Get your hiking boots on - we've found nine parks with miles of great and scenic trails.
1. Wapsipinicon State Park
Named by Fodor’s as one of the “10 Best Spring Hikes in the U.S.,” Wapsipinicon State Park is located just south of Anamosa. The 1.4 mile trail “provides the perfect touch of nature along the Wapsipinicon River bank,” according to Fodor’s. Streams throughout the park provide opportunities for kids – and adults – to indulge in some splashing. Visitors can also check out the park’s small caves.
2. Ledges State Park
Named for the sandstone “ledges” that rise up to 100 feet around Pea’s Creek, this popular park near Boone is home to 13 miles of scenic hiking trails. While most of the trails are steep, a fully accessible interpretive trail around Lost Lake is located at the southern part of the park. In addition to hiking, check out the Des Moines River Water Trail that goes through the park as well as the Central State Park Bike Route (along county roads) connecting Ledges to Big Creek State Park and Springbrook State Park.
3. Backbone State Park
Located near Dundee, Backbone State Park is Iowa’s oldest state park and boasts more than 20 miles of multi-use trails. The Backbone Trail is less than a mile but provides rocky terrain unlike anywhere else in Iowa. Many park facilities were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s including cabins, a boat house, bridges and trails.
4. Pine Lake State Park
Located in Eldora, Pine Lake State Park offers more than 10 miles of trails. The southern shore of Lower Pine Lake boasts 250-year-old white pine trees. A self-guided nature trail runs between the Hogsback Picnic Area and the beach area. Trail brochures available at trail heads, the campground and the park office correspond to marked areas of interest on the trails.
5. Waubonsie State Park
Located on the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail near Hamburg, Waubonsie State Park’s trails feature scenic overlooks with views of four states. The popular Sunset Ridge Interpretive Trail gives visitors the chance to learn about native plants and trees as well as enjoy some of the best views in the park. For a true outdoor adventure, rent a camping cabin located in the park.
6. Yellow River State Forest
The “Backpack Trail” at Yellow River State Forest in Harpers Ferry was once named Iowa’s best hiking trail by Outdoor magazine. Open year-round, the trails range from relatively easy to moderate. The Paint Creek Unit includes more than 25 miles of marked and maintained trails.
7. Hillview Recreation Area
In addition to a 6-mile network of hiking trails, this park near Hinton offers a little bit of everything for the outdoor enthusiast. Kids will enjoy visiting the resident elk herd and butterfly garden. After hiking, cool off at the beach at Hillview Pond or try dropping a line for a fish. The park also allows horseback riding, hunting, cross-country skiing and both campground and cabin camping. Visit in winter to try the snow tubing hill.
8. Hitchcock Nature Area
Explore some of the last remaining prairie remnants in Iowa with the 10 miles of trails at the Hitchcock Nature Area near Honey Creek. The trails range from easy ridgeline walks along the hilltops to steep climbs among rugged prairie terrain. The network of trails allows you to choose the length and difficulty you desire. The trails are open to hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. In the winter, Chute Trail is converted to a popular sledding hill.
9. Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt
Chichaqua Bottoms is the perfect place to bring young or beginning hikers. With their short, easy (yet scenic) hikes along the Skunk River near Maxwell, you’re never far from shelters. You’ll be able to view natural habitats including oxbow river channels, marshes and wetlands as well as native prairie remnants. Don’t miss the 100-foot-long Warren pony truss bridge – one of only 17 remaining bridges in Iowa of this unique design.