‘First Weekend’ hikes will start 2021

No ranger guided walks this New Year’s Day — instead do all 3 local hikes on your own

ANNAPOLIS — There will be no ranger guided First Day Hikes to start the new year at Maryland State Parks due the coronavirus pandemic, instead they will transition to self-guided “First Weekend” opportunities on Jan. 1-3, 2021.

First Day Hikes have been held regionally for many years with Janes Island, Shad Landing and Assateague the three area favorites.

The Department of Natural Resources says, “Due to safety precautions, staff will not be leading the hikes this year; however, we are providing plenty of information and well-marked trails to get you started.”

Park guidelines will be in effect as they would for any outdoor exercise or recreation to slow the spread of COVID-19, including keeping a 6-foot distance from anyone outside of your household and wearing a face covering when in close proximity to others and when indoors.

If you are sick or have been sick over the past two weeks, please stay home to recuperate. If the parking lot is full when attempting to visit a park, please return during an off-peak time, visit an alternative location, or return home and visit at another time when the park is not busy.

Janes Island State Park’s Daugherty Creek Canal/Whitetail Trail is an easy 1.1 mile loop recommended by Ranger Mark Herring. It covers flat land through the woods and along the canal and is stroller accessible.

The park is located at 26280 Alfred J. Lawson Drive. Leashed pets are welcome, and a restroom is available. Maps are at the trailhead, call 410-968-1565 or the Duty Ranger at 443-614-2591 or email janesisland.statepark@maryland.gov for more information.

The Pocomoke River State Park at Shad Landing, located at 3461 Worcester Highway, offers a self-guided loop in the Trail of Change, named for the changes in elevation from a cypress swamp to an upland forest.

Leashed pets are welcome, but it is not suitable for strollers or wheelchairs. Restrooms are in the camp store, parking is at the marina parking lot. Call 410-632-2566 or the Duty Ranger at 443-614-2894 or email christina.holden@maryland.gov for details.

The longest running First Day Hike is at Assateague State Park, 7307 Stephen Decatur Highway, Berlin. This year it’s a “hiker’s choice” as you can choose your distance. Leashed pets are welcome but the non-paved surface it not suitable for wheeled vehicles. There is a portable restroom by the concession building where park maps will be available.

Call 410-641-2120 or email assateague.statepark@maryland.gov for more details.

Maryland Secretary of Natural Resources Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio said, “As we begin 2021, we want to remind everyone that there are many great winter activities to take advantage of on our public lands. Hiking on our world-class trail systems is a great way to get a healthy start in the new year.”

First Day Hikes are part of a nationwide initiative led by America’s State Parks to encourage all 50 states to offer outdoor hiking opportunities on the first day of the new year. “I Hiked” Stickers will be available at select locations while supplies last.

With three on the Lower Shore hikers can do one each day during the three-day weekend.