Start the new year off with a First Day Hike in an Iowa state park

DES MOINES — Iowans are being encouraged to make plans to spend some time on New Year’s Day of 2024 in the state’s great outdoors by taking part in any of two dozen First Day Hikes, hosted by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

Sherry Arntzen, chief of the DNR’s State Parks, Forests, and Preserves Bureau, says this is the 13th year the state’s offered these free, brisk treks on trails through state parks and forests on January 1st.

“We have nearly 20 state parks that are participating in staff-led or friends group-led hikes,” Arntzen says. “We do have some other parks that have self-guided hike opportunities that you can do at any time on January 1st, so we’re really excited to be able to offer this again.”

The rationale is, if folks start off their new year getting out and into nature, being physical, soaking in some sunshine and fresh air, maybe it’ll be the beginning of a healthy habit.

“First Day Hikes are a great way for everybody to get outside, get some exercise, enjoy our wonderful natural resources that we have,” Arntzen says, “and it’s a great way to welcome in the new year with family and maybe even meet a new friend or two.”

Some of the hikes will include wildlife viewing opportunities and hot beverages and snacks afterwards. The hikes will average one to two miles, or longer, depending on the location.

“We do have a number of wonderful vistas or scenic views on our trail system,” Arntzen says, “so if we have guided hikes there, they’ll talk a little bit about it. They’ll talk about the resource and of course, it’s always a treat to see the different kinds of wildlife: birds, deer, turkey, that you’ll see when you go on the hikes.”

The hikes on January 1st of 2024 will also mark the start of the 100th anniversary years for two Iowa state parks: Ledges and Pilot Knob. Find details about each hike at the website: www.iowadnr.gov/firstdayhikes

The Pilot Knob State Park near Forest City’s hike starts at 1 o’clock on New Year’s Day from the Warming House parking lot.