Residents invited to start the New Year with a First Day Hike at a state park

Published 8:49 am Tuesday, December 27, 2016


A local state park is offering visitors the chance to ring in a new year by taking a step back in time.

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Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park will host a special guided interpretive walk through the park grounds as part of the Tennessee State Park system’s “First Day Hike” program. Each park in the system participates in the First Day Hike by offering different activities.

At Sycamore Shoals State Park visitors will get the chance to stroll the grounds and learn some of the region’s history.

“We will be taking a little casual walk down to the Fort,” said Park Ranger Jason Davis. “I wouldn’t call it a hike so much as a walk.”

During the special event, Davis will be discussing the history of Watauga Settlement including some of the major events that occurred at the Fort and some of the notable people from local history. And, of course, the event will include information on the historic muster and march of the Overmountain Men.

“We will mostly be visiting the Fort and the muster site then walking down to the site of the crossing,” Davis said.

Participants are advised to dress appropriately for the weather. Those taking part in the walk are asked to meet in the picnic area beside the Visitor Center before the scheduled start time of 9 a.m. The park asks participants to please not bring pets to this event. The event is by reservation only and subject to cancellation due to significantly inclement weather. Reservations must be made by Friday, December 30 at 3:30 pm EST. Contact the park for more information or to make reservations at 423-543-5808.

If a more active adventure is more your style, or if history isn’t your cup of tea, Davis said not to worry there are other opportunities available.

“We’ve got several parks here in our area,” Davis said. “There are different opportunities to be had based on the interest of the person.”

All of the state parks across Tennessee are taking part in “First Day Hike” events. Events have different themes and different start times.

Rocky Fork State Park, located in nearby Flagpond in Unicoi County will host their First Day Hike at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 1, with a winter expedition to the high country lake known as “Hidden Lake,” “Birchfield Camp Lake,” or simply “the pond,” in the Cherokee National Forest.

This lake was constructed over a half century ago to provide water in the event of a wildfire. Today, it is an oasis for wildlife including bear, ruffed grouse, turkey, and white tail. Water level in the lake relies heavily on the amount of recent rainfall, and can span in size anywhere from 1-5 acres.

This is a strenuous 5.5 mile hike. Park staff ask that participants please come dressed for the weather – 4000 feet above sea level on a January day can be quite windy and cold.  There are also numerous unbridged creek crossings, none of which are more than one foot deep. Bring enough food, water and warm clothing!

Participants are asked to meet at the Clear Branch Welcome Center at exit 46 on I-26. For more information, contact Rocky Fork State Park at (423) 271-1233.

Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park, which is located in nearby Limestone in Washington County, will host their First Day Hike at 1 p.m. on Jan. 1. Park staff will lead visitors on a brisk hike along the creek and river. The hike is about 2 miles in distance and moderate in difficulty. For more information, contact the Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park at 423-257-2167.

Warrior’s Path State Park, which is located in nearby Kingsport in Sullivan County, is offering up a different kind of treat for their First Day Hike — a midnight lantern hike. Park staff invite visitors to join them in starting off the New Year right with a “de-light-full” hike through the night. Visitors will light up the midnight trail with old-timey kerosene lanterns to discover a new world. Following the hike, staff invite participants to warm up with them at the campfire and enjoy some hot cocoa to celebrate.

Participants are advised to come dressed for the weather, and to wear sturdy hiking boots. This is a moderate 2 mile hike that is open to both adults and children. Participants are asked to meet at Warrior’s Path State Park swimming pool parking lot. For more information, contact Warrior’s Path State Park at 423-239-8531.

For more information on other First Day Hike opportunities around the state visit the Tennessee State Parks website at and click on “Upcoming Events” under the “Events and Activities” menu.