A drive through Northeast Iowa brings rolling hills, deep river valleys, strong limestone bluffs and quaint historic towns. Most visitors do not realize the ample opportunities to get out of the vehicle and explore the amazing terrain. The landscape mimics a drive through Ireland and not the stereotypical flat cornfield Iowa. Northeast Iowa contains four unique park areas that provide breathtaking views and winding trails.
Pikes Peak State Park
Pikes Peak State Park is nestled on the Mississippi River valley by McGregor, Iowa. The perfect landscape allows visitors to stand on a 500 foot bluff overlooking the tree lined hills and flowing river. Pikes Peak contains a full service campground, ample parking for any vehicle, picnic areas and a visitor center. A family friendly trail offers a wooden boardwalk that carries walkers a half mile down through the lush woods passing Indian mounds built around 800 to 1200 A.D. The wooden walkway leads to the majestic Bridal Falls. For the more adventurous person, the area contains more than 11 miles of moderately easy remote dirt trails through the wilderness.
Effigy Mounds National Monument
Effigy Mounds near Marquette, Iowa offers the visitor over 2500 acres containing a number of hiking trails that range from easy to moderately easy effort. The trails bypass open prairies, breathtaking views of the Mississippi bluffs and over 30 effigy mounds built around 600 to 1400 AD. Many of the mounds appear in native animal shapes and some contain burial sites. The park sights are only accessible through trails because of the fragility of the sacred mounds.
Backbone State Park
Backbone State Park near Strawberry Point, Iowa offers 2002 acres of wooded acreage and a family friendly lake noted for swimming and fishing. Backbone contains around 25 miles of easy to moderately easy hiking trails. The park is camping, hiking, rock repelling and bicycle friendly. For lodging the park offers 125 camp sites as well as modern cabins with plenty of open parking.
Osborne Welcome Center
Osborne Welcome Center is located between Elkader and Strawberry Point, Iowa. The park offers a full-service education center, tours, ample parking, hiking and an animal exhibit. Osborne contains easy trails that wind through the wooded landscape in 2 different locations. Trails contain educational markers to point out native plants.
Iowa Department of Natural Resources, “Pikes Peak,” Iowa State Parks & Reservations.
U.S. Department of the Interior, “Effigy Mounds,” National Park Service.
Deleware County Economic development, “Backbone State Park,” Deleware County, Iowa.
Clayton County Conservation, “Osborne Welcome Center,” Clayton County, Iowa.