Georgia’s State Parks Celebrate New Year’s Day with “First Day Hikes”


All across the country, park rangers are inviting Americans to start the New Year with an energizing First Day Hike.  In Georgia’s State Parks and Historic Sites, dozens of guided treks will encourage friends and families to connect with nature and each other. First Day Hikes are part of a nationwide initiative from America’s State Parks to get people outdoors, with more than 400 hikes scheduled in all 50 states. According to Georgia State Park officials, winter is a particularly scenic time for enjoying trails because the open canopy means hikers can see farther through the woods.

“Without leaves on the trees, you can appreciate the unusual shapes of branches,” said Georgia State Parks Director Becky Kelley.  “You’ll notice small waterfalls, rock outcrops and wildlife that might otherwise be hidden in the forest.”

Many of the ranger-led hikes on New Year’s Day are listed below, and the entire calendar can be found at  For guests who want to celebrate a peaceful New Year’s Eve in nature, Georgia’s State Parks offer cozy cabins, heated yurts, lodge rooms and modern campsites. For reservations, call 1-800-864-7275 or book online at


First-Day Hikes in Georgia’s State Parks & Historic Sites

All held on New Year’s Day 2016

Coastal Georgia

First Day Hike at Crooked River

Friday, January 1, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Crooked River State Park – St. Marys

Greet the New Year with a “First Day” hike on the Bay Boardwalk trail. Vistas include wetland habitats plus our unique longleaf pine/saw palmetto ecosystem. Enjoy the great outdoors, camaraderie on the trail, cookies, and party hats. $2 plus $5 parking. 912-882-5256.

First Day Hike at Fort King George

Friday, January 1, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Fort King George Historic Site – Darien

As the sun sets on the first day of the new year, enjoy a twilight hike into the past. Visitors will be guided through the half-mile nature trail as they encounter historic figures of Fort King George. $7.50 for adults, $7.00 for seniors, $4.50 for youth. 912-437-4770.

First Day Hike at Fort McAllister

Friday, January 1, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Fort McAllister State Park – Richmond Hill

Join us for a 3-mile nature hike with Ranger Rowe on the Redbird Creek Trail. This hike is medium difficulty and requires sturdy shoes and water. At 2 p.m. there will be a history hike around the fort. Ranger Johnston will walk you through the past and tell you about the daily life at Fort McAllister during the American Civil War. $3 plus $5 parking. 912-727-2339.

First Day Hike at Fort Morris

Friday, January 1, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Fort Morris Historic Site – Midway

At 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., site interpreters will present soldier talks, musket demonstrations and a guided walk around the historic remains of the Revolutionary War fort, Fort Morris (Sunbury Fort). $3- $5. 912-884-5999.

First Day Hike in Waycross

Friday, January 1, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Laura S. Walker State Park – Waycross

Help celebrate a brand new year with a brand new boardwalk and trail! Join a park ranger at picnic shelter #7, the boat ramp location. Hiking will take place on the Laura Walker Lake Trail to the new boardwalk and cabins. Hot chocolate and goodies served at the end of the hike. All ages welcome, please bring water and wear comfortable shoes. $5 parking. 912-287-4900.

First Day Avian Loop Hike

Friday, January 1, 2 p.m.

Skidaway Island State Park – Savannah

Enjoy an afternoon hike through the marsh where we’ll discuss the history of Skidaway Island, marsh plants, birds and local animals. $5 parking. 912-598-2300.

First Day Hike in the Okefenokee

Friday, January 1, 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.

Stephen C. Foster State Park – Fargo

Take a guided hike on the Trembling Earth Nature Trail to see effects from the Honey Prairie Fire and learn why fire is a vital process of the unique Okefenokee ecosystem. As you hike, learn about the plants and animals found in the beautiful swamp. This is an easy 3/4 mile trail. $5 parking. 912-637-5274.

Metro Atlanta

First Day Hike at Panola

Friday, January 1, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Panola Mountain State Park – Stockbridge

Start the New Year off right with a brisk hike up our beautiful mountain. Join us on a journey that begins by writing, then burning, last year’s burdens. Climb to the top of the mountain to symbolize all the great things you will accomplish in 2016. Finish with s’mores and hot chocolate around a campfire. Please register in advance. $5 plus $5 parking. 770-389-7801.

