For all of you who have resolved to get more exercise, start the new year on the right foot with a brisk hike! Choose from an easy stroll to moderate level hike taking place at many of Iowa’s State Parks. These FREE, guided hikes are held annually on New Year’s Day as part of the America’s State Parks First Day Hikes initiative.
Before heading out to your destination, please call ahead and confirm that the hike will be taking place. Last year, the hikes were cancelled due to frigid temps.
First Day Hikes at Iowa State Parks:
- Gitchie Manitou State Preserve – This moderate level hike will begin at 10:00 am. Guests are asked to meet at Gitchie Manitou parking lot, off Adams Ave; 52141 Adams Avenue to begin the 1.5-mile hike.
- Dolliver Memorial State Park – Head out on the Copperas Beds Trail bright and early at 9:00 am for this 1 to 1.5 miles hike.
- Stone State Park – Meet at 10:00 am at the parking lot near the park office; 150 yards inside the east entrance from Talbot Rd and Memorial Dr for this moderate level hike.
- Ledges State Park – Meet at 11:00 am and warm up around the fire at the Oak Woods Shelter and then join park staff to journey into the heart of the Ledges.
- Pilot Knob State Park – Please meet at the warming house at 1:00 pm. Depending on snow conditions other activities may take place after the hike.
- Big Creek State Park – Meet in the Disc Golf parking lot at 10:00 am for this moderate level 1 to 1.5 mile hike.
- Springbrook Conservation Education Center – The 2-3 miles hike is a journey through time, beginning in the present and hiking back in time until we reach the Ice Age! There will be stops along the way as you explore historically and geologically significant sites within Springbrook State Park.
- Prairie Rose State Park – Hikers will be going on an “Owl Prowl” to see if they can call in some owls and get them to answer back at 5:30 pm.
- Waubonsie State Park – Meet at Wa-Shawtee Lodge for a guided 1.5-2 mile hike through the hilly woods and prairies of Waubonsie State Park at 1:00 pm.
- Lake Anita State Park – Meet at 10:00 am for a moderate level 4+ mile hike (shorter routes available). Coffee, cocoa and snacks afterwards at park office.
- Green Valley State Park – The paved trail provides a flat terrain and easy hike that will take you along the shoreline of Green Valley Lake at 10:00 am.
- Walnut Woods State Park – This moderate leve guided hike will take you through the bottomland floodplain forest of the Raccoon River. Meet at the Walnut Woods Lodge at 9:00 am.
- Lake Wapello State Park– Join a naturalist at 1:00 pm at the park for a moderate 1.25 mile hike.
- Lacey-Keosauqua State Park – Meet at the lodge at 10:00 am for a hike along the Des Moines River bluffs. Enjoy nature such as bald eagles and waterfowl.
- Lake Darling State Park – Start your trek at the Park Lodge at 10:00 am. You will hike 1.5 – 2 miles along the Ding Darling Interpretive Pathway.
- Elk Rock State Park and Equestrian Trail – Meet at equestrian shelter for a trail ride with your horse or walk the trail on foot. Chili feed provided before the hike starts at 12:00 noon.
- Wildcat Den State Park, – The 1.3 mile hike will begin at the Upper Picnic Area Shelter and follow the Lower Picnic Area Trail along Pine Creek, passing by Cave Steamboat.
- Lake Macbride State Park – 2.5 mile hike will take place on the Beach to Dam trail, departing from the open shelter portion of the Main Lodge. You will hike to the spillway and back.
- Maquoketa Caves State Park – The Stone Shelter will serve as the meeting point to start your hike at 1:00 pm. Both easy and moderate level guided hikes will be offered.
- Bellevue State Park – Starting from the Nature Center at 9:00 am, you will take the butterfly garden paved trail and link up with the quarry trail to the Felderman Park Bridge. You will walk across the bridge and do a loop and walk the same route back.
- Mines of Spain State Recreation Area – Hike the America’s State Tree Woodland Walk through tallgrass prairie, past trees and signage for all 50 states.
- Cedar Rock – The hike will be on moderately hilly terrain winding away from the park visitor center to the beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Walter Estate grounds.
- Pine Lake State Park – Enjoy a hike along the Wildcat and Hogsback Ridge Trail at 9:00 am. After the hike enjoy hot chocolate and a warm fire in Pine Creek Cabin.
- Pikes Peak State Park – If conditions allow you will hike the boardwalk down to Bridal Veil Falls and back. Leave on this 1.5-mile hike from the Stone Shelter at 1:00 pm.
- Union Grove State Park – Hike will begin and end with a warming fire, cookies, and hot chocolate. In between, local eagles might be spotted as well as signs of plentiful wildlife.
- Volga River State Recreation Area – The hike will begin at the sledding hill and follow the depot trail and loop back on the archery range woodland section. Remember to bring your sleds and toboggans to see how far down the sledding hill you can go after the hike.
Several participating Iowa State Parks are offering hot chocolate and warm beverages at the completion of the hikes and encourage visitors to stay and explore other areas or enjoy the quiet beauty of the parks in wintertime. Many also encourage people to bring or wear snowshoes if the conditions are appropriate.
For more information about hike locations, difficulty, length and more, visit http://www.iowadnr.gov/Things-to-Do/Hiking-Biking/First-Day-Hikes.
Will your family be stepping out on a First Day Hike in 2019? Let us know!