Wish a happy birthday to the state park system of North Carolina! Throughout 2016, it'll be marking its centennial with a wide array of celebrations. The events include campfires, hikes, guest speakers, paddle trips, concerts and fairs.


One of the nation's first state parks was created 100 years ago at the summit of Mount Mitchell, the highest peak of the Appalachian Mountains and mainland eastern North America. It's located near Burnsville in Yancey County. Since then, the statewide system has grown to nearly a quarter-million acres set aside for conservation, recreation and education.


"The occasion offers North Carolinians an opportunity to celebrate this achievement and to rededicate themselves to the stewardship of this stunning landscape," says the department.


Parks are hosting special events throughout the year. Here are captivating ways to applaud this milestone over the next three months:




100 S'more Years
Sat., Feb. 6; Sun., Feb. 14; Sat., Feb. 20; Sun., Feb. 28 from 1-3 p.m
William B Umstead State Park, Raleigh


Celebrate 100 S'more Years in N.C. State Parks with free cook-em'-yourself s'mores. The park provides the fire and the ingredients for this treat. Stop into the visitor center between 1 and 3 p.m. to learn a little about the history of Umstead State Park and enjoy free s'mores before or after your hike.

100 S'more Years
Sat., Feb. 6, at 1 p.m.
Merchants Millpond State Park, Gatesville


Join a park ranger around the campfire to hear the history of N.C. State Parks. Celebrate by making and eating s'mores. The first five families to sign up get 100-year celebration bandanas. Dress for outdoor weather and bring your own chair or blanket. Rain date is Feb. 7 at 1 p.m.




Ranger-led Hikes
Fri., March 4 to Sun., March 6
Eno River State Park, Durham


Step foot on any or all of the almost 30 miles of trail in the park on ranger- and naturalist-led hikes. It starts with a trek from Cole Mill Access and continues at various locations throughout the park.


Old Home-sites Tour
Sat., March 12, at 2 p.m.
Lake James State Park, Nebo


Learn about life when the Catawba River and Paddy's Creek were home to communities of farmers. Their legacy remains along the lakeshore in the home-site ruins they left behind.


Centennial Celebration - Party for the Pine
Sat., March 19, all day
Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve, Southern Pines


Celebrate the 100th anniversary of N.C. State Parks and the 468th birthday of the oldest known living longleaf pine in the world! Hike to see the tree and enjoy a day full of fun activities and learning about the natural community.


Centennial on the Neuse
Sat., March 26, at 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
Cliffs of the Neuse State Park, Seven Springs


Go on a ranger-led paddle trip on the Neuse River departing from the park's new paddle launch and participate in other events.

Easter Egg Hunt
Sat., March 26, at 11 a.m.
Jones Lake State Park, Elizabethtown


Get in on the cheer of the Easter egg hunt. Pre-registration is required by Friday, March 18.




Blast From the Past Festival
Sat., April 2, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Carvers Creek State Park,
Spring Lake


Travel back in time to 1916 to explore what it was like at Long Valley Farm during that era. The state park presents special programs, including a picnic on the lawn at the Rockefeller house, fishing, hayrides and guest speakers.


Raven Rock Trail Trek
Sat., April 9, at 8 a.m.
Raven Rock State Park, Lillington


Challenge yourself on the Raven Rock Trail Trek, a point-to-point, 10-mile, 5-trail, 1-day endeavor. The course travels through beautiful hardwood forests and at times parallels Little Creek and Campbell Creek with views of the Cape Fear River. Or, stop by the visitor center from 10 a.m.-2p.m. for the centennial party.


Walk Bike Run for Umstead
Sat., April 16, at 11 a.m.
William B Umstead State Park


Revel in a great day traversing park trails, listening to music and doting on children's activities. To sign up for the walk/bike/run portion of the event, visit The Umstead Coalition website, umsteadcoalition.org.


Hiking for a Hundred Years
Sat., April 16, at 2 p.m.
Mount Jefferson State Natural Area, West Jefferson


Hike up and over the ridgeline, making your way to Luther Rock. From that point, look across the state at some of the other towering parks that share the vast scenic horizons.


Grandfather Mountain 100-Mile Challenge
Fri., April 22, from 12-4 p.m.
Grandfather Mountain State Park, Linville


Observe Earth Day with a Centennial 100-Mile Challenge event. Hikers join a ranger on a 4-mile hike - trekking the Nuwati Trail to the Cragway Trail, up to Flat Rock View and returning on the Daniel Boone Scout Trail. The walk takes place at a slow, but moderately strenuous, pace and lasts about 4 hours.


Concert in the Park; 5k Trail Run; Battle Observance
Fri., April 22, at 6 p.m.; Sat., April 23 at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Fort Macon State Park, Atlantic Beach


Delight in the harmony between natural setting and live music with a concert in the fort on Friday night; dedicate the newly constructed nature trail early Saturday morning; and attend the reenactment of the Battle of Fort Macon later in the day.



Cemetery Visit
Sun., April 24, at 1 p.m.
Lake James State Park, Nebo


Visit the area's old cemeteries to grasp the importance of inscriptions on the tombstones. Lake James State Park has three known cemeteries within its borders and each holds the key to understanding the early settlers who lived there as far back as the 18th century.

Paddle for the Border
Sat., April 30, at 7:30 a.m.
Dismal Swamp State Park,
South Mills


Participate in the 13th annual Paddle for the Border. This event is held in conjunction with the City of Chesapeake Parks and Recreation and the Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center.


Millpond Day
Sat., April 30, starting at 8:30 a.m.
Merchants Millpond State Park, Gatesville


Start Millpond Day off by participating in the 5K Family Fun Run/Walk. Open to everyone - bring your dogs, strollers and the whole family.


Free t-shirts go to the first 100 participants. Starting at 10 a.m. there are arts and crafts, food, live music, wagon rides, a kayak scavenger hunt and more.