5 Energizing Hikes in Iowa

By Brad Lane

5 Energizing Hikes in Iowa

Nature’s best endorphins come from great hikes, and if you are looking for a little pick-me-up activity in Iowa, you don’t have to look very far for a great hiking trail to navigate. Spread out across the state, from the luscious Loess Hills in the west to the rocky outcroppings over the Mississippi River in the East, an energizing hike in Iowa is easy to find. To get those legs moving in the right direction, a great place to start for an exciting time are these five energizing hikes in Iowa.

1. West Lake and East Lake Trails at Backbone State Park

Located in the stunning northeast region of Iowa, and with over 20 miles of trail to explore, Backbone State Park is an Iowa hiker’s dream come true. There are a lot of energizing hikes when it comes to Backbone State Park, and for the best bang for your buck, the West and East Lake Trails really delivers on it all. Stretching out for three and 2.42-miles respectively, the West and East Lake Trails follow the shore of Backbone Lake, navigating through a dense Iowa ecosystem and some of the most beautiful landscapes in the Iowa State Park system. The East Lake Trail also connects to the state-famous Backbone Trail, which will get your heart pumping based on the view alone. 

2. Sylvan-Runkel State Preserve Trail at Loess Hills

Located in the luscious Loess Hills of western Iowa, if you really want to get the full dose of this unbelievably beautiful Iowa environment, the Sylvan-Runkel State Preserve takes you far and along this magnificent landscape. If you want to complete this 12.4-mile out-and-back trail however, you can only spend so much time smelling the wildflowers. This scenic state preserve trail will have you convinced that Iowa might be the most beautiful state in the country. 

3. Calcite Trail at Mines of Spain Recreation Area

While there are plenty of hiking options when it comes to the Mines of Spain Recreation Area, if you want to find the one that will get your quads burning most, the Calcite Trail is right for you. Coming in at just over two miles, the Calcite Trail exposes the native rock that defines much of the recreation area. The steepest section of the Calcite Trail comes right out of the parking lot, which then leads to great views of the nearby Mississippi River. To continue the adventure from the Calcite Trail, users can connect to the Mesquakie or Horseshoe Bluff Trail, which can lead to many full days of adventure.  

4. Squire Point and Woodpecker Trail Systems

There are a few trails in Iowa containing so much scenic beauty that it’s easy to forget what state you’re exploring in. A great example of that can be found with the Squire Point and Woodpecker Trail Systems near the Coralville Lake. While navigating around the rocky banks of the Coralville Lake, trail users experience slight elevation changes, scenic stopping points, and a full dose of the natural Iowa scene. Whether you run them, walk them, or search for some abundant geocaches surrounding them, the Squire Point and Woodpecker Trail Systems will get you ready to tackle the rest of the week. 

5. Crow’s Nest Trail at Ledges State Park, Madrid, IA

Situated in one of Iowa’s most popular state parks, the Crow’s Nest Trail in Ledges State Park will get those legs moving and blood pumping. The entire state park gives glimpse towards the rocky bluffs and deep pockets of forest that define Ledges, and many of the trails lend towards steep steps and fantastic overlooks, including most notably, the Crow’s Nest Trail. Make it to the top of this short, steep trail however, and not only will you feel a sense of accomplishment, but you’ll get a great view alongside it. While you are there, be sure to take advantage of all the trails and views offered by Ledges, and you’ll leave feeling refreshed and renewed. 

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