If you need a healthy way to put 2020 behind you, step into the new year with a First Day Hike on the Blue Ridge Parkway this January 1. And by “on the Parkway,” we mean on the road itself!
This is the time of year when many sections of the scenic route are closed to vehicles, but open to hikers, bikers, and even cross-country skiers if the conditions are right. The pavement essentially becomes miles and miles of broad greenway that allows you to take in the crisp air and let the serenity of nature sink in.
Perhaps the most exhilarating section to walk is the Linn Cove Viaduct at milepost 304, near Boone, N.C. Don’t miss this fleeting chance to trek the engineering marvel that traces the slope of Grandfather Mountain. Between the views and height the you’ll feel like you’re floating. Make your way there from the gate on U.S. 221 near Beacon Heights.
To hike the Parkway, find a closed section near you on the Blue Ridge Parkway’s update page. Be sure not to block the gates with your car in case rangers or emergency services need access. The same cold and icy conditions that close the reoad in the first place, mean you'll need to wear layers of clothing and be extra cautious. Also remember, dogs must remain on leash for the duration of their visit.
Even with some road closures, you can still access many designated hiking trails on the Parkway.
There are plenty of trails and history at the James River, milepost 86. You’ll find four trails to choose from, including the Canal Lock Trail with exhibits that explain how locks were used to raise and lower boats in response to the changing elevation of the river.
The Peaks of Otter area at milepost 86 near Bedford, V.A., is accessible via Route 43 and offers a range of trails. For a leisurely stroll, pick the one-mile Abbott Lake Loop Trail, a ADA-compliant paved walkway with a lovely view of Sharp Top Peak. To step back in history, trek the Johnson Farm Trail to the circa 1850s farmstead. For a longer jaunt and great views, pick the 3.3-mile Harkening Hill Loop that starts just behind the Visitor Center.
With more than 25 miles of carriage trails, Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, milepost 294, lets you roam far and wide on the 3,500-acre estate. The Bass Lake Loop can be accessed from U.S. 221 near downtown Blowing Rock, N.C. From there you can follow Deer Park Road to Flat Top Manor, where renovations are underway. (Watch our latest webinar update about the project.) For a real challenge, continue uphill to the Flat Top Observation tower.
Trails & View Forever
You can support repairs, maintenance, and upgrades to trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway with a gift to our Trails & Views Forever program. Learn more
Visit one of the hundreds of Kids in Parks TRACK Trails in parks across the country, including four new trails opening in South Carolina on New Years Day. Find the new trails at Landsford Canal, Musgrove Mill, Sesquicentennial, and Table Rock state parks. Each TRACK Trail features self-guided brochures and signs that turn your visit into a fun and exciting outdoors experience. Best of all, children can earn prizes for tracking their adventures! Visit KidsinParks.com to find a trail location near you.
Conquer a 2021 Hiking Challenge
Your first hike of the new year can be the start of a year-long adventure. There are a plenty of hiking challenges to kick off your journey and help you stay motivated.
- Virginia State Parks First Day Hikes - Virginia is adding extra fun to First Day Hikes in their 39 Virginia State Parks with a hiking challenge, photo contest, and print-at-home activity sheets and guides. Plus, parking is free at all parks. Learn more
- Lookout Tower Challenge - Earn a patch from the Carolina Mountain Club when you hike to 22 lookout towers in Western North Carolina. Fryingpan Mountain and Green Knob towers on the Parkway are included on the list, along with Little Snowball -- a short distance from the scenic route. Learn more
- 52 Hikes Challenge - Commit to one hike every week (short or long, easy or strenuous) to complete the 52 Hikes Challenge designed to get people active outdoors. Learn more
- 100 Mile Challenge - Each year, North Carolina State Parks invites people to explore parks from the mountains to the coast to reach a 100-mile milestone. With so many gorgeous places to visit, you might just exceed the goal. Learn more
Have a happy and healthy new year!