Delaware State Parks offering chance to enjoy New Year’s Day nature

From left, Lisa and Ken Berry watch and photograph Northern Harriers over the marsh at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. (Special to the Delaware State News/Ariane Mueller)

As part of an annual tradition and national movement, Delaware State Parks will offer opportunities for the public to get outdoors and enjoy the nature in its First Day Hikes on New Year’s Day.

Sponsored by America’s State Parks where all 50 states offer outdoor hiking opportunities on the first day of the year, this year’s hikes will be self-guided.

While sites offer varying degrees of hiking difficulty and trail conditions, all state parks have the same policies to prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19. Keep a 6-foot distance from anyone outside your household, wear face coverings and use hand sanitizer. Additionally, all pets must be on a leash.

Visitors are encouraged to wear layered clothing and use walking sticks.

While the trails below have been selected for First Day Hikes in order to accommodate the most hikers, officials say visitors are welcome to venture to other trails in the parks, but be mindful of other trail users and respect the resources by staying on official trails.

State parks officials also encourage participants to visit www.destateparks.com/firstday to provide feedback and report how many miles the hikers covered.

The following hikes have been selected for state parks in Kent and Sussex counties:

The Point at Cape Henlopen State Park

Start at The Point parking lot — extra parking at Point Comfort Station parking lot. Hike the beach around the Point, experiencing both the ocean and bay sides. Park in the Point Comfort Station Parking lot (just south) and walk north to the Point parking lot. Parking may be limited.

• Hike Difficulty: Moderate (loose sand, may be windy and cold)

• Accessible? No

• Restrictions: No dogs

• Length of hike: 1.5 miles

For more information, call the Nature Center at 645-6852.

Walking Dunes/Salt Marsh

Start at Herring Point parking area. Hike at your own pace through the maritime forest with views of the marsh. Start at Herring Point, take the Walking Dunes Trail, then right (northeast) on the Salt Marsh Spur trail, then right again back on the Walking Dunes trail to return to Herring Point.

Hike Difficulty: Moderate

Accessible? Yes

Length of hike: 1.7 miles

Contact for more information: Nature Center at 645-6852

From left, Bob, Dan and Terri Hollingsworth observe wildlife in the marsh from the boardwalk at Prime Hook Wildlife Refuge. (Special to the Delaware State News/Ariane Mueller)

Prickly Pear Trail

Start at Hickman Road entrance of Delaware Seashore State Park. Hike this trail on your own anytime before sunset. Complete a contactless check-in at the Hickman Road bulletin board.

• Hike Difficulty: Easy

• Accessible? No

• Length of hike: 3.4 miles

For more information, check Delaware Seashore State Park’s Facebook Page

Burton Island Nature Preserve

Start at Burton Island trailhead at Delaware Seashore State Park. Hike this trail on your own anytime before sunset. Complete a contactless check-in at the bulletin board.

• Hike Difficulty: Easy

• Accessible? No

• Restrictions: No dogs

• Length of hike: 1 mile

Contact for more information: Check Delaware Seashore State Park’s Facebook Page

Birding enthusiasts look out over the marsh at Fowlers Beach for wintering bird species. (Special to the Delaware State News/Ariane Mueller)

The Dover Green

Start at John Bell House, 43 The Green, Dover. Self-guided brochures will be available outside of the John Bell House, while supplies last.

• Hike Difficulty: Easy

• Accessible? Yes

• Length of hike: .25 mile

For more information, call 739-9194

Sea Hawk Trail

Start at Holts Landing State Park Picnic Pavilion. Hike this trail on your own anytime before sunset. Complete a contactless check-in at the picnic pavilion.

• Hike Difficulty: Easy

• Accessible? Yes

• Length of hike: 1.7 miles

For more information, check Delaware Seashore State Park’s Facebook Page.

Cross Country Trail

Start at Killens Pond State Park Sports Complex, Pavillion 1

• Hike Difficulty: Moderate – flat but long

• Accessible? No

• Length of hike: 3 miles

For more information, call 284-4299 and check Facebook.

Trap Pond State Park

Start at Any Trap Pond State Park trailhead. Self-serve map boxes are available at Cypress Point and Bethesda Church parking areas, as well as the Baldcypress Nature Center.

• Hike Difficulty: Easy to Strenuous

• Accessible? Yes

• Length of hike: Variable

For more information, call 875-5163.

Year-round programs

In addition to the hikes today, Delaware State Parks offer programming throughout the year. The following programs are scheduled for January, but visitors should check details given possible nature center closures due to COVID-19.

Lynn McDowell of Middletown captures the rising full moon with her camera at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. (Special to the Delaware State News/Ariane Mueller)

Starting Jan. 13

Tundra Swans in Flight: 6:30 a.m. and 4:44 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday. Program runs through February, Trap Pond State Park, 33587 Baldcypress Lane, Laurel. An opportunity to witness the flight of these birds in the early morning and evenings. Call the nature center at 875-5163 to make an early morning or late evening appointment for access to the park.

Daily Family Programs: 10 a.m., Trap Pond State Park, 33587 Baldcypress Lane, Laurel.

Wednesday through Saturday, Trap Pond offers Bethesda Cemetery Tours, Family Wagon Rides and a history program about the contributions the Civilian Conservation Corps made to Trap Pond, Delaware and the Nation, “Three Square Meals”. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., choose between these programs or combine two or all three. These programs are available for household/family groups only and are scheduled for individual groups. Call the nature center at 875-5163 for more information and to reserve your time slot. Programs are free, but reservations must be made at least 48 hours in advance.

Friday, Jan 15

Star Gazing at Cape Henlopen State Park: 6:30 p.m., Participants can explore the night skies in search of planets, stars and constellations and hear the ancient stories about them. For ages 7 and up with a paying adult. Dress to go outside. $2 per person. For more information, call 645-8983.

Sunday, Jan. 17

Wonders of the Wetlands Hike: 2 p.m., Killens Pond State Park, 5025 Killens Pond Road, Felton. Program will start at the nature center. Pre-registration required by 4 p.m. Jan. 15. Call the nature center at 284-4299 for more information.

Saturday, Jan 23

Hike the Indian River Inlet Bridge at Delaware Seashore State Park: 2 p.m. Participants can learn out about the bridges that have spanned the inlet and how the current bridge design came to be. Call 227-6991 to register.

Sunday, Jan. 24

Fire Starting at Killens Pond State Park: 2 p.m., Killens Pond State Park, 5025 Killens Pond Road, Felton. Join naturalist staff to learn how to start a fire. Masks required. Pre-registration required by 4 p.m. Jan. 15. Call the nature center at 284-4299 to register or for more information.

Saturday, Jan 30

Hidden History of Delaware Seashore: 2 p.m., Delaware Seashore State Park. Drive your own car and caravan with other park visitors to see some iconic sights in the park and discover the hidden history of Delaware Seashore State Park. Call 227-6991 to register.

Sunday, Jan. 31

Delaware Wildlife in Winter: 2 p.m., Killens Pond State Park, 5025 Killens Pond Road, Felton. Program will start on nature center deck. Pre-registration required by Jan. 15 at 4 p.m. Call 284-4299 for more information or to register.