“Bark in the Park” Dog Hike

Friday, January 1, 9 a.m.

Sweetwater Creek State Park – Lithia Springs

Get the New Year started off right in 2016 with you and your dog. We will enjoy a guided hike along Sweetwater Creek and view the exterior of the New Manchester Mill from the recent movie “Mockingjay.” Leashes required. $5 plus $5 parking. 770-732-5871.

Middle & South Georgia

A.H. Stephens First Day Hike

Friday, January 1, 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.

A.H. Stephens State Park – Crawfordville

Get started with your New Year’s resolutions by joining us on a pet-friendly ranger-led hike. On the hike we will explore the history of the Civilian Conservation Corps and Alexander H. Stephens. We will meet at Lake Liberty, which is located in front of our park office. Bring water and wear sturdy shoes. $5 plus $5 parking. 706-456-2602.

High Falls First Day Hike

Friday, January 1, 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

High Falls State Park – Jackson

This staff-led, 1.5-mile moderate hike will take you past several scenic and historic sites including the falls, the old grist mill, and a mixed pine/hardwood forest. You will learn about the park history and the local ecology. Wear comfortable shoes and bring water and a snack. $5 parking. 478-993-3053.

First Day Hike at Mistletoe

Friday, January 1, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Mistletoe State Park – Appling

This ranger-led hike will allow guests to discover nature’s winter wonder along the Cliatt Creek Nature Trail. We will meet at the nature center to begin this hike. Please bring water and sturdy shoes. No strollers. $5 parking. 706-541-0321.

Northern Georgia

First Day Hike on Lake Lanier

Friday, January 1, 2 p.m.

Don Carter State Park – Gainesville

Join a ranger as we explore a beautiful backcountry area of the park. Our two-mile, cross country adventure will follow old road beds, ridges, hills and valleys. Moderate to strenuous. Call the Visitor Center to reserve a spot. Limited to 15 hikers. $5 plus $5 parking. 678-450-7726.

Annual Black Bear Plunge and Hike

Friday, January 1, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Fort Mountain State Park – Chatsworth

Join us to start the New Year off with a bang! We will line up along the beach at 10 a.m. and stampede into the lake for an icy and refreshing experience. Brave participants will earn a t-shirt. From noon until 2 p.m., join a ranger-led hike to see the park’s ancient stone wall, historic CCC fire tower and mountain overlook. Register in advance. $15 plunge, $5 hike, $5 parking. 706-422-1932.

First Day Hike at Fort Yargo

Friday, January 1, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Fort Yargo State Park – Winder

Get started on your New Year’s resolutions to get outdoors and get fit. Enjoy a morning walk on this one-mile trail to learn about the history of Fort Yargo and the flora and fauna of the park. Sign up in the office and meet at the Nature Center. $3 plus $5 parking. 770-867-3489.

First Day Hike at James H. Floyd

Friday, January 1, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

James H. (Sloppy) Floyd State Park – Summerville

Start your New Year off right with an easy, ranger-led hike (1.5 miles) around the lower lake. Participants will see one of the best views found in the park as well as learning a bit of history. This hike is good for all ages. $5 parking. 706-857-0826.

First Day Hike on Lake Russell

Friday, January 1, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Richard B. Russell State Park – Elberton

Those wishing to increase their metabolism and decrease their waistline are invited to start the New Year with a healthy walk in the woods on January 1, 2016. We have planned a pet-friendly, naturalist-guided, half-mile fitness hike on our fitness trail as part of national “First Day Hikes” program. Meet at the Blackwell Bridge Trailhead. $5 parking. 706-213-2045.

First Day Hike at the Gorge

Friday, January 1, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Tallulah Gorge State Park – Tallulah Falls

What a great way to start the New Year – go for a hike! Join a ranger on a moderate 3.5-mile hike along the rim and through the woods. Children must be 8 or older. Bring water and snacks. $5 plus $5 parking. 706-754-7981.

First Day Hike

Friday, January 1, 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

Tugaloo State Park – Lavonia

Welcome the New Year with a 1.2-mile moderate hike on the Muscadine Trail. We will meet in the Day Use Parking Area. $5 parking. 706-356-4362.

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