The State Division of Parks and Forestry invites New Jersey residents to ring in the new year with First Day Hikes in state parks, forests and historic sites on Jan. 1.

The program started more than 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation in Milton, Massachusetts. The idea of the hikes is to promote healthy lifestyles and to show that state parks are great places for year-round recreation such as hikes and horseback rides in the winter.

The program went national in 2012 and the New Jersey State Parks Service began participating in the First Day Hikes.

This year there will be 28 hikes, a lighthouse climb, a mountain bike ride and a horseback ride.

Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Caryn Shinske said it's a way to kick off 2020 by getting outdoors, enjoying nature, taking a brisk walk or taking part in some sort of physical activity. She said the hikes are scheduled for Jan. 1 because the new year is a time when people make resolutions to be more healthy and pay more attention to physical fitness.

All the hikes are free and there's many to choose from in all corners of the state.

Some of the hikes in North Jersey are scheduled at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, Stokes State Forest in Branchville and Kittatinny Valley State Park in Blairstown, Warren County.

NJ Division of Parks and Forestry

In the central part of the state, there are hikes at Round Valley Recreation Area in Clinton Township and Spruce Run Recreation Area in Lebanon Township, both of which are in Hunterdon County.

At the Jersey Shore, there are hikes planned at Island Beach State Park in Berkeley and Bass River State Forest in Stafford, just to name a couple.

Further south, hikes are set at Wharton State Forest in Mullica in Atlantic County, Wharton State Forest in Shamong and Parvin State Park in Pittsgrove, Salem County.

Some hikes require pre-registration. Some are weather-dependent. Others have limited participation. Shinske strongly recommends checking and double-checking the website at www.njparksandforests.org to see if registration is required or if a hike is re-scheduled due to inclement weather.

The website also includes a detailed list of each event in the state, the length of each hike and its difficulty rating, from novice to experienced. Some hikes have age requirements; others allow dogs.

Last year close to 1,800 hikers in New Jersey took part in First Day Hikes and collectively walked or traveled more than 5,000 miles through the state's trail system. This year, Shinske said she'd liked to get 2,000 or more hikers to participate.

She added this is a great opportunity to see, some for the first time, the beauty that's in their state's backyard.

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