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Experience Iowa's natural beauty and all the fun our state parks offer. Make your online reservation for state park cabins, camping sites, shelters and lodges.
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Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and once you have finished the big meal with friends and family, the next question will be: how will we spend Black Friday? Consider taking it outside this holiday season!
Pick an activity based on weather conditions and your family’s interests, and consider visiting one of Iowa’s state parks, forests or recreations areas for a dose of nature to help you relax and exercise. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
1. Take a hike. You can walk for miles in Iowa’s state parks, trail systems and nature areas. Bundle up and enjoy viewing wildlife, the solitude of the “off season,” or introduce an out-of-state relative to a bit of Iowa beauty. For places to go, visit the DNR’s trails web page.
2. Let’s go hunting. Many families enjoy spending Thanksgiving out in the field hunting together. Consider bringing a novice along with you, perhaps a neighbor or cousin who has never been out hunting before, with the Apprentice Hunting License. Learn more on the DNR’s Let’s Go Hunting web page.
3. Enjoy a scenic drive. Load up the car and visit a state or county park. With dozens of parks to choose from, late fall and winter provide unique viewing and scenic beauty. Additionally, Travel Iowa has great recommendations for some of Iowa’s most scenic routes.
4. Reserve your spot. Consider spending part of the holiday in one of the state park’s cabins or camping spots. State parks are open for camping year-round; however, facilities are limited to pit latrines and water is available only through frost-free hydrants. Electricity is available. To prepare in advance, make a reservation on the DNR’s reservation page, and check out the DNR state park alerts and closures page to make sure you know the specific winterizing plans for your state park.
5. Pedal a trail. Don’t hang up that bike just yet. It may take a little extra clothing, but cool-weather biking can be an invigorating way to explore Iowa parks. Before the snow flies and while these paved bike trails are clear, try Big Creek, George Wyth or Green Valley state parks. Their bike trails all connect to other networks in the area. Or consider the newest trend in biking and conquer winter on a fat-tire bike.
6. Cast a line. Fall and winter provide a picturesque setting to catch trout with less competition and no bugs. While Backbone State Park is Iowa’s only state park with a trout stream, there are streams near Pikes Peak State Park, Yellow River State Forest and Volga River State Recreation Area. Or take advantage of Iowa’s many urban trout stockings, where local ponds and lake have been stocked with rainbow trout for a new opportunity that’s easily accessible for all age groups and abilities. Check out the DNR’s trout fishing page for details and stocking information.
7. Grab those skinny skis. Some people are actually crossing their fingers for an early snowfall so they can get out their cross-country skis and head down the trail. Head out to one of Iowa’s state parks and forests like Pilot Knob, Mines of Spain, Volga River or Yellow River State Forest, which have groomed trails for cross-country skiing.
Take it outside this holiday season. For more information about state parks and recreation areas, visit www.iowadnr.gov/parks or check out our Iowa State Parks and Natural Iowa Travel boards on Pinterest.
Take a photo of your adventures outside and share it with the hashtags #IowaStateParks, #OptOutside, #TakeItOutside and #TakeItOutsideIowa