Hiking clears the mind and infiltrates the senses. Autumn is the perfect time of year for a hiking adventure. Although leaves begin to change in Iowa around the second week of September, it is another month before the foliage reaches peak color saturation. Average temperatures in Iowa range from highs in the mid 70’s to lows at night in the 50’s for September, with expected temperatures for October, a good 10 degrees cooler. Grab a jacket, some friends and a picnic lunch and head to one of these three Iowa locations for an awesome autumn hiking adventure.
- Backbone State Park: Backbone State Park, located near Strawberry Point, consists of over 2,000 acres of woodlands and wildlife. Backbone state park boasts 21 miles of scenic hiking trails. Rocky staircases lead to one of the highest points in Iowa with a breathtaking view, “The Devil’s Backbone.” The South Flats Shelter along the Six Pine Trail is a great place to stop for lunch. Other options include Barred Owl, Bluebird, East Lake and West Lake hiking trails. The autumn foliage canopy is an interesting backdrop for the rugged dolomite limestone rock formations seen on many of the trails. Views of the lake are spectacular. Don’t miss the rabbit hole that leads through some awe-inspiring bluffs.
- Loess Hills State Forest: The rugged adventurer will enjoy Loess Hills State Forest. The forest is located between the towns of Little Sioux and Pisgah. The entire 11,266-acre forest is open to hikers. The Loess Hills were formed 10-20,000 years ago by windblown silt from glacial deposits. The trails are all natural and not wheelchair accessible. The forest headquarters are located in the Pisgah Unit and include a visitor’s center with public restrooms. A small lake may be viewed in the Preparation Canyon Unit that allows fishing. The Preparation Canyon Unit also contains a designated picnic area. Several of the trails lead to hike-in camping sites. The sites include a table and fireplace. Shelters and non-modern toilets are available. In an attempt to preserve the natural rugged park, camping is reserved to designated hike-in campsites only. Trail maps are available on the website.
- Pike's Peak State Park: Pike's Peak State Park was named after its focal point, a 500-ft picturesque bluff overlooking the gorge of the Mississippi River. Hikers may wish to stay overnight in the campgrounds. Many of the trail overlook platforms offer rustic stone picnic shelters. Deer Run Trail offers a short hike from the campground to the overlook. Hikers should expect an exhilarating hike with elevations involved. Limestone walls, wooded bluffs and valleys are seen throughout many of the trails. Bridal Veil Falls is a great place to cool bare feet with a dip in the refreshing natural spring water. The trail leading to Bridal Veil Falls is accessible for mobility impaired individuals. Along Weeping Rock Trail, water can be seen seeping from the rocks out of the ravines. The town of McGregor is located approximately two miles north of the park.
*Photo courtesy of Pike’s Peak State Park by Mike Willis at Flickr’s Creative Commons.