Ring in the New Year with a First Day Hike on the Parkway

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Abbott Lake Trail at Peaks of Otter in Virginia Abbott Lake Trail is a paved loop at the Peaks of Otter in Virginia.
December 30, 2019

With 369 miles of hiking trails, the Blue Ridge Parkway offers abundant treks for First Day Hikes to celebrate New Year’s Day in 2020. Whether you want to kick off a new fitness goal or just enjoy the peace of the outdoors, the Parkway has you covered. Here are a few trails to consider for your adventure:

Start a Family Tradition

Visit one of seven Kids in Parks TRACK Trails on the Blue Ridge Parkway, or the hundreds of others in parks across the country. 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. 

Climb High

Take the Blue Ridge Parkway to Mount Mitchell State Park, milepost 355 in North Carolina, for a ranger-guided hike from 1 to 4 p.m., January 1. This is a strenuous hike atop the Black Mountains ridgeline to Mount Craig, but you’ll learn about the unique alpine environment and the flora and fauna that thrive at this high elevation. Come prepared for very cold weather. If the Parkway is closed or weather conditions are extreme, the hike will be rescheduled or changed to a shorter trail. For updates and additional details, click here.

Big Challenges, Big Payoffs

Though just 2 miles out and back, Humpback Rocks Trail, milepost 5 in Virginia, is a steep, leg-burner trek. The effort is worth the payoff of impressive views of the Rockfish and Shenandoah valleys. Learn more

Why not start off the year on top of the world? At 6,273 feet, the summit of the Waterrock Knob Trail, milepost 451 in North Carolina, is the highest point on the within the Parkway's boundaries. The steep trek is just over a mile round-trip, with peak views along the way to keep you motivated should you need to pause and catch your breath. Bonus: If you’re with friends or family members who want to enjoy the views without the hike, they can take in the rippling peaks from the Visitor Center parking lot.

Another ambitious hike with stellar 360-degree views is Sharp Top Trail at milepost 86 in Virginia. Learn more

Places for Reflection

For peaceful strolls where you can reflect on the past year and the one ahead, set a course for:

  • Abbott Lake Loop Trail at milepost 86 in Virginia, a one-mile, ADA-accessible paved walkway with a lovely view of Sharp Top Peak 
  • Bass Lake Loop at Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, milepost 294 in North Carolina, a less than one mile trek with a view of Flat Top Manor on the hill. If you feel like wandering farther, there are a total of 26 miles of carriage trails to follow. 
  • Price Lake Trail at milepost 296 in North Carolina, an easy 2.7-mile loop that circles the shoreline of 47-acre Price Lake


If you want to be wowed by powerful waterfalls after the recent rains, head to:

  • Linville Falls at milepost 316 in North Carolina, which offers more than one trail to view the Linville River as it plummets through the impressive gorge
  • Crabtree Falls at milepost 339, a 2.5-mile loop trail that leads hikers to the 60-foot Crabtree Falls

More to Explore

Before You Go

  • Check the Real-time Road Closure Map to be sure the Parkway is open near your destination. View it here
  • Visit BRPWeather.com to prepare for the conditions you might encounter on your journey, especially at higher elevations

Branch Out to State Parks

The Parkway travels through two states rich with gorgeous landscapes. If you can’t make it to the Parkway, be sure to check with the Virginia and North Carolina state parks departments for First Day hiking events.

Admission to Virginia State Parks is free on January 1, and hikers can receive a sticker to mark the day. You can also register your hike or participate in a photo contest for a chance to win state park gift certificates. Find a guided hike 

Up for a challenge? Pick trails across the state to complete the N.C. State Parks 100-mile challenge. Don’t worry, you have all year to log the miles. Running, walking, swimming, biking, riding, and rolling all count toward the goal. Pick a guided first day hike anywhere in the state to get started. Learn more about the challenge 

Happy Hiking!