Lt. Gov. Boyd K. Rutherford joins a First Day Hike at Patuxent River State Park. Photo: Joe Andrucyk

New Year’s Day Hikes Break Attendance Record

The idea of starting off the new year outdoors– and active– appears to be catching on.

“First Day Hikes” offer free, guided hikes at state parks across the country on New Year’s Day. America’s State Parks dreamed up this family-friendly tradition so that people can experience the parks “with the comfort of an experienced guide,” and to inspire them to come back throughout the year.

The Maryland Park Service reports that its state parks saw record First Day hikers on January 1, 2020. Sunny, relatively mild weather certainly encouraged folks to get outside. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources says about 5,000 people joined First Day Hikes, logging more than 10,000 miles of trails.

Maryland had 43 organized hikes at more than 30 parks and public lands. The majority of the 5,000 hikers participated in guided hikes, while about 1,100 hiked on their own.

A couple of state leaders were among those hitting the trail at Patuxent River State Park. Lt. Governor Boyd K. Rutherford and Natural Resources Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio joined hundreds of hikers at the park that spans Howard and Montgomery Counties.

The attendance record set this year broke the previous record of about 3,700 hikers set in 2019. And that record tripled 2018’s numbers.

The most popular spots for First Day Hikes in Maryland’s Bay watershed were Gunpowder State Park at Jerusalem Mill, with a whopping 500 people joining guided hikes, and Cunningham Falls, with 500 taking self-guided hikes.

-Meg Walburn Viviano