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Iowa Hiking Trails

This site is designed to provide quick, organized access to informative Iowa hiking websites. Private hiking enthusiasts like you have created excellent web pages on Iowa hiking trails -- then posted those pages on free web servers -- only to be ignored by search engines. The purpose of this site is to provide a way to find these personal hiking pages, and make your research easier.

  • Backbone State Park 21 miles of trails. Basic description, downloadable map.


  • The Backpack Trail covers 25 miles of the most rugged land in NE Iowa. Trail review by Randy Anderson on thebackpacker.com.


  • Benton County Area This is a tourist bureau site. Has a semi-useful laundry list of hiking opportunities.


  • Cedar Rapids Area This is yet another of those chamber-of-commerce type sites. Not my favorite kind of thing, but they do provide a nice checklist of local hiking trails.


  • Cedar River Greenbelt Trail 4 mile Osage to Mitchell hike in Mitchell County; description & map.


  • Cedar Valley Nature Trail 52-mile linear park that gives you the best of both worlds: It links two metropolitan areas, but the journey between them takes you through forested bottomlands, rolling farmlands, and classic small Iowa towns.


  • Coralville Reservoir & Devonian Fossil Gorge This is a great place to hike, run by the Army Corps of Engineers, who maintain about 4 different trails. This particular wbpage is more of a backgrounder/info page by the Iowa Geological Survey. Interesting place; you can see the geological record from the Devonian period juxtaposed with the erosion record from the flooding of 1993.


  • Effigy Mounds National Monument brief descriptions of trails; maps. Not an official NPS site.


  • General - Statewide Here's a must-click site from the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation called Iowa By Trail. It's a straightforward, easy-to-navigate site with a clickable statewide map, photos, descriptions, maps for each trail, vital stats and links to local trail managers and tourism officials. It's as good a statewide guide as you're gonna find.


  • General - State Parks here's the main State Parks page from the Iowa Division of Natural Resources. You'll have to click around once you're on it.


  • Lake Aquhabi Trail review by Colin Kao on thebackpacker.com


  • Maquoketa Caves State Park basic trail description, downloadable map.


  • Maquoketa Caves State Park trail description by Andrew Corker on thebackpacker.com site.


  • Mason City Area Listings and basic information for Mason City area hiking trails. On chamber of commerce type site. Not much, but I wanted something on this page for Mason City. I spent some time there once; can't put my finger on it but it's a likable town. Good people. If you've got a page on a hike in Mason City -- let us know, just e-mail admin(at)slackpacker(dot)com.


  • Mines of Spain State Park basic trail descriptions, downloadable map.


  • Pikes Peak State Park basic trail descriptions, downloadable map.


  • Pony Hollow Trail multi-use trail in the town of Elkader.


  • Pottawattamie County Area trails, links to county parks.


  • Preparation Canyon introduction, downloadable map.


  • Volga River State Recreation Area trail descriptions, downloadable map.


  • Wapsi Great Western Line Trail in Mitchell County; description & downloadable map.


  • Yellow River State Forest excellent trail narrative & photos by Brian Simon.


We're glad to have you with us.... Even though we may not ever mention it again.

Sometime take out a map, and trace the fastest route from Mason City to Effigy Mounds. Take your best guess how long it takes to drive; triple your guess and you'll have the answer. People go on and on about Iowa being "flat," but I'll tell you, the up-and-down-wind-around-aimlessly roads give West Virginia a run for its money. Well maybe not quite, but it sure isn't what the rest of us expect. That, and the fact that I've been out of breath on every trail I ever hiked in Iowa, leads me to believe that the whole place needs a better publicist.

For three years I've been bemoaning the fact that nobody ever published a definitive book about hiking in Iowa. Well, finally came across a copy of Great Iowa Walks: 50 Strolls, Rambles, Hikes, and Treks by Lyn Walters. This is really a terrific guide for everything from an easy walk in the park to multi-day backpacking deals. I like it.

Two more recommendations I have aren't exactly "hiking" books, but are quite helpful. First, the highly regarded Iowa's Wild Places: An Exploration With Carl Kurtz, but more importantly you'll want to grab a copy of Iowa's State Parks: Also Forests, Recreation Areas, and Preserves by Robert Charles Wolf. The former is more widely read, but as the best hiking opportunities are mostly in Iowa's State Parks, you'll glean more information from that source.

And finally, if you recognize the "glad to have you with us" line from "Iowa Stubborn" opening The Music Man, give yourself 4 slackpacker trivia points.

-- Rick Bolger

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Want to add YOUR Iowa hiking page? It's free, it's easy, and there are no strings attached. Please click the "Submit a Site" button, above left, for instructions and complete information.

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