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State parks, Blue Cross team up for fall hikes

Even as the changing fall scenery gives us picture-perfect views, many North Carolinians are still reluctant to explore the outdoors.

Some people don’t venture out to North Carolina’s parks, forests and trails because they don’t know about all that the state has to offer. Others are worried they aren’t in good enough shape to take on nature, or that they might get lost by themselves out in the woods.

This fall, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross) and the North Carolina State Parks system launched Hike NC!, a new community initiative that will take the hesitation out of hiking and encourage North Carolinians to get moving.

Hike NC! is a series of more than 60 guided hikes in North Carolina’s state parks and nature preserves, led by the state’s top hiking and nature experts.

Hike NC! will help make hiking easier and more approachable for North Carolinians, regardless of their age, fitness level or hiking experience. Each hike will be led by a trained guide or park ranger. The guided hikes will make it easier for individuals and families to:

·   Try hiking for the first time

·   Enjoy time in nature with friends, family and pets

·   Experience North Carolina’s nature areas, beautiful scenery and colors of fall

·   Learn about the plants and animals in the state parks and nature preserves

“As a North Carolina company, it’s our mission to improve the health and well-being of our customers and communities,” said Kathy Higgins, Blue Cross’ vice president of Corporate Affairs.

“This fall, Hike NC! will help North Carolinians connect with their communities and state by making it easier to get outside and be active with friends and family. We’re removing all the barriers that prevent people from hiking so that now the only thing that should stop people is the beautiful scenery they’ll experience.”

In addition to helping North Carolinians get active outdoors, Hike NC! is also part of Blue Cross’ efforts to promote health and well-being among North Carolinians. People who are physically active are at lower risk for chronic conditions and diseases, including heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

The remaining hikes will be:

• 10 a.m. Nov. 5, Carolina Thread Trail, First Broad River Trail, 4.2 miles, moderate, about 2 and a half hours.

• Nov. 11, 10 a.m., South Mountain State Park, High Shoals Falls Loop, 2.7 miles, strenuous, 2 hours.

• Nov. 11, 1 p.m., Morrow Mountain State Park, Three Rivers Trail, 1 mile, easy, 1 hour.

• Nov. 19, 1 p.m. Lake Norman State Park, Dragonfly Trail, .2 miles, easy, 30 minutes.

• Nov. 20, 1 p.m., Carolina Thread Trail, Girl Scouts, Hornets Nest Council Trail, 4.4 miles, moderate, 2 hours.

• Dec. 10, 10 a.m, Carolina Thread Trail, Catawba Nation Greenway Trail, 5 miles, easy, 2 and a half hours.

Residents can learn more about hikes in their area by viewing the full list at gohikenc.com. Visitors can find hikes by region and sign up for a hike that’s right for them, based on distance, time, location and level of trail difficulty. After people sign up online, they’ll simply need to show up, meet their guide and begin hiking.  

Hike NC! is a collaboration with leading hiking experts across the state. Guides from North Carolina State Parks, which is celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the state parks system, will lead hikes and foster memorable experiences for hikers.

Hike NC! is supported by North Carolina State Parks,Friends of North Carolina State Parks, North Carolina Recreation & Park Association, Great Outdoor Provision Co. and GetGoingNC.com. Joe Miller, author, avid hiker and chief exploration officer at GetGoingNC, will lead hikes as well.

Hike NC! is the next step in Blue Cross’ broader Get Outside North Carolina! (GO NC!) program. GO NC! was launched in 2012 to encourage North Carolinians to get outside and get active by creating new opportunities for outdoor recreation. As part of GO NC!, Blue Cross has helped:

·  Launch North Carolina’s first bike-sharing program, B-cycle, in Uptown Charlotte

·  Expand the art park at the N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh by adding a two-mile “Blue Loop” walking and biking trail

·   Complete the Gary Shell Cross-City Trail that connects Wrightsville Beach to downtown Wilmington with a paved biking and running trail

·   Add 1.4 miles of trails, additional outdoor learning space and a Walk of the Week educational program at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham

·  Introduce PlayPrints, a series of colorful ground marking and game installations across North Carolina parks

·  Fund the extension of the Middle Fork Greenway between Blowing Rock and Boone

Residents can join the Hike NC! conversation on Instagram and Facebook using #HikeNC.

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