The Iowa Department of Natural Resource’s annual First Day Hike Challenge will feature a virtual component this weekend.

The DNR and Travel Iowa sponsor the event, but because of COVID-19 concerns, the hikes will not be guided tours as in previous years. Thus, Iowans are invited to ring in the new year first by signing up for the DNR’s digital State Park Passport. Through the passport, every time a park visitor checks into any of the more than 50 participating state parks tomorrow through Sunday, they receive an entry into a drawing for a free two-night stay in a two-bedroom cabin at Lake Darling State Park near Brighton.

Lake Darling Park Ranger Zach Haworth says they were just fortunate to be selected to provide the prize, “Our cabins have been extremely popular and very well received by the public and they’ve been getting so much throughout the summer and now into the winter. It’s just become a very popular destination, not just for folks who live relatively close to Lake Darling, we get people who come from all over the state to stay in our cabins. I guess we were the lucky ones to be picked for the grand prize.”

Haworth says the first day hikes have been a very popular event which they co-sponsor with the Friends of Lake Darling, the non-profit group that supports the park.  He says they hope in  2022  they can return to holding a group hike to show what Lake Darling has to offer.

Link to the digital State Park Passport