Hiking With Kids: Favorite Destinations Off the Beaten Path Near Iowa City and Beyond

Like a number of you, I’m presently separated at house with my kids. Throughout the day, every day. With lots of things canceled and locations closed, outside recreation remains one of the only diversions readily available to us. Which’s excellent! I’m so pleased I have more time to trek right now.

It’s complimentary, it boosts our frame of mind, it provides us workout, and it’s generally homeschooling since we look at birds and moss and stuff.

Nevertheless, I rapidly understood everyone else had the very same concept, and many of the nearby trails and state parks we first ventured to were way too crowded for comfort.

So that forced me to dig a little much deeper and discover these concealed gems in Iowa City or within a couple hours’ drive. All can be quickly navigated to using Google Maps.

Some caveats: due to the fact that my kids are 13 and 10, none of these trails are stroller-friendly paved excursions. They are, however, fairly brief hikes, varying from simply a mile or more to 6 miles. I’m working from house throughout these pandemic times, so I was interested in places we could go for a gratifying but reasonably brief jaunt over lunch or in the night, as well as further-flung locations we could head to on the weekends that would remain uncrowded even on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon.

Another thing: I honestly motivate you to require your kids to hike even if they don’t wish to.

I believe the fortifying effects of nature and the health advantages of strolling are well worth the dispute. My kids grumble 100% of the time when I reveal we’re going treking, but by the end are totally into it. It doesn’t injure that we almost always pick up ice cream on the method home if they “act good” (most likely counteracting the health benefits, however whatever. I suggest Heyn’s and Jon’s for ice cream).

Big Grove Preserve– Solon, IA

An eighty-acre forest adjacent to the Coralville Tank off Sugar Bottom Roadway, this dubious property under towering trees includes a large, shallow creek, a stunning curved stone bridge, rocky outcroppings and well-kept routes, with some hilly spots for a happily elevated heart rate. I think we treked about 3 miles however I’m not exactly sure due to the fact that the routes are not marked (though there is a path map near the entrance) and you have to navigate by your wits. It deserves it, though.

Turkey Creek Preserve– Solon, IA

Near Huge Grove is another property, again featuring a creek (filled with fossils!) and taking off with wildflowers when we went to in early spring. In addition to the forest location, there is likewise a substantial meadow, including a beautiful, expansive view when you raise the hill to the top. Again, routes are not marked and distances are not given but it’s small enough to just roam around and never ever lose your orientation. Huge Grove and Turkey Creek are 2 of the several residential or commercial properties owned and preserved by Bur Oak Land Trust– have a look at their website for the complete list of natural sites open up to the general public to take pleasure in. We likewise delighted in Belgum Grove in Hills and Hora Woods in West Branch (though be warned the routes peter out relatively quickly in the latter).

Stephens State Forest– Lucas, IA

Iowa’s biggest forest at 14,000 acres is primarily undeveloped, but the Woodburn Unit boasts six miles of tracks (and 5 hike-in campsites). Gently rolling hills carpeted with oak and hickory on the Ridge Path gives method to a creekside ramble lined with cottonwoods and birches. You can do a 3.4 mile loop (here are turn-by-turn directions) or make it longer by connecting to one of the other trails. Read more in this short article (which also suggests 3 other concealed gems in the Des Moines location).

Ciha Fen Wildlife Maintain– Lisbon, IA

The Ciha Fen Preserve is an 80-acre sand prairie/savanna complex on a wind-deposited sand ridge. It contains among the only two documented staying nutrient-poor “fens”– a kind of wetland– understood in the state of Iowa, boasting numerous uncommon plant and animal types. The website is a place to stroll through short-grass grassy field and under ancient oak trees, and berry choice for raspberries and strawberries. The site is an ideal wildlife refuge, but is primitive for human visitors, with a brief faint trail loop. Again, this is small enough to wander without a map– there is a mowed yard perimeter course that we followed. Check out a bit more about the geology, flora and fauna in this article. Bonus offer– it is right by the Sutliff Bridge so you can stop and stroll over that, too.

