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December 30, 2021

First Day Hikes at state parks in Pennsylvania, New Jersey encourage people to start 2022 outdoors

Nature Hiking
Ridley Creek State Park PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources/Flickr

Pennsylvania and New Jersey's state parks are participating in First Day Hikes on Saturday, Jan. 1 to commemorate New Year's Day outdoors. The above photo is of Ridley Creek State Park in Delaware County.

For those looking to start 2022 off with a breath of fresh air, some Pennsylvania and New Jersey state parks and historic sites are hosting First Day Hikes. 

In conjunction with the National Association of State Park Directors, organizations in the two states are participating in order to encourage people to "welcome the new year outdoors, exercising and connecting with nature." 

Pennsylvania's state parks haven't taken part in the program for the last two years, largely due to complications from the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year, the National Association of State Park Directors notes that, given rise in  pandemic, First Day Hikes will be offered both as group hikes and self-guided walks.

Delaware County's Ridley Creek State Park is hosting its first annual New Year's Day hike starting at 10 a.m. on Jan. 1, with a limited number of slots available for participants. Organizers say that the hike should take about two hours to complete, and refreshments and hot chocolate will be served at the end. 

Park leader Lexi Rose brought up the idea for the event after previously organizing one at Marsh Creek State Park in 2019. The 3-mile journey will be manageable for newcomers and hiking experts alike, she says.

"People just heard about it and wanted to just get out and meet people, get a little bit of exercise," Rose told WHYY. "So I wanted to be able to bring that to Ridley Creek, and it seemed like there it was met with a lot of enthusiasm from our friends group, so I'm really looking forward to seeing how this one will go this year." 

Marsh Creek State Park is continuing the tradition this year, hosting their own hike on Saturday beginning at 9 a.m. The hike starts at 800 North Reeds Rd in Downingtown at the West Side boat launch, according to the Department of Conservation's Event Listing. The trail is 2.6 miles long, and will include some "interpretive information" about the park and the dam. 

French Creek State Park in Elverson is also hosting an event, which begins at 11 a.m. and ends around 12:30 p.m. The two mile hike is meant for families and people of all ages. The hike will be around Hopewell Lake, and the meeting location is at the Hopewell boat launch, located at 785 Park Rd.

Though Washington Crossing Historic Park is not hosting a hike on Saturday, organizers put together a Last Night Hike on Friday from 5-6 p.m. The two-mile hike will involve exploring the trail and listening for owls. 

A full list of Pennsylvania's First Day Hike offerings are available from the state's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

In New Jersey, Wharton State Forest along Burlington, Camden, and Atlantic counties is hosting the "Out With the Old: In With The Old" first day hike which will run from 10 a.m. until 12 p.m. The two mile walk is good for all ages, and children ages 10 and above are able to attend with a parent. Registration is required, and is available here

At Brendan T. Byrne State Forest, visitors can register for the hike that goes from 12 to 2 p.m. The meeting location is at Reeve's Bog. Organizers say that the hike is a two mile walk over flat terrain, and that the leaders will be providing historical background on the state forest. 

Within the Brendan T. Byrne State Forest is Whitesbog Historic Village, where organizers are hosting a hike from 10 a.m. until 12 p.m. Registration is required. 

For those looking for a more educational start to their new year, the Dr. James Still Historic Office is offering their own hike and open house, from 12-2 p.m. at 210 Medford-Mount Holly Rd. in Medford. The short, one-mile hike around the nature trail is great for all ages, and is available for children with parents. Visitors are welcome to check out the Historic Office or look for birds near the reflection pool. 

A full list of South Jersey and statewide First Day Hikes are available through the New Jersey State Park Service


New Year's Day is gearing up to be a wet one, as most of Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey can expect some rain on the first day of the year. Here is Saturday's forecast for these state parks, according to the National Weather Service. 

Delaware County (Ridley Creek): Rain, patchy fog. High near 62. 90% chance of precipitation.
Berks County (Marsh Creek, French Creek): Rain. High near 60. 90% chance of precipitation.
Bucks County (Washington Crossing): Rain. High near 60. 90% chance of precipitation. 
Burlington County (all New Jersey hikes): Rain. High near 63. 90% chance of precipitation.