Maryland parks offer "First Hikes" for New Years

Twenty Maryland parks offer free, guided "First Hikes" on New Year's Day. (Courtesy Maryland Department of Natural Resources / December 29, 2012)

What better way to greet a new year than to get outdoors and take a hike?  (Assuming the weather is half-decent, of course).

Once again, Maryland's state parks are offering free, guided "First Day" hikes as part of the nationwide New Years celebration organized by the park systems in all 50 states. Taking off on a program first launched more than 20 years ago in Massachusetts, people and family groups of all ages throughout the country have a chance to start 2013 off with a little fresh air and appreciation of nature, courtesy of a park ranger or volunteer.

The Maryland park service plans guided hikes at 20 different locations, from Deep Creek Lake to Assateague Island, including at Gunpowder Falls, Soldiers Delight and Patapsco Valley state parks in the Baltimore area.

They require nothing more than appropriate dress and mild to moderate exercise, but organizers do ask that those interested in participating register online.

For a list of scheduled "First Day" hikes in Maryland, and to RSVP, go here. For those expecting to be in other (geographical) states after the ball drops in Times Square, go here for a list of hikes elsewhere. 

And if you can't make a scheduled hike, remember that the parks are open year-round for unplanned, self-guided walks and many even for overnight camping. Check here for hours and any fees that may apply.