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First Day Hikes
wgeorge l smith state park GA
National parks across the U.S. including George L. Smith State Park in Twin City, pictured above will be participating in First Day Hikes, a movement which invites citizens to come enjoy the great outdoors on New Year's Day with guided hikes and excursions. - photo by Special

    Kick-start your New Year’s resolution to keep in shape with an invigorating First Day Hike at a state park near you. Since New Year’s resolutions often include exercise, Georgia’s State Parks and Historic Sites are offering ways to make the goal more fun.
    Those wishing to increase their metabolism and decrease their waistline are invited to start 2015 with a healthy walk in the woods. Dozens of parks have planned ranger-led hikes as part of the national First Day Hikes movement sponsored by America’s State Parks.
    From easy, family-friendly strolls to more challenging treks, Georgia’s State Parks offer a variety of choices for First Day Hikes. Some focus on history, such as walks through Civil War camps or to ancient Indian mounds. Others highlight geologic wonders, such as Tallulah Gorge. A list of all hikes can be found on GeorgiaStateParks.org/events and a map of all locations can be found at GeorgiaStateParks.org/map.
    Last year, more than 27,000 people covered around 66,000 miles on 885 First Day Hikes in state parks across the country.
    “First Day Hikes offer a healthy way for people of all ages to get outside and take in these beautiful natural areas,” said Priscilla Geigis, the president of the National Association of State Park Directors. “State parks provide unique opportunities for visitors to experience historical and cultural areas, seasonal flora and wildlife alongside dedicated park staff and volunteers.”
    Besides hikes, some states are also sponsoring trail adventures for cyclists and equestrians as an added way for guests to appreciate nature.
    The American Hiking Society, partnering with America’s State Parks for a second year to promote First Day Hikes, reminds visitors to remember the weather and plan accordingly.
    “We encourage families in cold-weather states to be prepared for First Day Hikes by dressing in layers, wearing hats and appropriate footwear. We also recommend all hikers bring along snacks and water for the journey,” said Gregory Miller, the president of American Hiking Society. “Many state parks offer pet-friendly hikes on New Year’s Day and families are reminded to maintain their dogs on a leash and keep their family pets sufficiently hydrated and fed.”
    America’s State Parks boast a variety of beautiful settings for year-round outdoor recreation, and each First Day Hike will offer residents an opportunity to explore unique natural and cultural treasures close to home.
    Featured hikes not far from Statesboro include a 3/4-mile history hike and a three-mile fitness hike at Magnolia Springs State Park just north of Millen, a three-mile nature hike at George L. Smith State Park just east of Twin City and a one-mile nature hike at Gordonia-Alatamaha State Park near Reidsville.
    “America’s State Parks is dedicated to helping young and old alike explore some of the most breathtaking public lands in their home states,” said Lewis Ledford, executive director of NASPD. “First Day Hikes offer opportunities for children to see firsthand how inspiring nature can be, and how outdoor exercise improves their physical and mental health.”
    First Day Hikes originated more than 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation, a state park in Milton, Massachusetts.
    The National Association of State Park Directors promotes and advocates for the state park systems across America in providing for conservation and management of natural and cultural resources, quality outdoor recreation experiences, connecting children and families to nature and the outdoors, and more. With more than 8,200 park areas and visitation that exceeds 720 million annually, the economic impact to local communities is estimated to exceed $20 billion each year. America’s State Parks is an alliance of state park systems in all 50 states.
    All participants are encouraged to log their adventures on social media with #FirstDayHike.
    Those who want to celebrate a peaceful New Year’s Eve in nature before partaking in a First Day Hike can reserve one of Georgia State Parks’ cozy cabins, heated yurts, lodge rooms, or modern campsites with hot showers. For reservations, call (800) 864-7275 or book online at GeorgiaStateParks.org/reservations.

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