By Brad Lane
No matter the time of year, Iowa has many great hiking trails waiting to be explored. Traverse through the woods or follow a route along a scenic trout stream. Iowa’s natural beauty is best experienced on foot, and these five great hiking trails will help you do just that.
A popular place for Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty residents to rekindle with natural surroundings, the Woodpecker Trail system that explores the shores of the Coralville Lake is a scenic destination. At times, surrounded by jagged rocks of the shoreline, it’s easy to forget you’re exploring an Iowa landscape that is often associated with cornfields and agriculture, and with the 3.5 miles of the Woodpecker Trail to explore, plus other trail systems that connect and wind through the Coralville Reservoir area, you can spend many days seeing all that this scenic Iowa trail system has to offer.
Located in the southeastern corner of the state of Iowa, Lacey-Keosauqua State Park is situated along the Des Moines river and features not only a numerous amount of quality trails, but a plethora of flora and fauna found alongside them. For your first visit to Lacey-Keosauqua, the 2.1-mile Lake Trail is a good place to start exploring this celebrated state park. From there you can branch off to numerous other trails that explore the rich diversity of this usually quiet state park. With camping options available, it would be easy to spend a whole weekend getting lost in the woods at Lacey-Keosauqua.
Standing at 1,670 feet above sea level, Hawkeye Point is the highest piece of land in the entire state of Iowa. In proximity to the Minnesota border, Hawkeye Point is easy to access and the short trail leading up to this highpoint is easily manageable by every member of the family. While the hike up to the commemorative Hawkeye Point won’t test your physical strength too much, it’s worth your time at the top to appreciate that you are currently the tallest person in the state, and the views from that vantage point aren’t half-bad either!
The defining attraction of Rock Creek State Park in eastern Iowa is the massive Rock Creek Lake, of which can easily be explored via the multi-use, 7.8-mile Rock Creek Lake Trail. Circumnavigating the southern portion of the lake, the Rock Creek Lake Trail exposes users to the many ecosystems crafted by the surrounding water and forest. Because it’s a multi-use trail, hikers can expect to see mountain bikers and horse riders on the trail besides them, but with enough trail to explore, plus a few more branching from this main thoroughfare, there is plenty of explorable area to share.
Though most of the hiking trails featured in Iowa are comprised of dirt and many footsteps, the 11-mile, paved and looped Trout Run Trail in Decorah is worth putting on the list. Not only does it provide a great way to walk or ride throughout the stunning Decorah landscape, but as implied by the name, the Trout Run Trail also parallels the Decorah Trout Hatchery, Iowa’s second largest trout hatchery. The Trout Run Trail crosses the active trout stream numerous times, giving hikers and bikers the chance to check out all the trout action and scenic surroundings the entire way. Since the Trout Run Trail was constructed as a loop to return you back to your starting point, this celebrated Decorah pathway is the perfect spot in Iowa for a nice, long hike in some of Iowa’s most scenic surroundings.