HICKORY, N.C. — If you’re looking for a vigorous way to start off the new year, how about a hike?

The North Carolina General Assembly passed a bill two years ago designating 2023 as "North Carolina Year of the Trail.”

It’s meant to celebrate all of the trails, greenways, blueways and more that the state has to offer, some of which you can find in Catawba County.

What You Need To Know

  • 2023 is the "North Carolina Year of the Trail"

  • It’s an effort led by Great Trails State Coalition

  • The goal is to get more people outside on the trails, greenways, blueways and more

“So it encourages people to run, hike, bike  —  mountain biking and paddling sports as well,” said Anna Hall, Catawba County Parks marketing assistant.

She adds it also encourages horseback riding or anything that gets you out on a trail.

“We encourage people to come out and enjoy our trails and our parks any time for any reason,” said Hall. “The Year of the Trail gives us a fantastic opportunity to showcase our trails statewide through the initiative."

If there’s one person who loves hiking, it's Tom Abernathy, who frequents Bakers Mountain Park in Catawba County. 

The 85-year-old says he hikes the trail up Bakers Mountain seven days a week and he’s been coming to this mountain before it even became a park 20 years ago.

“It’s a good hike. There is no easy way up the mountain. I found that out a long time ago,” Abernathy said. "It’s been a beautiful place. When I was a young boy, we would come up from Mountain Grove Church. Up the old road over there with our bicycles and we’d have to push them up cause they were just single speed bikes, but we get to ride them back down.”

Another person who loves this park is John Sutton, the park superintendent. He started with the park as a ranger when it opened in 2002. Sutton hopes to see this park continue to grow for hikers, like Abernathy, and he says we all play a part in the effort

“We want to tell everybody that when you are out in, especially in a park setting, even if you see something that's really nice, try not to just put it in a pocket or take it away, leave it for everybody else,” he said.

“Now if they want to help us do some clearing and cleanup, that’s all well and good,” Sutton added.

The Year of the Trail is just one way to highlight places like Bakers Mountain. This effort is led by the Great Trails State Coalition.

Its goal for this year is to inspire people of all ages, abilities and background to try trails, demonstrate the importance of trails to elected officials, boost outdoor recreation tourism, promote safe and responsible use of trails, as well as advance diversity and inclusion on trails.