False Cape State Park offers a unique approach to First Day Hikes. Photo: Virginia Tourism Corp.

Bundle Up & Get Out on a 2023 First Day Hike

When the treats, family meals, parties and presents of the holidays have all run their course, it can feel like a letdown. 2-2.5 more months of winter are staring us in the face, and boating season still feels worlds away. Enter the First Day Hike.

In January 2012 America’s State Parks encouraged people to get outside through a series of free, guided hikes on New Year’s Day. Eleven years later, the plan is still working. Across the Bay region and the nation beyond, people show up to parks and public lands on New Year’s Day,  bringing with them varying skill levels (and sometimes pets, strollers and bikes) to spend at least a part of the day in their local great outdoors.

The Chesapeake Bay’s parks offer a wide variety of experiences, from boardwalks over marshy wetlands to unobstructed vistas of the wide-open Bay.

Jennifer Thompson, an avid hiker who counts Tuckahoe State Park as a favorite spot, describes her annual First Day Hike as “nature therapy” and the perfect way to begin the New Year. She hits the trails with her exploring companion, the intrepid chihuahua Blu.

But First Day hikes in the Chesapeake region can include much more than tromping through the woods. They can include trails, beach walks, sunrise and sunsets, story time for little ones, beginning birding, exploration of a Native American village by tram, and the possibility of hot chocolate along the way. Take a look at some of the region’s offerings.

Martinak State Park

Read the childrens’ story Squirrel’s New Year Resolution on this stroller- and family-friendly walk.

137 Deep Shore Rd.

Denton, MD 

Beginner Birding at Irish Grove, Janes Island State Park

Learn the basics of birding from a Ranger on the Pocomoke Sounds’s 2,300 acre nature preserve. 

26280 Alfred J. Lawson Drive

Crisfield, MD

Sky Meadows State Park

Take part in the tradition of welcoming the New Year at sunrise. The gates at Edmonds Lane will open at 5:30 am with self-guided trails open until 3 pm.

11012 Edmonds Lane

Delaplane, VA 

False Cape State Park

Hop onto a tram for a Ranger-led adventure through what was once a Native American village,  and experience nature in a unique, primitive setting described as one of Virginia’s most unique state parks.

4001 Sandpiper Rd.

Virginia Beach, VA

Delaware Seashore State Park

For a spectacular farewell to the first day of 2023 and a breathtaking view of sunset on the Atlantic Ocean,  take a self-guided hike over the  Indian River Inlet Bridge.

Indian River Life-Saving Station

25039 Coastal Highway

Rehoboth Beach, DE 

Cape Henlopen

Walk the beach, look for seabirds, view the Overlook, the Harbor of Refuge Lighthouses, and see where the Atlantic meets the Delaware Bay.

15099 Cape Henlopen Drive

Lewes, DE

Some hikes are ranger-led, others are self-guided. Click on the links below for complete First Day listings, advance registration information, trail recommendations, restrictions on pets, strollers and what to wear to make your First Day Hike the best way to welcome 2023. 

Maryland First Day Hikes

Delaware First Day Hikes

Virginia First Day Hikes

-Niambi Davis