Make it a weekend to remember by exploring not one, not two, but three parks! With less than 100 miles between parks, there’s plenty of time to hike, swim, fish, camp and stargaze.
More One Weekend, Three Park ideas:
DRIFTLESS AREA | EASTERN IOWA | NORTH CENTRAL IOWA | SOUTH CENTRAL IOWA | SOUTHEAST IOWA | SOUTHWEST IOWA
1. Hitchcock Nature Center
The 45-foot-tall tower, located adjacent to the Loess Hills Lodge Interpretive Facility, provides a unique bird’s eye view of the Loess Hills and adjacent landforms. From September to December, bird watchers gather to observe and count thousands of eagles, hawks and other raptors. In 2003, the area was designated Iowa’s first important bird area.
Open to the public during regular park hours, the archery range provides targets at varying distances for all skill levels. Archers must use field point arrows.
A 10-mile trail system offers plenty of opportunities for hiking, birding, cross country skiing and snow shoeing. Because of the rugged Loess Hill terrain, trails range from easy ridgeline walks to difficult climbs.
2. Lewis & Clark State Park
Explorers Meriwether Lewis and Captain William Clark stopped in the site where the park is now located on their legendary 1804 expedition. The keelboat display room includes a full-size replica of Lewis and Clark’s keelboat/barge, two pirogues, a dugout canoe and a bull boat.
The 250-acre lake features a beach for swimming, a double boat ramp and is stocked with panfish, bass, channel catfish and northern pike.
More than 30 acres of picnic grounds with tables, fire grills and drinking water are popular with families. Two open shelters are available for use on a first come/first serve basis and may be rented through the park office. A 1930s lodge, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, can also be reserved for events.
3. Preparation Canyon State Park
The 344-acre park in the Loess Hills, largely untouched by humans, is surrounded by dramatic ridges on three sides. It provides a beautiful backdrop for hikers.
To help protect the canyon’s natural seclusion, camping is restricted to hike-in camping only at designated sites. Each of the 10 hike-in sites include a picnic table and fire grill.
Some of the most diverse species habitats of prairies and forests in Iowa can be found in the park including bur oak, ferns, jack-in-the-pulpit, pasque flowers, columbine, regal fritillary and others, not to mention bobcats, deer, great plains skink, songbirds, turkey and other nongame species.