9 Must-Visit Hiking Trails In Iowa

This post contains affiliate links. If you click and buy we may make a commission, at no additional charge to you. Please see our disclosure policy for more details.

Did you know that Iowa is the leading producer of corn in the United States, accounting for about 18%-20% of US corn production? Not only that, but Iowa is actually the homeland of sliced bread – Otto Frederick Rohwedder invented the bread-slicing machine back in 1912!

If you are all about cool facts like this, then Iowa is definitely worth a visit sometime in the future. Another great reason to be in Iowa is its environmental riches. If you are an avid hiker, there is plenty of things to see and do at Iowa hiking trails!

To help you prepare for your trip, let us now introduce you to the 9 best hiking trails in the state of Iowa. You are unlikely to be able to visit them all in a single trip, so this list could well be sufficient for two visits or even three!

9 Must-Visit Hiking Trails In Iowa

1. Wildcat Den Trail

Wildcat Den Trail

Located in Wildcat State Park, the Wildcat Den Trail is widely considered as one of the best hiking trails in Iowa.

Aside from breathtaking views, Wildcat Den Trail offers a touch of historic experience as well. The highlight of this trail is the Pine Creek Gristmill built in the 1840s. This is one of the oldest mills in the entire US!

2. Pilot Knob Trail

Pilot Knob Trail

Pilot Knob State Park encompasses about 700 acres of natural beauty. Its landmark is the Pilot Knob tower that can be accessed via the Pilot Knob Trail. The Pilot Knob tower was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Stretching for just about a quarter-mile, Pilot Knob Trail is rather beginner-friendly, although it has quite a steep upward slope.

Notably, the landscape of Pilot Knob State Park formed after glaciers had leveled the prairies of North Central Iowa, depositing huge rocks and creating what is now known as the Pilot Knob.

3. Dancehall Cave Trail

Dancehall Cave Trail

Dancehall Cave Trail is the most popular hiking trail in Maquoketa Caves State Park. Part of the reason is the stunning cliffs, rock formations, and valleys that you can see along the road. But for most people, the main reason to come here is the mysterious cave formations.

If you decide to go past Dancehall Cave, you’ll be able to traverse the dark and claustrophobically narrow caves. This journey is not for the faint of heart, and you should bring along a headlamp and some disposable clothes to undertake the trip.

By the way, Dancehall Cave Trail is just one among many trails in Maquoketa Caves State Park. There are 6 miles of trails to cover in total, which could be done in a day or two if you are up to it.

4. Eagle Rock Trail

Eagle Rock Trail

Located at Effigy Mounds National Monument, the Eagle Rock Trail offers some of the best views of the Mississippi Valley you can find in Iowa and elsewhere.

A 7-mile round trip, Eagle Rock Trail could make for an excellent day hiking opportunity. A good exercise is guaranteed – not only that, but you will be able to enjoy the amazing views of Effigy Mounds and the numerous outcroppings along the trail.

5. Backbone Trail

Backbone Trail

Stretching for less than a mile, Backbone Trail is accessible to both skilled and beginning hikers. Despite its short length, this trail leads to one of the tallest spots in Iowa. Needless to say, from there, you are going to see the wonderful landscape of Iowa in all its entirety.

Backbone State Park where Backbone Trail is located has a number of other worthy trails as well – 20 miles in total. Backbone State Park is also the oldest state park in Iowa, so its trails allow you to not only admire the surroundings but also pass along weathered bridges and historic locations.

6. Two-Mile Trail

Two-Mile Trail


The Two-Mile Trail is a highly popular trail in Beeds Lake State Park. Merely 2 miles long – as its name suggests – this trail is accessible to everyone.

The Two-Mile Trail arguably offers its best views near sunset. You may pay a visit to this location year-long, and the trail stays rather friendly even in winter.

Make sure to see the landmark of this trail as well – the grandiose dam at the spillway!

Beeds Lake State Park by itself is also popular among fans of fishing, camping, and boating, so you may engage in some of these activities too if you happen to visit the Two-Mile Trail.

7. Cedar Cliff Trail

Cedar Cliff Trail


The Cedar Cliff Trail takes you around the best locations of the Palisades-Kepler State Park. Severely underrated, this state park offers some of the most unique natural scenes in Iowa – most remarkably, the wild waters of Cedar River.

Cedar Cliff Trail also passes through several cliffs and other high points, opening breathtaking views of the state park’s vast territory.

8. The Bur Oak Nature Trail

The Bur Oak Nature Trail

The Bur Oak Nature Trail is a light 1-mile walk around Viking Lake State Park. It’s a particularly nice hike to take before (or even after) fishing in Viking Lake.

Viking Lake State Park is very popular with anglers as well, so if you ever happen to come here, be sure to pack a fishing rod. There are 120 campsites here too, so Viking Lake State Park is a wonderful place for lovers of camping.

Another trail in the state park that you may traverse is the Whitetail Trail. About 6 miles long, it will take way longer to cover than the Bur Oak trail, but it’s equally easy and will offer more diverse views.

9. One Mile Nature Trail

One Mile Nature Trail

One Mile Nature Trail is located in McIntosh Woods State Park. This state park offers many opportunities for boating, fishing, and camping, so it’s an excellent place for the avid outdoorsman who’s looking to see the natural riches of Iowa.

While you are here, be sure to visit the One Mile Nature Trail. This trail is just one of the state park’s many beginner-friendly trails, and it allows you to see some of the numerous lakes in the park.

You may also like:

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.