Archived Outdoors

Hike into the 2024

Home to the highest peak east of the Mississippi, Mount Mitchell State Park offers a chilly environment more frequently seen in locations much further north. Home to the highest peak east of the Mississippi, Mount Mitchell State Park offers a chilly environment more frequently seen in locations much further north. Max Cooper photo

The standing tradition of starting the New Year off on the trail will continue at N.C. State Parks Monday, Jan. 1, with more than 50 staff-led hikes showcasing the wonders of the Great Trails State. 

“After a few years of smaller First Day Hikes programming, we are excited to offer a wide variety of guided hikes and events at most of our state parks for 2024,” said State Parks Director Brian Strong. “We hope our visitors take the opportunity, as we wrap up the holiday season, to bring family and friends and begin a new year of outdoor adventures together.”

Here’s what’s happening in Western North Carolina:

•  Gorges State Park . Choose from a 30-minute hike to the Upper Bearwallow Falls Overlook or a 60-minute hike down the Raymond Fisher Pond Trail — or do both. Park Superintendent Kevin Bischof will lead the Upper Bearwallow Falls Overlook hike starting at 10 a.m. from the Upper Bearwallow Picnic Shelter. Ranger Melanie Briley will start the Raymond Fisher Pond hike at 1 p.m., meeting at the Rainbow Falls Trailhead. 828.966.9099.

• Chimney Rock State Park . A 3.2-mile walk or bike ride up the park’s entrance road will begin next to the Old Rock Café at 8 a.m. A park ranger will lead an informative discussion about the park’s history along a route that is typically restricted to vehicular traffic only. Participants will receive a ticket to enter the park for free that day after taking the shuttle back down to Chimney Rock Village by 10 a.m. 828.625.1823.

• Mount Mitchell State Park . Choose from three First Day Hike offerings at the highest mountain in the eastern U.S. Experienced hikers can embark on a strenuous 6-mile loop around the park starting at 9 a.m., while a family-friendly hike on the 1-mile Balsam Nature Trail will be held 10-11 a.m. At 11 a.m., a moderate 2.6-mile hike will go to Mount Craig, the second-highest peak in the park. The weather at Mount Mitchell can be more than 20 degrees colder than at the base of the mountain, with strong winds making it feel even colder, so hikers should dress appropriately. Hot chocolate and buttons will be available at the museum after each hike. Registration is required via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 828.675.4611.

Nationwide, First Day Hikes is organized by the National Association of State Park Directors. The annual event began in 1992 in Massachusetts, and as of 2012, all 50 states have participated. The full list of First Day Hikes for North Carolina State Parks is available at

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