Start the new year on the right foot with a first day hike

WINNER: Best hike in metro Atlanta

Although many people have taking up hiking in 2020 as a way to get some socially distanced exercise, many others have been content to sit on the couch. Georgia’s state parks want to change that — the couch sitting part, that is.

Many of the state’s parks are holding first day hikes on New Year’s Day to encourage Georgians to get outside, get some exercise and explore an area you might not be familiar with.

ExploreThis is the best place to hike in metro Atlanta, according to AJC readers

According to, nearly 85,000 people rang in 2020 with a hike, collectively walking more than 176,366 miles throughout the country on the guided hikes. Numerous others hiked state park trails throughout the day.

More 2020 stats:

Miles per person: 2

Calories burned: Equal to 41,348 fast-food burgers

Distance traveled: 7 trips around the equator

Totals steps taken: 415,693,531

Thanks to the coronavirus, states will be adapting their first day hikes to keep people safe and healthy. These will include hikes with smaller groups, virtual hikes, self-guided hikes and trail challenges.

Georgia has many first day hikes planned. Here are some to check out:

Metro Atlanta

Panola Mountain State Park

When: 9 a.m. to noon; 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.; 1-4 p.m.; 3-6 p.m.

Where: Stockbridge

About: “Start the New Year off with a brisk hike up our beautiful mountain. Join us on a journey that begins by writing, then burning, last year’s burdens. Climb to the top to symbolize all the great things you will accomplish in 2021.” Call to register. $10, plus $5 parking. 770-389-7801

Red Top Mountain State Park

When: 10-11:30 a.m.; 1-2:30 p.m.; 2:30-4 p.m.

Where: Acworth

About: “Join Rangers on a hike back into the 1800s to learn about Red Top Mountain’s iron mining history! This hike is a 2-mile loop on moderate terrain. Please allow approximately 1.5 hours for this hike. Please dress for the weather and bring water.” Space is limited to 10 guests and preregistration is required. $5 parking. 770-975-0055

ExploreBenefits of exercising outside in cold weather

Sweetwater Creek State Park

When: 1-3 p.m.; 3:30-5 p.m.

Where: Lithia Springs

About: “Bid a fond farewell to 2020 and kick off those resolutions with a .5 mile hike on the Red Trail. We will discuss the history of Sweetwater Creek and the New Manchester Manufacturing Mill. This will offer a rare opportunity to go inside of the gated mill ruins.” Preregistration is required. $5, plus $5 parking. 770-732-5871

Outside metro Atlanta

Indian Springs State Park

When: 9-10 a.m.; 11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.; 2-3 p.m.

Where: Floville

About: “Welcome the New Year with a one-mile hike with the naturalist! We’ll be slowing down on the trail to get a full sensory experience.” $5 parking. 770-507-2277

ExploreGet 360 degree views of North Georgia from atop Bell Mountain

High Falls State Park

When: 10 a.m. to noon

Where: Jackson

About: “Join us in a ranger-led hike on our two-mile Tranquility Trail. This is a slightly strenuous hike; remember to wear sturdy shoes and bring water.” Dogs allowed with 6-foot leash. Preregistration is required. $5 parking. 478-993-3053

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