Maybe you’re feeling a bit sluggish after all the champagne and cookies, or just want to start off the new year on a positive note.
Then get out and hike with park rangers and other environmental experts. The New Jersey State Park Service is planning 29 guided hikes, one mountain bike ride, and one horseback ride at state forests, parks, and historic sites on New Year’s Day.
And it’s all free. State officials say it’s a part of the America’s State Parks First Day Hikes program that offers a chance to experience nature with family, friends, or both.
The park service says participants should bring sturdy footwear, as well as water and snacks. Also make sure you check the weather and wear layers as needed. The latest forecast predicts good hiking weather, with an expected high of 43 degrees and sun in much of South Jersey on Wednesday.
The park service’s Facebook page will have up-to-date information.
Below is a list of some of the closest hikes to South Jersey and Philadelphia. Some hikes require registration and may already be full, so check first. However, all of the hikes are in public spaces and open to all.
Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, Barnegat Light, 10 a.m. to noon. It’s an easy two-mile walk. Birds and waterfowl should be plentiful, so leave pets at home. Meet at Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, 208 Broadway. Registration is required by emailing Greg Prelich at email@example.com.
Bass River State Forest, Stafford Township, 1 to 4 p.m. The hike in the Warren Grove Recreation Area includes a trek through the “Pygmy Pines,” where trees might be smaller than the hikers. It’s an easy-to-moderate five miles. Meet at Beaver Dam and Radio Tower Roads. Register by contacting Bass River State Forest office at 609-296-1114, or 609-462-6228 the day of the hike.
Belleplain State Forest, Woodbine, 10 a.m to 1 p.m. A 3.5-mile hike along the East Creek Trail. Dogs are welcome. Meet at the forest office, 1 Henkinsifkin Rd. Registration not required.
Brendan T. Byrne and Michael Huber Preserve, Woodland Township, 10 a.m. The two-mile hike begins with an introduction to the preserve on Sooy Place Road. The hike will pass a variety of habitats and end after a short drive to Pakim Pond Picnic Pavilion. Children ages 10 and up, and well-behaved dogs on leashes are welcome. Meet on Sooy Place Road across from Johnson Road. Registration required by contacting Terry Schmidt, 609-412-3394.
Parvin State Park, Pittsgrove, 1 to 3 p.m. This is an easy three-mile hike. Children and dogs are welcome. Restrooms are available. Meet at the park entrance, 701 Almond Rd. Registration required by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Check Parvin State Park Appreciation Committee Inc. website, Facebook, Twitter, or call 856-981-6100 for more details.
Rancocas State Park, Hainesport, 11 a.m. Join the Burlington County Park Rangers on a two- or three-mile hike along an easy-to-moderate route. Meet at the park’s main entrance on Rancocas Avenue. Registration is not required but requested at the park website. For more information, call Burlington County Parks office, 609-265-5858.
Wharton State Forest, Batsto Village, 10:30 a.m. to noon. Easy 1.5-mile hike through the historic village. Families are welcome. Meet at the visitor center, 31 Batsto Rd., Hammonton. Pre-registration required by contacting email@example.com or 609-561-0024.
Wharton State Forest, Atsion Recreational Area, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. This Pine Barrens hike is hosted by the Outdoor Club of South Jersey and is about six miles. Children are welcome, but there are no restrooms. No registration required. Meet at the field next to the Atsion office, 744 Route 206, Shamong. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whitesbog, Browns Mills, noon to 2 p.m. Join the Pinelands Institute staff and Americorps Watershed Ambassadors for a hike through historic Whitesbog Village and out into the bogs, picking up litter along the easy 1.5-mile route. Bring gloves. Meet at Whitesbog, 799 Lakehurst Rd. Registration is required by visiting the Facebook event page at https://www.facebook.com/events/1876164489196762/ or emailing Jess at PinelandsInstitute@gmail.com.
For full details and more locations, visit https://njparksandforests.org/parks/first_day_hikes.html.