Todd Coffelt, chief of the Iowa DNR’s State Parks Bureau, says hikers get the chance to experience the quiet beauty of nature in winter as well as spectacular views and a host of cultural treasures offered by Iowa’s state parks. “The ability for people to get out and exercise in a controlled environment,” Coffelt says. “You have other people there, you have the support. A lot of the locations have a warming house so there’s going to be a fire going, some coffee and hot cocoa. This is the best way to get started on some of those resolutions.”
Many parks have hosted the First Day Hikes for five years now with 27 parks participating this time. Coffelt says the hikes are a great way to get outside, exercise, enjoy nature and welcome the New Year with friends and family, in addition to learning about the parks.
“You’re going to see wildlife, you’re going to see birds, you’re going to see the habitat as it exists in these beautiful areas that we have, and all the while, you’re going to be going through the hike, listening and following and watching,” Coffelt says. “Before you know it, it’ll be over and you’ll have your steps in for the day, you’ll get started on the resolution and hopefully, you’ll make a new friend.”
The hikes will all start off relatively short — but they can also be much longer depending on the location. “Staff are pretty cognizant that we have a lot of different user groups and that some of them are going to be a mile long, some are going to be a mile and a half and some will be as long as you want,” Coffelt says. “You can get a hike in all the way around the lake, you can get a hike in all the way around the park and a lot of those parks have different opportunities.”
In past years, more than 1,200people began the year in an Iowa state park, hiking more than 1,100 total miles.
The 2019 First Day Hikes will be held in the following northwest Iowa parks: Big Creek State Park, Dolliver Memorial State Park, Gitchie Manitou State Preserve, Ledges State Park, Pilot Knob State Park, Prairie Rose State Park, Springbrook State Park and Stone State Park.
In southwest Iowa at: Green Valley State Park, Lake Anita State Park, and Waubonsie State Park.
In southeast Iowa at: Elk Rock State Park, Lacey-Keosauqua State Park, Lake Darling State Park, Lake Wapello State Park, Walnut Woods State Park and Wildcat Den State Park.
In northeast Iowa at: Bellevue State Park, Cedar Rock State Park, Lake Macbride State Park, Maquoketa Caves State Park, Mines of Spain State Recreation Area, Pikes Peak State Park, Pine Lake State Park, Union Grove State Park, Volga River State Recreation Area and Yellow River State Forest.