the George Washington Bridge into New York. Take a peek at the Jenn's Journey North adventure that started in the Garden State (and ended in Maine) during the summer of 2018. Or map your own adventure at greenway.org, and choose a start and end point.
Want to stay closer to home? Consider Watchung Reservation, the fairy trail at South Mountain Reservation, or Sourland Mountain.
Finally, on this writer's list, is a trip to Columcille Megalith Park, a "Celtic-inspired sanctuary" just off the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. All public events have been canceled, but visitors are still welcome, and a donation is requested, $10 for adults, and $5 for children. The park is a short drive from the Delaware Water Gap, and a little more than an hour from Piscataway. Download the park map.
The area is commonly referred to as the "Stonehenge of Pennsylvania," and pictures evoke images from the stones in Outlander, the popular Starz series based on books by Diana Gabaldon.
(Pictured with Diana Gabaldon, and autographs from stars Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe before the premier of Outlander in 2014.)
Wherever your walking travels take you to kickstart 2021, remember to social distance and wear a mask on crowded trails. Bring water and a snack, and always let someone know where you will be hiking. Happy trails!
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