First Day Hikes and Photo Contests

It always takes me by surprise when December 26th rolls around. All that anticipation, gift-buying, cooking, planning (well, maybe not so much planning this year), and then suddenly Christmas is over. If you’re anything like me, it helps to have something on the horizon in order to avoid falling into a post-Christmas slump. Since everyone is already looking forward to the end of this disaster of a year, why not celebrate the arrival of January 1, 2021 with an outdoor adventure? I hereby present the First Day Hike!

The concept of the First Day Hike has been promoted for the past several years by State Parks across the country, with the purpose of encouraging Americans to start off the new year on the right foot…or on the left foot. The idea is the same regardless of the location – go outside, take a walk, and enjoy nature. If you’re really feeling inspired, take some pictures and enter them to win prizes. Interested? Here are a few ways to participate:

Fairfax County Park Authority – If you live in or near Fairfax like we do, you are encouraged to head to any trail maintained by the county. I mentioned a couple of my favorites in this blog post, but you can find more options on Fairfax’s First Hike Page. The page also advertises the county’s First Hike Photo Contest, where you can win FCPA gift cards for outstanding photos taken on a county trail between January 1st and 3rd.

Virginia State Parks – Virginia’s Department of Conservation and Recreation encourages First Hikes at all 38 of its state parks, and even offers self-guided scavenger hunts and activity packets for many of its locations. There is also a photo contest where visitors to any state park on January 1st can win anywhere from $75 to $500 in gift certificates just for uploading their best First Hike camera shot. For resources and more information about the contest, check the First Hike information page here. For additional inspiration, feel free to read my past blog posts about Natural Bridge, Sky Meadows, and Leesylvania State Parks, or peruse Go Hike Virginia’s suggestions for 21 Easy First Day Hikes in the state of Virginia.

National Parks – The National Park Service does not have any recent publications advertising First Day Hikes, but that doesn’t mean you and your immediate family can’t head to your nearest national park on January 1st. Let the park of your choice know you’re participating by tagging it in photos on social media, along with the hashtag #FirstDayHike. Although there is no First Day Hike photo contest for the NPS, there is a photo contest for any photos taken on national parkland between January 1, 2010 (not a typo; you can upload photos that are up to ten years old) and December 31, 2020. If you feel like participating in that, head out to a national park on or before New Year’s Eve – or dig through photos of your past adventures – and then upload up to 10 photos here in the categories of your choice. Need some destination suggestions? Feel free to read about some of my family’s past VA National Park Adventures, as well as our recent trip to Manassas National Battlefield Park.

Regardless of whether or not you can squeeze in a hike on New Year’s Day, all of the aforementioned suggestions offer great options for outdoor, family-friendly exploration in 2021 and beyond. Happy New Year, and Happy Hiking!

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