Soggy weather didn't stop First Day Hikers from venturing out in the Bay region on Jan. 1, 2022. Photo: Maryland State Parks/Facebook

First Day Hikes Extends all Weekend, Popularity Continues

The national campaign to get people out hiking on New Year’s Day has grown legs in the past few years, and 2022 has been no different.

Despite wet weather on Jan. 1, Marylanders still showed up to public lands and parks to enjoy a healthy start to the new year. With New Year’s Day falling on a Saturday, the Maryland Park Service and Maryland Department of Natural Resources held the annual First Day Hike as a weekend-long event. Ranger-led and self-guided hikes were organized from Dec. 31, 2021 through Jan. 2, 2022.

New for 2022, Maryland’s First Day Hikes included a “Lower Shore Tour” that challenged hikers to visit Pocomoke River State Park, Assateague State Park, and Janes Island State Park, all in one day. Hikers who participated in all three First Day Hikes were encouraged to post pictures from each to receive “Park Swag” prizes.

Hiking has seen a recent surge in popularity since the pandemic limited our activities and emphasized outdoor recreation. On New Year’s Weekend 2021, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) estimates 16,237 visitors took part in First Day Hikes in Maryland State Parks during the three-day period from January 1-3, 2021. Both years, hikers who took off on self-guided hikes have self-reported their attendance and mileage hiked using DNR’s online reporting form, a new tool created at the height of the pandemic in 2020.

Virginia has seen similar interest in First Day Hikes. Virginia State Parks welcomed thousands of hikers this year. “We see great interest in the self-guided hikes that are offered by each park. With the pandemic surge this year, the parks saw visits throughout the day and not just in the morning like years past,” says spokesman Dave Neudeck.

At Virginia’s 41 state parks, people didn’t just show up on Jan. 1, many were ahead of the curve with New Year’s Eve hikes.

-Meg Walburn Viviano