The question isn’t if you’ll be taking your first hike of 2024 on Monday, but where.
Taking a brisk hike to welcome the new year is a long-standing tradition. It became formalized a few years back when American State Parks challenged state parks across the country to hold First Day events. Today, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a state park in the U.S. that doesn’t hold a First Day Hike. That’s especially true in North Carolina and Virginia, where 113 First Day events are planned in state parks; some parks are even celebrating with two or three events.read more
We last ran this feature four years ago and it stands today — except where the nightly fee has gone up, which we’ve updated.
We take a lot of groups on weekend hiking trips to the mountains. As a result, we stay in a lot of group campgrounds. When we book a group campground, we look at a number of factors, including:
Proximity to good hiking. Ideally, we look for a campground with immediate access to trails — and not just any old trails, but trails that will yield a full day of memorable hiking. If we can treat people to an entire day of using just their own feet to get around, we we find they enjoy the day that much more..
Shaded camping. We hike mostly in summer, so we need to pitch tents where they won’t broil during the day.
A commons area. A big fire pit, a picnic table or two, rocks or logs to sit on — we don’t ask much, but these are biggies.
Basic amenities. We need water at the campsite, we’d like a privy not too far away. A bathhouse, of course, is nice. And if we can park a reasonable distance away — within 50 yards of the campsite, say — all the better.
Privacy. From others in the group, to some degree (hey, we all need a little me time), but mostly from neighboring campers. We escape to the wild for various reasons; it’s those who escape to the wild to be wild that we prefer to avoid.
Good vibe. Most importantly, the site must have a good vibe. It needn’t be immaculately groomed; rather, we like a spot that fits in with the natural surroundings. Sometimes you know the second you drive up, sometimes it takes a night or two of camaraderie to summons the vibe.
There are other factors, but these are the basics. Based on these basics, here are our our five favorite group campgrounds in North Carolina.read more
Despite the cold, the forest floor is coming alive with splashes of color: carpets of delicate white spring beauties, patches of starburst white chickweed, bursts of purple periwinkle, flashes of yellow green-and-gold.
The spring show has begun, but it won’t last forever. Here are five spots where you’re likely to find the season in full flower for at least the next couple of weeks (longer in the high country).read more
The best thing about hiking on a cold winter’s day? You can hike forever.
For starters, the cold itself is good incentive to keep moving. And the more you move down the trail the more you realize what a magical time of year this is in the woods. Winter’s sunlight knifes bright through a leafless canopy, illuminating a forest floor littered with coppery leaves. Somehow, those gray tree trunks manage to evoke a sparkle. Winter’s dry air cranks up the volume the season’s quiet. It’s an experience you don’t want prematurely ended on a 3-mile trail.read more
This week, it’s all about Sunday, New Year’s Day, and First Day Hikes — and First Day Outings. The latter First, first.
On Sunday in North Carolina we enter Year of the Trail, as deemed by the State Legislature. All year, we will celebrate trails of every stripe: natural surface, paved surface, equestrian, hiker, mountain biker, trails of blue. Even our cultural trails. We’ll get into all this in January, but for now we focus on Sunday. And first, those Outings.read more