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Maryland Welcomes 16,000 Hikers to First Weekend of 2021

Annual First Day Hike Tradition Adapts and Grows

Photo of group of hikers next to a creek in the woods

Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford and Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio take a First Day Hike at Patapsco Valley State Park. Photo by Joe Andrucyk

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources estimates that 16,237 visitors took part in First Day Hikes in Maryland State Parks during the three-day period from January 1-3, 2021. Following safety provisions to prevent spread of COVID-19, and taking advantage of the long New Year’s weekend, hikers engaged in self-guided hikes over three days.

The three-day weekend and staggered hiking times reduced crowd size and also provided a vast array of weather conditions at parks from around the state — visitors braved everything from rain, sleet, and cold, to unusually warm temperatures.

Some parks set up First Day Hike “selfie frames” and other unique welcome signage to support self-guided adventures.

“Once again we’ve started a new year with a successful First Day Hike, introducing a new, even better tradition of self-guided hikes over several days,” said Maryland Park Service Superintendent Nita Settina. “The comments we received from our visitors demonstrate once again how important Maryland State Parks are to their well-being and happiness.”

The hike is an annual tradition across America’s State Parks and for many Marylanders, including Lt. Gov. Boyd K. Rutherford, who joined Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio Jan. 1 at Patapsco Valley State Park.

Because there were no scheduled, staff-led hikes this year, State Parks were not able to calculate total miles hiked, but instituted a new self-reporting survey. Using the online form, 279 people voluntarily logged 966.5 miles.

On New Year’s Day 2020, about 5,000 hikers logged more than 10,000 miles on Maryland’s trails in parks and public lands. Maryland State Parks would go on to see record visitation in 2020, with more than 20 million visitors enjoying the park system, a 40 percent increase over 2019.