Are you looking for the best trails for hiking in Iowa? If yes, then you have come to the right place.
Iowa, a beautiful state in Midwest, is home to several scenic hiking trails but most people are not aware of them.
They generally think that Iowa is all about the flatland and cornfields but that couldn’t be further away from the truth.
From rolling hills to waterfalls, there are many amazing places to go hiking in Iowa.
If you are also looking to enjoy a few nature hikes in Iowa, then we have prepared this perfect list for you.
There are many amazing state parks with hiking trails in Iowa that you can explore on a weekend or a short trip.
All you need is your backpack, and a few essentials and you are ready for amazing hiking adventures in Iowa.
Read on to know more about the 15 scenic trails for hiking in Iowa that you simply cannot miss.
15 Scenic Trails for Hiking in Iowa
Located in west-central Iowa, Loess Hills State Forest is an 11,266 acres park that is ideal for hiking in Iowa.
This state forest offers a unique landscape for hiking and camping that is not seen in other parts of Iowa.
From discovering rare plants to wandering in the prairie to dramatic ridges, there is a lot to explore in the Loess Hills region on your Iowa hiking adventure.
Whether you are looking for a hiking path in Iowa to take your family or for a primitive Iowa camping experience, Loess Hills State Forest is a great place to go hiking in Iowa for everyone.
Dunnings Spring Park Is A Great Place For Hiking In Iowa
If you are looking for gorgeous places to hike in Iowa, then you should check out Dunnings Spring Park.
This family-friendly park in Decorah, located close to the Ice Cave, is one of the top places to go hiking in Iowa.
The easy nature hike in Iowa leads to a gorgeous waterfall that is perfect for a short day trip with family and friends.
There are several hiking trails marked around the waterfall for you to explore to enjoy a gorgeous view of this waterfall.
That’s not all, some of these trails take you up to enjoy a view of Decorah city in Iowa as well.
So, if you are looking for great places for hiking in Iowa, then consider Dunnings Spring Park.
Preparation Canyon State Park
Located in the heart of Loess Hills, Preparation Canyon State Park is one of the best parks with hiking trails in Iowa.
This state park features an area of 344 acres and offers lots of lovely backcountry hiking trails in Iowa, picnicking spots, and gorgeous views of the hills.
This Iowa hiking trail passes through hills and valleys and leads to a nature study area where you can enjoy a primitive camping experience.
This state park also has a rich history as it was once a Mormon township until the land was sold to the state of Iowa.
With intriguing history, unique landscape, and raw terrain, Preparation Canyon State Park is one of the top places for hiking in Iowa.
Effigy Mounds National Monument
Another great place to visit to enjoy day hiking in Iowa is Effigy Mounds National Monument in Harpers Ferry.
This is one of the four national parks in Iowa, and one of the most interesting national parks in the Midwest.
The park has a 14-mile trail system that takes you through wonderful views and the over 200 effigy mounds which are considered sacred by the American Indians.
The 7-mile Eagle Rock Trail is a great hiking path in Iowa that allows you to enjoy a look at these large rock outcroppings along with the majestic Mississippi.
Hike beside the limestone outcroppings and learn more about these mounds while admiring the unique flora and fauna found here.
Maquoketa Caves State Park Is A Cool Place For Hiking In Iowa
If you are looking to explore a unique hiking path in Iowa, then look no further than the Maquoketa Caves State Park.
This is one of the best parks with hiking trails in Iowa for the weekend and features 15 small caves in Iowa that are connected via bridges and boardwalks.
Here, you can hike to explore a diverse range of caves which can be both fun and challenging.
There is also a 50-foot tall, graded Natural Bridge cave that you can walk through. Honestly, the stunning limestone formations at these caves offer a unique hiking experience to the visitors.
So, if you are interested in caving and exploring some gorgeous caves in the state, then you should go hiking at Maquoketa Caves State Park.
Bellevue State Park
Another great Iowa hiking trail for avid hikers can be found in Bellevue State Park which is known for its history, archaeology, and natural beauty.
It is one of the top places to hike in Iowa where the hikers can enjoy beautiful views of the Mississippi River from the overlooks.
The park features a total of 7 miles of trails that will take you through different kinds of landscapes.
From river trails to prairies, to primitive lime kilns, these hiking trails will take you to all kinds of places in the park.
