The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is encouraging people to get outside and explore Connecticut's state parks and forests.
DEEP is celebrating spring's arrival by announcing locations for their annual Sky's the Limit Challenge. The 20 trails included this year have been handpicked by the staff of the state parks system.
"I personally along with a few others go and visit all the locations and all the sites just to make sure that the trails are appropriate. Our DEEP maps show exactly where the trails are marked, where the different sites are that we'd like you to kind of take a look at,” said Kristen Bellantuono, the Sky's the Limit Hiking Challenge coordinator.
The friendly competition awards certificates and medallions to participants who complete 15 of the selected hikes. If you check off all 20 locations, you'll be entered into a drawing to receive a hand-carved hiking stick.
"I think truly the reward is to get outside and enjoy the outdoors with friends, family, whomever you decide to hike with," Bellantuono said.
Each year the challenge has a different theme to it. This year is bridges, footbridge, and boardwalks all across the state.
"While some of the hikes are little bit shorter, some are a little bit longer,” Bellantuono said. "And along the way maybe visit the park, do a nice hike, spend some time afterwards with family, friends, whomever."
Hundreds of Connecticut residents participate every year, but DEEP is always encouraging more people who enjoy the outdoors to join in on the fun.
“I love it. I’m actually a big hiker, so I hike around the woods in this area and I go up to New Hampshire a lot so I just love being in the woods,” said Brenda Abbott, of Simsbury. “I think it’s cool. I would definitely do it, definitely do it. I’ll probably sign up.”
“Every hike is like a new experience and you’re always kind of surprised,” said John Grim, of Simsbury. “I know people that live in other states -- you know sometimes they have to go a long distance to get to a state park but we just seem to have so many just so close so I think that’s really great for Connecticut.”
In fact, no matter where you live in Connecticut, you're just 15 minutes from a state park or forest.
"This is really just a suggestion with Sky's the Limit,” Bellantuono said. “We have 110 state parks and 32 state forests so there's a lot of area across the state to cover."
DEEP is still asking park visitors to wear masks and social distance. And don't forget to come prepared with essentials like water and bug spray, and always let someone know if you plan to go on a hike alone. For more information on how to participate in Sky's the Limit, click here.