Skip to Main Content

First Day Hikes to Ring in the New Year for 2021

Weekend Of Self-Guided Walks on Maryland Public Lands

Photo of small group of hikers on a wooden boardwalk

Merkle Natural Resources Management Area in Prince George’s County

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources invites everyone to take a First Day Hike, Maryland’s annual tradition for a fun, healthy way to welcome the New Year.

This year, the Maryland Park Service will offer self-guided hike opportunities across the state from January 1-3, 2021. As always, Maryland’s state parks, state forests, and wildlife management areas will be open for trekking hundreds of miles of trails. However, due to the pandemic and physical distancing guidance, hikes will be self-guided and park staff will not be leading the hikes this year.

These hikes will provide a variety of outdoor adventures and experiences for every level of hiker and walker, including unique access to Maryland’s cultural, historic natural resources and treasures, along with opportunities for education and stewardship. Many hikes are even pet-friendly.

Among those planning a hike will be Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio and Lt. Governor Boyd K. Rutherford, continuing his commitment to visiting all Maryland state parks and other public lands by the time he leaves office. Lt. Governor Rutherford and the secretary kicked off 2020 with a hike at Patuxent River State Park.

“First Day Hikes are a wonderful tradition; they start the year off on the right foot with fresh air, exercise, and the appreciation and enjoyment of Maryland’s beautiful state parks and public lands,” said Lt. Governor Rutherford. “With all the challenges of the past year, participating in a socially-distant, self-guided First Day Hike and enjoying quality time outdoors is the perfect way to welcome 2021.”

“Over the past year, Maryland’s amazing natural resources have provided us with safe recreation and quality time together which many of us needed,” Maryland Secretary of Natural Resources Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio said. “As we begin 2021, we want to remind everyone that there are many great winter activities to take advantage of on our public lands. Hiking on our world-class trail systems is a great way to get a healthy start in the new year.”

On New Year’s Day 2020, a record 5,000 hikers logged more than 10,000 miles on trails in parks and public lands all across Maryland.

All hikers should follow Maryland State Parks’ guidelines for outdoor exercise and recreation to slow the spread of COVID-19, including keeping a 6-foot distance from anyone outside their household and wearing a face covering when in close proximity to others and when indoors. Anyone who is sick or has been sick over the past two weeks should stay home to recuperate. 

After their visit, hikers are asked to complete an online survey to track their hikes and how many miles they covered.​

First Day Hikes are part of a nationwide event sponsored by America’s State Parks

Note to Editors and Producers: If you plan to cover a First Day Hike, please contact the Department of Natural Resources Office of Communications prior to Dec. 30 if possible. Also, please be advised that onsite park staff may have limited availability for interviews or assistance.