5 Stunning Fall Foliage Hikes in Iowa

By Brad Lane

5 Stunning Fall Foliage Hikes in Iowa

It has long been a fact that the fall in Iowa is the best season in the state. Alongside the cooler temperatures, the state comes to life with college football games, apple picking opportunities, and a brand-new palette of color to enjoy. The best way to experience the changing colors of Iowa involves hiking atop the fallen leaves, and across the state amongst its many state parks. You can find stunning fall foliage hikes that can transport you to a whole new world. To get your hiking boots pointed in the right direction, it’s recommended to aim your compass to these five stunning fall foliage hikes in Iowa. 

1. Yellow River State Forest

Home to the colorful Paint Creek Unit, Yellow River State Forest is Iowa’s largest state forest, and perhaps its most notable when it comes to stunning fall foliage. With 25 miles of marked trails throughout the Paint Creek Unit alone, Yellow River State Forest is home to Iowa’s best backpacking trails, and there is little better way to enjoy the changing the colors than spending the night amongst them. Expect some bright colors in the Yellow River State Forest, it will surely leave you with sights to remember. 

2. Stone State Park

Located in the scenic Loess Hills of Eastern Iowa, Stone State Park is a natural getaway to see some of the best fall colors in Iowa. Complete with picnic areas, hiking trails, and campgrounds, there are many ways to enjoy the changing colors of fall at Stone State Park. A recommended course of action when visiting this celebrated state park is to spend some time at the Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center to learn a bit more about the beautiful surrounding that encompass Stone State Park. After you’re done learning about the environment, it adds to the experience of exploring all the beautiful colors. 

3. Ledges State Park

Serving as one of Iowa’s most popular state parks, Ledges offers some of the best views of Iowa landscapes throughout the year, and when autumn rolls around, it really begins to pop with some color. Even the parking lot of Ledges State Park offers plenty of foliage to admire, but to really take advantage of this scenic state park, hiking the four miles of trails is really worth your while. For those limited in their mobility, Ledges State Park also offers a fully accessible interpretive trail that lends access to some fall color, making this state park a great place for the whole family to enjoy fall wonder. 

4. Maquoketa State Park

While the caves of Maquoketa State Park are fun to explore throughout the snow-free months of the year, when the colors of autumn surround this unique Iowa state park, it’s a whole other sight to see. Perhaps the most memorable experience to have at Maquoketa State Park is taking a stroll through the Grand Hall cave, which is easily big enough to drive a car through, and during the autumn is bookended by beautiful fall colors. While it may feel like you have traveled outside the state to experience it, a fall afternoon at Maquoketa Caves State Park provides an Iowa afternoon you’ll never forget.

5. Waubonsie State Park

Located in the far southeast corner of the state, Waubonsie State Park in Hamburg offers all types of fall foliage enjoyment. Whether you are looking for a scenic drive, a lengthy hiking trail or a great place to spend the night, Waubonsie State Park provides plenty of color to enjoy the experience. Offering both equestrian and hiking trails, Waubonsie State Park also provides tent site, RV sites, and camping cabins that can be utilized throughout the year. However you enjoy the changing weather at Waubonsie State Park, you’ll surely be provided plenty of fall foliage that can really add a touch of color to your experience. 

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