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7 Ways Iowans Can "Take It Outside" this Holiday Season

  • 11/15/2017 10:06:00 AM
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With Thanksgiving just around the corner, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is encouraging families to consider spending part of their holiday enjoying Iowa’s outdoors.

“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,” said Todd Coffelt, chief of the Iowa DNR’s State Parks Bureau.

Here are a few of Iowa’s best fall and winter outdoor activities:

Take a hike. 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.

Go hunting. Many families enjoy spending Thanksgiving in the field hunting together. Consider bringing a novice along, perhaps a neighbor or cousin who has never been hunting before.

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 provides unique viewing and scenic beauty.

Reserve a 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 for specific winterizing plans for each state park.

Pedal a trail. Cool-weather biking can be an invigorating way to explore Iowa’s immense trail system. Or consider the newest trend in biking and conquer winter on a fat-tire bike.

Cast a line. Fall and winter provides 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.

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. Check out one of Iowa’s state parks and forests that have groomed trails for cross-country skiing. Take it outside this holiday season. 

For more information about state parks and ideas for outdoor activities, go to