Plan Your New Year At Iowa’s State Parks

These hikers are exploring the trails at Big Creek State Park. Parks throughout the state are open all winter. Photo: Brian Button.

Writer: Beth Eslinger

Coming off their 100th anniversary—and a year when outdoor activities saw a popularity surge due to COVID-19—the state’s parks continue to entice Iowans with hiking, biking, angling and more.

While the Department of Natural Resources is pivoting from organized First Day Hikes events this year due to social-distancing concerns (last year saw more than 400 trekking through Walnut Woods on Jan. 1, for example), the DNR is continuing to promote diverse activities through the Iowa Park Passport.

Through the free app, you can explore trails for hiking, biking and snowshoeing, and also discover cabins, camping, shelter rentals and other amenities. Every park you visit, the app automatically stamps your passport using geofencing. As New Year’s Day falls on a Friday this year, the DNR staff anticipates crowds won’t be as concentrated, so it’s a perfect time to bag a few new parks and start logging your 2021 experiences.


“This year really shined a light on how valuable and vital Iowa state parks are to residents and travelers,” said Jessica O’Riley, tourism communications manager at the Iowa Economic Development Authority. “We’re fortunate to have such an impressive range of parks to suit anyone’s passions. The parks provided the perfect venue to be active while still practicing social distancing.”

Click here to get access to the free app. Or text PARKS to 515-531-5995.

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