Take a hike–yes, literally. On New Year’s Day, the New Jersey State Park Service hosts free, guided hikes in state parks, forests, and historic sites as part of America’s State Parks First Day Hikes program, making this day the best way to start fresh in 2020. From the shadow of Lady Liberty to the shoreline of sand and sea, there’s a trail for every type of hiker throughout the state. So instead of hunkering down inside, bundle up the kiddos and explore the great outdoors—with all that fresh air around, you’ll feel peaceful and rested, and so ready to take on January 2.
Here are a few of our favorite hikes around New Jersey:
Liberty State Park: First Day Hike to Caven Point Beach
New Year’s Day, 10AM
The staff of Liberty State Park will host a guided 3-mile walk from US Flag Plaza to the Caven Point Beach. They’ll take you along the man-made and natural shoreline of the Upper NY Bay, all while seeing spectacular views of Statue of Liberty and pointing out unique features of Caven Point Beach. Parking is free and there are restrooms located at the park office.
Meeting Location: US Flag Plaza / Park Office in Jersey City, NJ
Registration & Cancellation: Register via email with name, email, phone number, and number of people to LSPNatureCenter@dep.nj.gov. For cancellations check the Liberty State Park Facebook page. They will also email people the night before it is necessary to cancel.
Island Beach State Park: New Year’s Day Beach Hike
New Year’s Day, 2PM
If you think the summer is the only time for a beach hike, think again. Join naturalists as they lead you across the barrier island through 2 miles of natural beauty. As the guides point out the flora and fauna, you’ll learn how the beach adapts to its environment in the winter. After, stick around for the bonfire and s’mores (weather permitting).
Meeting Location: Island Beach State Park, Seaside Park, NJ
Registration & Cancellation: Registration is required by visiting this page.
Wharton State Forest: First Day Hike
New Year’s Day, 10:00AM
This hike takes you through the legendary Pine Barrens, known for its beautiful forests and coastal plains. The Outdoor Club of South Jersey will lead you through the 6-miles of untouched forest, stopping for a lunch break along the way. Watch out for the New Jersey Devil—who rumor has it—has lived in the forest for centuries.
Meeting Location: Atsion Recreation Area, Rt 206, Shamong
Registration & Cancellation: Register by calling call (609) 561-0024. For cancellation information, check ocsj.org or the Outdoor Club of South Jersey Meetup.
Cheesequake State Park: First Day Hike
New Year’s Day, 1PM
Kids will definitely be happy to explore this easy hike, which meets at the Nature Center and explores the marshes and forests of these two unique ecosystems. Bonus: Leashed dogs are welcome, so plan to bring your furry family member too.
Meeting Location: Interpretive Center at Cheesequake State Park,300 Gordon Rd. Old Bridge, NJ
Registration & Cancellation: For cancellation info, call the Park Office at (732)566-3208 after 8AM on the day of the event.
Ringwood State Park: New Jersey State Botanical Garden
New Year’s Day, 1PM
Ready to take on the hills? With this self-guided tour through the State Park Woodlands you don’t have to decide until a fork in the road–the volunteers and staff will show you the option to climb to the Mt. Defiance overlook on the Halifax trail or bypass it to remain on flat terrain.
Meeting Location: Carriage House Visitor Center at the New Jersey State Botanical Garden
Registration & Cancellation: To check on the status of the hike, call (609) 218-3532.
For a full list of First Day Hikes, please visit NJDEP.
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