Virginia State Parks hosts First Day Hikes

Virginia State Parks will offer free parking on Jan. 1, 2018, giving visitors the opportunity to enjoy special hikes or self-guided hikes on more than 500 miles of trails across 37 state parks.

For added fun, Virginia State Parks will hold the First Day Hikes Photo Contest and the New Year Challenge. Each contest has a $500 gift certificate as the top prize, as well as other prizes.

Pocahontas State Park hosts a New Year’s Eve to New Year’s Day hike that begins Dec. 31 at 11 p.m. and ends with a New Year bonfire and a sparkling cider toast. On New Year’s Day, Pocahontas will offer five other hikes, including a stroller-friendly hike, an advanced hike, a First Day Run, an orienteering hike, as well as a hike for family and friends.

Other parks with multiple hikes and difficulties include Bear Creek Lake, Holliday Lake and TwinLakes state parks.

Some of the more unique hikes include Grayson Highlands State Park, with the possibility of seeing wild ponies. Guaranteed to be colder than other parks, hikers flock to the park for the challenge, the view of snow-topped mountains and the ponies.

New River Trail State Park will feature a hike and bike on the new mountain biking trail. At False Cape State Park, hikers will take the Terragator, the beach transport vehicle, down the beach and then hike to the North Carolina border.

Hikers can see bison at Wilderness Road State Park and amazing geological formations at Natural Tunnel and Natural Bridge state parks. The hike at Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park includes a tour of the historic town of Big Stone Gap.

Several parks will offer special refreshments, including Bear Creek Lake, Caledon, James River, Powhatan, Shenandoah River and Smith Mountain Lake state parks.

Many hikes highlight the history and culture of the parks, including Civil War sites Sailors Creek and Staunton River Battlefield, iron mining at Fairy Stone State Park and the history of the Lee’s of Virginia at Leesylvania State Park.

Virginia State Parks welcomes bikes and horseback riders at parks with those facilities. Leashed dogs are welcome everywhere except False Cape State Park. Details for all hikes can be found here: http://bit.ly/VSPFDH2018.

For more information about Virginia State Parks activities and amenities or to make a reservation for one of the more than 1,800 campsites or 300 climate-controlled cabins, call the Virginia State Parks Customer Care Center at 800-933-7275 or visit www.virginiastateparks.gov.

Virginia State Parks are managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.