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Alabama State Parks to host 11 First Day Hikes to celebrate 2024

It’s part of a national program designed to celebrate the new year and the great outdoors.

DeSoto Falls in DeSoto State Park. Robin Taylor

Alabama State Parks is hosting 11 First Day Hikes as part of a national program designed to celebrate the new year and the great outdoors. The hikes will take place at parks throughout the state, from Gulf State Park on Alabama’s Gulf Coast to Buck’s Pocket State Park in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. 

The national First Day Hike program features hikes in all 50 states on Monday, Jan. 1, 2024. In Alabama, First Day Hikes are led by State Parks personnel and volunteers and provide an opportunity to savor the beauty of Alabama’s natural resources in a fun, family-friendly environment. 

“Our Alabama State Parks offer some of the very best hiking trails found anywhere in America, and there’s no better way to start the new year than by immersing yourself in Alabama’s beautiful scenery,” said Greg Lein, Alabama State Parks Director. “This year, we have a sunrise hike to King’s Chair at Oak Mountain State Park and a sunset hike at Meaher State Park to see the day end over the gorgeous Mobile-Tensaw Delta. In fact, we have so many parks participating in the First Day Hikes this year that I’m confident anyone can find a hike that fits just what they’re looking for. It’s the perfect way to start the new year.” 

Here’s a look at the First Day Hikes at Alabama State Parks on Jan. 1, which require park admission in most cases to participate:  

Buck’s Pocket State Park | Point Rock Overlook 
Time: 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. 
Location: Meet at camp store 
Notes: The hike goes to Point Rock Overlook, one of the Tennessee Valley’s most picturesque vistas. All ages and leashed pets are welcome, but this hike is not Americans with Disabilities Act accessible.  

Cheaha State Park| Hike to the High Point 
Time: 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. 
Location: Meet at Vista Cliffside Events Center 
Notes: The Cheaha interpretive team will lead a hike to Alabama’s highest point, where the group can enjoy hot chocolate and coffee around the campfire. Cheaha State Park’s First Day Hikes will launch a series of 24 hikes in 2024 at the park. 

Cheaha State Park | Bark Ranger Hike 
Time: 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. 
Location: Meet at Bald Rock Boardwalk 
Notes: Leashed pets are welcome on this hike, but they must be on a leash of 6 feet or shorter. This hike is fully accessible for anyone with mobility concerns. Cheaha State Park’s First Day Hikes will launch a series of 24 hikes in 2024 at the park.

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Chewacla State Park | Waterfall Adventure 
Time: 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. 
Location: Meet at the park’s nature center 
Notes: The hike features a New Year’s scavenger hunt, starting at the nature center, located at the park’s second parking loop. From there, the group will hike together to the waterfall, looking for golden items and clues along the way.  

DeSoto State Park | Neverland Trail 
Time: 9:30 a.m. to noon 
Location: Meet at the country store and information center 
Notes: Hikers will caravan to Lost Falls Trailhead. The hike is free and open to everyone, but pre-registration is appreciated.  

Gulf State Park | The First 24 of 2024 
Time: 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. 
Location: Meet naturalist at the Lake Shelby parking lot
Notes: This hike begins with hot chocolate provided and continues with a leisurely 2.3-mile hike crossing Lake Shelby to Branyon Beach. Hikers will experience 24 firsts for the new year, including first beach visit and alligator sighting.  

Joe Wheeler State Park | Winter Wonderland 
Time: 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. 
Location: Meet in the lobby of Joe Wheeler State Park Lodge 
Notes: Hikers will join park naturalist Jennings Earnest for a 1-mile hike on the Champion Trail. This is the first hike of a series of 24 Hikes in 2024 at Joe Wheeler State Park.  

Lake Guntersville State Park | Atop Taylor Mountain 
Time: 10 a.m. to noon 
Location: Meet in the lobby of the Lake Guntersville State Park Lodge 
Notes: The hike follows the Golf Course Loop, which ends at with amazing views of Lake Guntersville at Benny BoBo Overlook. The 3-mile hike is considered moderate difficulty. 

Meaher State Park | Sunset on the Delta 
Time: 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. 
Location: Meet at parking lot next to the boardwalk 
Notes: The hike includes Canecutter Trail and the Gateway to the Delta Boardwalk, with the amazing biodiversity of the Delta on display. 

Oak Mountain State Park | Sunrise at King’s Chair 
Time: 5:30 a.m. 
Location: Meet at North Trailhead at 5:15 a.m. 
Notes: Hikers will take the Red Trail to the Blue/Red connector, and then continue to King’s Chair on the Blue Trail. Due to the start time, hikers are encouraged to bring a flashlight or headlamp.  

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Wind Creek State Park | Speckled Snake Trail 
Time: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Location: Meet in marina parking lot 
Notes: This 3.5-mile hike will pass through densely wooded terrain with several hills and picturesque views of Lake Martin.  

All First Day Hikes are subject to change or cancellation in the event of inclement weather. Hikers are encouraged to dress for seasonal temperatures and wear sturdy, closed-toed shoes. Also, pack plenty of water, snacks or a lunch, and hiking poles (if needed).

Alabama’s First Day Hikes are part of more than 1,000 hikes taking place across the country this year. The First Day Hikes program began in 1992 at the Blue Hills Reservation State Park in Massachusetts.

“I am thrilled to see the continued growth and success of the First Day Hikes program,” said Lewis Ledford, executive director of the National Association of State Park Directors. “This initiative has become a cherished tradition, providing individuals and families with the opportunity to embrace the outdoors and kick off the year with a commitment to health and well-being.” 

The Alabama Political Reporter is a daily political news site devoted to Alabama politics. We provide accurate, reliable coverage of policy, elections and government.

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