For nature lovers, the Nelson Unit Trail is perfect as it leads to the Butterfly Garden where you can admire both perennial and annual flowers along with 60 types of butterflies.
This is one of the reasons why Bellevue State Park is a great place to go hiking in Iowa for everyone from families to friends.
This is beautiful to experience fall in Iowa!
Cedar Rapids Palisades State Park
If you are looking for a fun hiking path in Iowa, then Palisades Kepler State Park in Cedar Rapids is a perfect choice.
This beautiful Iowa state park is located on the banks of Cedar River and offers views of deep ravines, majestic bluffs, and varying wildlife on its hiking trails.
It features 5 miles of trails that will take you through diverse forest habitats and wildlife.
Plus, if you plan a hike in the spring, then you will also encounter a diverse range of wildflowers along the trail.
After hiking, you can choose to go fishing in the Cedar River or camp at one of the campgrounds, or rent a cabin for a peaceful stay in this park.
So, if you are looking for a beautiful place to go hiking in Iowa, then Palisades Kepler State Park is a must-visit destination.
Pikes Peak State Park
One of the most beautiful parks with hiking trails in Iowa, Pikes Peak State Park is located in McGregor and is a great place to hike for nature lovers.
It is located near Effigy Mounds National Monument and offers unparalleled views of the majestic Mississippi River from the bluffs.
The park features 11 miles of hiking trails including the Chinquapin Trail and Weeping Rock Trail.
However, one of the best hiking trails that you cannot skip in Pikes Peak State Park is the Point Ann Trail which takes you to a 500-foot bluff.
From here, you can enjoy not just the views of the Mississippi River but the sweeping countryside in eastern Iowa as well.
Brown’s Woods Forest Reserve is a 486 acres area forest park and features one of the top hiking trails in Des Moines.
It is one of the best places to go hiking in Iowa where you have four miles of hiking trails that cover sloping hills, small streams, oak trees, and more.
These Des Moines hiking trails are interconnected and form several loops that can be fun to explore with friends and family members.
Trust me, if you are looking to enjoy a nature hike in Iowa, then this Des Moines hiking trail is perfect for you!
Lake MacBride State Park
Lake MacBride State Park offers you the best hiking in Iowa experience and is perfect for bird-watchers, hikers, and bicyclists.
There are many amazing trails to explore here including the 4.7-mile North Shore trail that connects the park to the city of Solon.
On this scenic trail, you will come across amazing water views, an abundance of flora and fauna, and an insight into life in the state.
That’s not all, there are several hiking trails that you take around Lake MacBride and can even lead you up to some gorgeous Iowa waterfalls in this park.
If you are looking for a place to go day hiking in Iowa, then Lake MacBride State Park is definitely a good choice.
Backbone State Park
With around 21 miles of trails, Backbone State Park is undoubtedly the best place to hike in Iowa.
This was the very first state park in Iowa where visitors can enjoy hiking amidst beautiful scenery and bridges and can enjoy camping in Iowa at night.
One of the top hiking trails that you cannot miss out here is the 0.84-mile Backbone Trail which takes you to the highest spot in the state with magnificent views.
You can enjoy a rock climbing or rappelling experience from the limestone cliffs that are found in abundance here.
This is why for the best hiking in Iowa experience, we recommend you plan a visit to the Backbone State Park in Dundee, one of the small towns in Iowa not to miss!
Ledges State Park
One of the top parks with hiking trails in Iowa, Ledges State Park, is located close to Des Moines.
This is one of the best things to do in Des Moines and visitors can enjoy stunning views of Des Moines River from the hiking trails here.
The defining feature of this state park is the sandstone canyons, or ledges, which give a panoramic view of the Des Moines River.
Visitors can climb the canyons or hike the Lost Lake trail to enjoy a look at the river with their families or friends.
Although Ledges State Park only has 4.6-miles of hiking trails, the gorgeous scenery makes it a perfect destination for day hikes.
So, whether you are looking to go hiking in Iowa with family or wish to enjoy a camping adventure with your friends, Ledges State Park is the perfect place to visit in Iowa.
If you work up an appetite, after camping you may want to check out all the restaurants in Des Moines!
Hitchcock Nature Center Is One Of The Best Places For Hiking In Iowa
Some of the best Iowa hiking trails are located at Iowa’s Loess Hills, including the Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek.