Redbird Farms Wildlife Area– Iowa City, IA

Redbird Farms is 400 acres of mainly grassy field, several ponds, with some timber also. Again, routes are not significant however you can wander without getting lost. We ended up perambulating 5 miles here– I will always push forward in the effort to make a loop and avoid backtracking, which sometimes doesn’t work or actually lengthens the walking– admiring the view from atop some carefully rolling hills.

Cedar Bluffs Natural Location– Oskaloosa, IA

The two-mile Lacey Memorial Nature Path takes you throughout meadow and oak savanna, into a box canyon, along a towering sandstone bluff neglecting Cedar Creek, through forests, and past a several-thousand-year-old burial mound. This really unique 225-acre area includes a variety of deciduous trees, wildflowers, ferns and other plant life, the whole time a short loop path. Lookout points along the path enable hikers sweeping views of the Des Moines River Valley. There’s also a stairway that leads down to Cedar Creek. Read more here, and do not ignore the menu on the left side of this website including other natural areas in Mahaska County– Eddyville Dunes Sand Meadow looks especially fascinating, as this is an example of one of the extremely couple of remaining sand meadows in the Midwest (prickly pear cactus, orchids, and lizards exist?!).

Amana Nature Trail– Homestead, IA

This is a 3.3 mile, well-marked interlocking loop path system at the intersection of Highways 6 and 151 in Homestead. It takes a trip oak savanna, damp grassy field, natural oak/hickory wood, and passes the ancient remains of a fish weir in the Iowa River and burial mounds, leading through an area of the 7,000 acres of Amana Forest. When we checked out in spring, ferns carpeted the forest floor and we delighted in an attractive ignore on the Iowa River.

Sockum Ridge County Park– , IA

This remote park reached by gravel back road features around 5 miles of well-marked but almost-overgrown-in-places trails, primarily through woods. There is likewise a large pond and a creek. We started with the “Wildflower Mile” and were not disappointed– we counted numerous varieties of wildflower. There were likewise a plethora of frogs to catch in the creek and pond.

Cairo Woods Wildlife Location– Columbus Junction, IA

525 acres of forest and meadow sport 5 brief loop routes– all mowed-grass trails– in addition to two ponds. Check out this list of other appealing Louisa County natural locations. Bonus offer: you might also stop and go to the historical swinging bridge on Third Street in Columbus Junction correct, where after crossing the bridge you can trek back by means of a brief however lovely nature path through the gorge.

Brinton Timbers Park– Brighton, IA

Wear pants– the trails are well-kept however extremely narrow, with long lawn along with many of the trails. This park features the most well-marked routes I have actually ever come across, with tree blazes every few actions and path maps published at every intersection. We did 5 miles of interlocking loops here, in both woods and a kind of long-grass bottomland location. The Wood Duck trail winds pleasantly along the Skunk River, offering great views over the river.

Whitewater Canyon Wildlife Area– Bernard, IA

Among only 3 true canyons in the state of Iowa, Whitewater supply a lesson in the state’s geology, taking one back 450 million years to a time when what is now Iowa was under the sea. Rare plants and animals are also sheltered in the numerous natural environments found on the property. With several caves to explore, a burbling brook as well as a shallow, wide, sandy-bottomed creek perfect for wading, kids might spend hours here. Searching for at moss-covered, house-sized boulders; scrambling up high courses into cool, dark caverns; looking at vistas of rolling farmland; and strolling through prairie– practically the finest Iowa needs to use is all here. The Lost Canyon Loop is 3.3 miles and there is likewise a more prairie-heavy loop, both using wide mown-grass tracks. We did the Lost Canyon Loop and after that my 10-year-old insisted we leave in order not to miss out on the start of WWE Friday Night Smackdown, but I make certain the other loop was fantastic too. Find out more in this post.

Pinicon Ridge County Park– Central City, IA

This park includes about 10 miles of trails through a range of woody hills and valleys. I didn’t see them, however there is also an observation tower and a wildlife exhibit with elk, deer, geese, and ducks. Along the Woodpecker Hill Trail, there’s a little waterfall called Horseshoe Falls (I mean an extremely small waterfall, but still pretty), while the Flying Squirrel Trail has a nice view of the Wapsipinicon River.

Where do you delight in hiking?

This content was originally published here.