State parks across the country, including 12 in Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia, are ringing in the new year with a First Day Hike.
The nationwide event is sponsored by America's State Parks. Outings are scheduled Sunday and Monday.
2012 marks the 75th anniversary of Tennessee state parks, and Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau said the series of First Hikes is a fitting way to begin the various celebrations coming up this year.
"Following the old Gaelic tradition of 'first footing,' the First Hikes are meant to encourage all Tennesseans to hit the trail and get 2012 started on the right foot," he said.
Georgia State Parks Director Becky Kelley adds that winter is a great time to go hiking because vistas normally hidden by foliage are revealed.
"You can really appreciate the magnificent shapes of trees, and you'll see rocks and streams that are normally out of sight," she said. "Plus, winter is a good time to look for wildlife like fox and turkey."
Complete lists of events can be found at here.
Booker T. Washington State Park: 10 a.m. Monday; meet at Shelter 1B. Ranger-led, one-mile hike through the park, with hot chocolate and coffee to follow. 894-4955, www.tnstateparks.com/BookerTWashington.
Harrison Bay State Park: 2 p.m. Sunday; meet at bike trailhead. Ranger-led, moderate 4.5-mile hike features examples of local history and ecology along Chickamauga Reservoir. 344-6214, www.tnstateparks.com/HarrisonBay.
- Fall Creek Falls State Park: 2 p.m. CST Sunday; meet in lobby of the inn. Ranger-led hike goes to the park's signature waterfall via the paved bicycle trail. Refreshments provided at the inn. 800-250-8611, 423-881-5298, www.tnstateparks.com/FallCreekFalls.
- Red Clay State Park: 10 a.m. Monday; meet at picnic shelter. This Council of Trees Hike is a sloping walk of 1.7 miles. It will be followed by storytelling and refreshments in the Visitor Center. 423-478-0339, www.tnstateparks.com/RedClay.
- Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park: 11 a.m. CST Sunday; meet at park museum. Ranger-led hike will circle the 2,000-year-old ceremonial enclosure called the Old Stone Fort on a 1 1/4-mile loop that should take up to 90 minutes to complete. Hot chocolate and coffee will be served afterward in the museum. 931-723-5073, www.tnstateparks.com/OldStone.
Cumberland Mountain State Park: 10 a.m. CST Monday; meet at park restaurant. Ranger-led, moderate, two-mile hike along the banks of Byrd Creek. Hot cocoa and coffee served inside the restaurant before and after. 931-484-6138, www.tnstateparks.com/CumberlandMtn.
Cumberland Trail State Park: 10 a.m. Sunday; meet at head of the Sequatchie Resource Management Area. Count on two hours to complete this nearly two-mile hike along Gravelly Spur Road, which led the earliest American settlers into the Sequatchie Valley from Grassy Cove in the first decade of the 19th century. The hike will explore the possible segments of the road, some areas lined with stacked rock fencing and views of Hinch Mountain. Head of the Sequatchie will be open 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. CST for self-guided hiking on the grounds. 423-566-2229, 423-533-4003.
- Tims Ford State Park: 9 a.m. CST Sunday; meet at park Visitor Center. An easy but invigorating 2.2-mile hike along the Marble Plains Overlook Trail offers a view of the Tims Ford Reservoir. 931-962-1183, www.tnstateparks.com/TimsFord.
- South Cumberland State Park at Stone Door: 10 a.m. CST Sunday; meet at Stone Door Ranger Station near Beersheba Springs. Ranger-led hike to Stone Door is an easy, two-mile round trip. Hot chocolate will be served afterward. 931-692-3887, www.tnstateparks.com/SouthCumberland.
- Fort Loudoun State Park: 1 p.m. Sunday; meet at park Visitor Center. Ranger-led day hike through fields, forests and ridgelines will be moderately difficult, covering 3.5 miles and lasting about two hours.
- Hiwassee and Ocoee Rivers State Park: 11 a.m. Monday; meet at park office. Easy-to-moderate ranger-led hike to Gee Creek Falls. 423-263-0050, www.tnstateparks.com/Hiwassee.
- Cloudland Canyon State Park: 1-4 p.m. Sunday; meet at the Interpretive Center. Guided hikes to see Cherokee and Hemlock falls will show off the unique geology of the canyon. $5 plus $5 parking. 706-913-7170.