Get your hiking boots on - we've found nine parks with miles of great and scenic trails.
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.
Extend the adventure: Learn about the notorious inmates that were housed inside the Anamosa Penitentiary Museum and grab lunch at The General Store Pub. Then, spend the evening in rustic luxury by booking one of the Central Park Cabins in nearby Center Junction.
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.
Extend the adventure: Rest your legs and embrace the area's railroad history with a ride aboard the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad. Then, refuel with a classic meal from the Colorado Grill, sip unique brews at Boone Valley Brewing Co. or venture out to Ogden to sample one of the state's best breaded tenderloins at The Lucky Pig. Finally, spend a night in comfort at the Cobblestone Inn & Suites in Boone.
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.
Extend the adventure: Shop your way through downtown Dundee shops like Iowa Makers and Snowy River Gallery. Then, enjoy dinner and a night surrounded by history at the Franklin Hotel in Strawberry Point, which is also home to the World's Largest Strawberry.
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.
Extend the adventure: Dive into area history with a visit to the Hardin County Farm Museum or the Eldora Welcome Center & Railroad Museum. Then, grab a bite to eat at the Firehouse Saloon & Grill and settle in for a rustic retreat in one of the Tower Rock Cabins in Steamboat Rock.
Located on the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail near Hamburg, Waubonsie State Park’s trails feature scenic overlooks. 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.
Extend the adventure: Embrace the area's rodeo notoriety with a tour of the Fremont County History Center & Iowa's Championship Rodeo Museum in Sidney. Treat yourself to a delicious dinner at Whip's Steakhouse or savory nostalgia at the Penn Drug soda fountain. Then, book a campsite at the state park or enjoy more off-grid camping experiences at Horse Creek Adventures.
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.
Extend the adventure: Continue the outdoor exploration at Effigy Mounds National Monument. Refuel with a classic American meal at Portside Bar and Supper Club. Then, experience a stay unlike anywhere else at the Paint Creek Lodge, which has its own swimming pond, waterfalls and hot tub.
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.
Extend the adventure: Head to nearby Sioux City and tour the award-winning Art Center. Sit down to an authentic Italian meal at Trattoria Fresco or Vietnamese food and drinks at Da Kao. Then, settle down for a night of luxury at the Warrior Hotel.
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.
Extend the adventure: Go on a shopping spree throughout Missouri Valley's boutiques and shops, visit the state's only lavender farm or learn about the lost organic aronia berry at Sawmill Hollow. Enjoy an old-fashioned sandwich and shake at Penny's Diner or authentic Mexican dishes at Campo Azul. And book a campsite or cabin at the Hitchcock Nature Center Campground or grab a room at the Travelodge in Missouri Valley.
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.
Extend the adventure: Enjoy the best of summer and fall fun and seasonal events at Center Grove Orchard in Cambridge. Then, continue north into Ames and try Brazilian fare at Café Beaudelaire or the best of comfort food at Aunt Maude's. Sample local brews at Torrent Brewing Company. Then, choose from one of Ames' various hotels to enjoy a comfortable stay.