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Ring in the New Year at One of These 25 Iowa State Parks!
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Ring in the New Year at One of These 25 Iowa State Parks!

Iowans are a resilient bunch. Find us sweating out a minor league baseball game during the dog days of summer and see us bundled up at our favorite ice fishing hole. Or join us to ring in the new year at a most unconventional location: an Iowa State Park.

Beginning in 2012, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources joined a national initiative challenging hearty explorers to defy the grips of winter and enjoy a state park hike. My family experienced the fun last year and had such a blast that we’re planning our return for the first day of 2017.

Picture this: The temperature hovered between 15 and 20 degrees, although a light westerly breeze added an extra chill to the air. We entered the quintessential lodge at Walnut Woods State Park in southern Des Moines where a roaring fire greeted us. We sat with about 50 other people, each carefully wrapped in layers of boots, insulated pants, hats, and scarves. We listened intently as the ranger instructed us about the morning’s hike. We would embark as a group, led by the ranger, on one of two adventures. The shorter route would equal about one mile, and a longer option extended to nearly three.

So off we went, excited to explore our state from a new cold weather perspective. The kids giddily trudged through the snow, kicking up plumes as they went. They jumped over some downed trees and climbed under others, stopping occasionally to accomplish an impromptu snow angel.

Adults of all ages and abilities enjoyed the hike’s leisurely pace. And the exercise was just enough comfortably warm our bodies. The ranger answered questions and shared information but left us ample time to make new friends among our outdoor compadres. My family peeled off at the one-mile mark, captured obligatory family pictures and headed back to the lodge for snacks, compliments of the park’s friends group.

In 2017, the Iowa DNR has expanded the list of parks offering First Day Hikes to 25 across the state. This New Year’s Day, leave hibernation to the bears and get out and explore Iowa.  

First Day Hike Locations Hikes at each park differ in length and difficulty. Learn more here.


1.) Gitchie Manitou State Preserve  

2.) McIntosh Woods State Park  

3.) Brushy Creek State Recreation Area

4.) Dolliver Memorial State Park

5.) Stone State Park

6.) Lewis and Clark State Park

7.) Ledges State Park

8.) Springbrook State Park (CEC)

9.) Prairie Rose State Park 


10.) Wilson Island State Recreation Area  

11.) Waubonsie State Park

12.) Lake Anita State Park

13.) Green Valley State Park


14.) Walnut Woods State Park  

15.) Honey Creek State Park 

16.) Lacey-Keosauqua State Park

17.) Lake Darling State Park 


18.) Lake Macbride State Park

19.) Pleasant Creek State Rec Area

20.) Maquoketa Caves State Park

21.) Mines of Spain State Rec Area

22.) Cedar Rock

23.) Pine Lake State Park

24.) Pikes Peak State Park

25.) Yellow River State Forest


More about dnr, parks, state, iowa

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  1. Travel Iowa Team
    Travel Iowa Team
    This is such great inspiration! Thanks for contributing to the Travel Iowa blog!
    Log in to reply.


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