Close Facebook
Twitter Instagram Youtube

December 27, 2023

Contact: Caryn Shinske (609) 984-1795
Lawrence Hajna (609) 292-2994
Vincent Grassi (609) 984-1795


(23/P067) TRENTON – The public is encouraged to take in the beauty of New Jersey’s diverse landscapes and learn more about nature and history by starting the new year with a free, guided First Day Hike in one of New Jersey’s state parks, forests and historic sites on Jan. 1. More than 30 hikes will be available that provide a unique opportunity for people of all skill levels to connect with nature, discover local treasures and boost their physical and mental health as they enter the new year.

2024 frist day hikes“New Jersey’s state parks and forests boast thousands of miles of trails through a wide variety of ecosystems, from rocky and wooded hills to vast pine forests to coastal marshlands and urban green spaces – all ready to be explored with family and friends,” Commissioner of Environmental Protection Shawn M. LaTourette said. “Led by knowledgeable State Park Service staff and volunteers, First Day Hikes offer an invigorating way to begin the new year by enjoying nature, getting some exercise and learning about the environment we share.” 

The DEP’s State Park Service began participating in First Day Hikes after the program became a nationwide event in 2012. First Day Hikes began more than 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation, a state park in Milton, Mass. The program was launched to promote healthy lifestyles and year-round recreation at state parks.

“A First Day Hike is the perfect time to experience a state park, forest or historic site for the first time or visit an old favorite,” said John Cecil, Assistant Commissioner for State Parks, Forests & Historic Sites. “There is no better way to start the new year than to get outside into the fresh air and be surrounded by New Jersey’s natural wonders and history.”

The DEP’s State Park Service compiled a list of hikes that fit all skill levels, from beginners to seasoned trekking enthusiasts. All events are free; however, some require pre-registration and are weather-dependent. Here is a sampling of this year’s offerings:
A group of people walking through a forest  Description automatically generated with medium confidence

  • Dr. James Still Historic Site (Burlington County): Visit the State Park Service’s first African American historic site in Medford. One of 18 children, and older brother of William Still, Dr. James Still was born in 1812 in Burlington County to enslaved African Americans. Largely self-taught in medical diagnosis and treatment, Dr. Still established an office in Medford where he developed and dispensed herbal and homeopathic remedies. He is historically referred to as the “Black Doctor of the Pines.” Hikers will meet at 12 p.m. at 210 Medford-Mt. Holly Road, Medford before traversing 1.5 miles through the woods and meadow of the historic site. For more information contact:
  • Liberty State Park (Hudson County): Join Liberty State Park’s naturalist on a three-mile, leisurely hike to Caven Point Beach. Hikers will explore the urban and natural shoreline of the Upper New York Bay, with unique views of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan skyline. Check-in will be at the park office located at 200 Morris Pesin Drive, Jersey City, at 12 p.m. Pre-registration is required by phone 201-915-3400 x503 or email


  • Belleplain State Forest (Cape May County): Residents, along with their leashed dogs, are invited to join Megan and her Furry Friends for Belleplain State Forest’s ninth annual six-mile first day dog hike. Hikers will meet at 9:30 a.m. at the Belleplain State Forest office parking lot located at 1 Henkinsifkin Road in Woodbine. No registration required, for questions call (609) 861-2404 or email
  • Wharton State Forest (Burlington County): Take a scenic eight-mile hike along the Batona Trail in Wharton State Forest from the Carranza Monument to the Apple Pie Hill Fire Tower. This guided hike will depart from the Carranza Monument at 10 a.m. and arrive at the fire tower around 12 p.m., where participants will take a lunch break and climb the tower before returning. Registration is required and will open Dec. 29 at 8 a.m. Register here:


  • High Point State Park (Sussex County): Hike along a rugged section of the Appalachian Trail to catch a glimpse of numerous scenic views along the Appalachian Trail ridge before returning on the easier Iris Trail. Hikers will meet at 10 a.m. at the Appalachian Trail parking lot along Route 23 in Montague, just south of the High Point State Park Office. Children age 12 and up and accompanied by an adult are welcome. Registration is required; please email

For a complete list of hikes and related details including trail descriptions and registration information, visit  

imageIn addition to the more traditional hikes, the State Park Service is also offering a lighthouse climb at the north tower of Twin Lights Historic Site in Highlands, Monmouth County.

Those who prefer to hike on their own instead of with an organized group are encouraged to use the State Park Service’s Trail Tracker web application to explore the full selection of hiking trails throughout the Garden State.

Additionally, Jan. 1 will also kick off the DEP’s social media series, 52 Weeks of Adventure in New Jersey’s State Parks, Forests & Historic Sites. Follow along on Facebook and Instagram @newjerseystateparks to learn about a different state park, forest or historic site each week.

The DEP’s State Park Service manages more than 453,000 acres of land, including 40 state parks and 11 forests.

To learn more about New Jersey’s Parks, Forests & Historic Sites, visit 

Like New Jersey’s State Parks, Forests & Historic Sites page on Facebook at

Follow the New Jersey State Park Service on Instagram @newjerseystateparks

Follow Commissioner LaTourette on Twitter and Instagram @shawnlatur and follow the DEP on Twitter @NewJerseyDEP, Facebook @newjerseydep, Instagram @nj.dep and LinkedIn @newjerseydep