Tell The New Year To Take A State Park Hike On Jan. 1

Published 11:51 am Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wondering how to knock the auld out of lang syne come New Year’s Day?

Look no further than the area’s half dozen Virginia State Parks.

Whether you’re an old acquaintance or a new friend, each is participating in the statewide First Day Hikes program and has something to offer young and old, seasoned hikers to first-time pathfinders.

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Normal $3 per vehicle parking fees apply but, as an added incentive to make a healthy start to 2015, there is no added cost for any of the special events planned at each state park.

For the fourth year, the state’s parks are participating in the national initiative to get people to put their best foot forward on the first day of the new year. The parks are offering special events, or you can simply do your own thing.

The first 100 people at each park get First Day Hike bumper sticker—making 2015 a bumper year right off the bat—and groups of two or more can enter to win overnight stays, annual passes and commemorative First Day Hike hats. A photo contest also offers prizes. (For complete contest info, go on line to

In our area, and in alphabetical order, here are the special First Day Hike events:

Bear Creek Lake

The special event is a free 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ranger-led walk to view some of the original stone and wood structures constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and local workers, in the 1930s, according the state parks website itinerary. A number of the structures remain in use and, the state points out, were the basis for the park’s placement on the National Register of Historic Places.
“We will also go a little off-trail to discover remnants of early park infrastructure,” the website points out, adding the 90-minute walk will be over moderate terrain.

Friends of Bear Creek Lake State Park will serve up refreshments.

There are also a variety of self-guided activities, GPS Adventures and the Channel Cat Loop Interpretative Trail among them.

High Bridge Trail

From 1-3 p.m. Bob Flippen will lead a three-mile walk from the main parking lot and across the historic High Bridge, with a return to participants’ vehicles.

The earthen fortifications on both sides of the bridge will be discussed by Greg Eanes, retired US Air Force Colonel, who will also talk about the contributions by Free Blacks to the construction of the bridge.

Friends of High Bridge Trail will serve refreshments.

Holliday Lake

What would a state parks holiday special be without something special at Holliday Lake State Park?

No worries.

From 10-11:30 a.m. the state park’s naturalist will be guiding a hike through the seasonal landscape.

As the state parks’ website describes it, “Winter can drastically transform the landscape at Holliday Lake. Even though the leaves are gone, the ground is bare, the lake is frozen and the park appears empty, there are still many forest-dwelling residents that brave these harsh changes. They leave behind signs and clues as to how they survive the long winter.”

The guided hike will be a search “through the park looking for bear tracks, turkey scrapes, squirrel nests and more,” the website states.

James River

The special event here will be a 1.5 mile (round-trip) hike from 1-3 p.m. to the Tye River overlook, high above the confluence of the James and Tye Rivers, allowing you to look straight up the Tye as the James flows from left to right, with several notable Blue Ridge Mountain peaks visible atop the horizon.

“We’ll discuss nature and history as we go, and make sure to bring your camera for pictures at the overlook,” the website states, reminding participants the first part of the hike is uphill, which means, of course, the return leg is downhill.

Hot chocolate will be served afterwards in the visitor’s center.

If you’ve got the time before or afterwards, the River Trail along the banks of the James is a wonderful, and flat, hike that might easily include flocks and flying V’s of Canada Geese and other wildlife, the banks of the opposite shore rising up in steep and sudden bluffs.

Sailor’s Creek Battlefield

From 9-10 a.m. there will be a one-mile looping hike of the Confederate Overlook Trail, a route that will find the park tour guide discussing events, and showing where they occurred, during the Battles of Sailor’s Creek on April 6, 1865.

The trail, the website points out, “will cover terrain of varying elevation, including open fields, forested areas and along the banks of Sailor’s Creek, itself.”

Twin Lakes

Feel lucky?

From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. there will be a GPS Poker Hike.

“Here’s how it works,” explains the website. “You’ll check in at the main office to receive your first GPS coordinate and card. At each location throughout the park you will receive another card, and lastly you’ll return to the office for your last card and to log your poker hand. Cards can be swapped out at the end by answering trivia questions about Twin Lakes State Park.”

For the winner?

“The hiker with the best poker hand will be contacted and awarded with a super secret, very awesome prize,” state parks website promises.

As always, dress appropriately for the season’s weather and make sure of appropriate footwear.