This place features a 10-mile trail system that includes some of the best and largest remaining prairies in Iowa.
These hiking paths in Iowa are some of the best in the Midwest area and are home to a unique variety of animals and plants.
From easy ridgeline walks to steep climbs, you can find hiking trails suited for all experience levels here.
Apart from hiking, Hitchcock Nature Center also offers other outdoor activities such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding, star gazing, and more.
If you are looking for a peaceful hiking experience in Iowa with stunning views, then Hitchcock Nature Center is the perfect place.
Southwoods Park is one of the most gorgeous parks in West Des Moines and is famous for enjoying a nature hike in Iowa.
This 40-acre preserve is home to beautiful wildflowers and several hiking trails, making it the top place to hike in this region.
Most of the trails in this park are short and take you through woods and along the creek, making it one of the most scenic trails in the state.
You can admire the wildflowers at the Rothchild Memorial Nature Trail or reach the creek with the Jordan Creek Trail.
So, whether you want to enjoy a pleasant nature walk or spend some time at the creek, you will easily find a hiking trail to suit your needs.
Wildcat Den State Park
Located just a mile from the Mississippi River, Wildcat Den State Park is another great place to go hiking in Iowa.
Wildcat Den trail is one of the top Iowa hiking trails that is 4 miles long and takes you through picturesque outdoor fixtures.
From Devil’s Punchbowl to Fat Man’s Squeeze, you will cover several amazing things on this trail.
If that isn’t enough, you also come across several historical fixtures such as the 1848 Pine Creek Grist Mill, a schoolhouse near the historic Pine Creek bridge, and so on.
Hikers can choose to spend a day exploring this gorgeous trail and then camp near the Mississippi River or head back home.
This is why it is one of the best places for hiking in Iowa during the weekend.
One of the best hiking trails in Des Moines, Iowa is the Fort Des Moines County Park.
This 135-acre county park features a large pond that has over 2 miles of gravel and soft-surfaced trails surrounding the pond and going through the forest.
The park has a historical significance and offers lots of outdoor activities to enjoy apart from hiking. Visitors can enjoy a picnic, go fishing, paddling, or indulge in other fun activities here.
If you love hiking, then Savanna Loop Trail is one of the best Des Moines hiking trails.
It is a soft surface nature trail that takes you through the woods that can be easily accessed from the southeast side of the pond.
Packing List When Hiking In Iowa
If you are searching, here are some tips on how to pack lightly when packing to visit Iowa hiking trails.
A concealed travel pouch may be one of the most important items you bring along when hiking in Iowa. It is always important to protect your personal information. Identity thieves are everywhere.
This unisex RFID blocking concealed travel pouch is lightweight and comes in several colors. It has lots of organization to give you peace of mind. You can place it under your clothes next to your body to carry your ID safely.
If you have a pouch already that does not come with the RFID protection, as I do, these RFID sleeves are the perfect solution.
If you are planning on taking a lot of pictures with your phone you will definitely want to consider an external charging battery.
This Anker high-speed phone charging battery is the exact one I carry with me on all of my trips.
I like that it holds its charging capabilities for several uses so I do not have to worry about it while out and about, and if I forget to recharge it at night, it will still be good to go the next day.
My daughter gifted me with this FugeTek selfie stick and tripod setup for my birthday. I absolutely love it! It is made of lightweight aluminum and is so easy to use.
It has Bluetooth connectivity and is a breeze to use for taking Insta-worthy selfies when hiking in IA.
I never much believed in using packing cubes when traveling. That is until I tried them. Now I am hooked. These are the exact cubes I use to stay organized when I pack for a trip!
You will want to bring your own refillable water bottle with you.
I never leave home on a trip without my Bobble filtration bottle. The 18.5-ounce size is perfect for your adventures and it fits nicely in the pocket of a backpack.
Perhaps you are traveling a long distance and packing space is a premium in your suitcase, or in your car. Then this set of collapsible silicone foldable water bottles would work well for you. Would not take up much space at all.
You will want a backpack or daypack with you to store snacks, your water bottle, phone, extra clothes, etc.. . No matter the time of day or evening.
This foldable water-resistant backpack would be great. And it comes in many different colors!
Here you have 15 great places to go hiking in Iowa.
Hope you have a great time exploring all the great things to do in Iowa that there are!