Yellow River Forest is located in Allamakee County in northeast Iowa. Its headquarters and recreation facilities are located on county highway B25, approximately 4 miles southeast of Waterville or 3 miles west of Harpers Ferry. The Paint Creek Unit is of primary interest to the recreationist. It has the Big Paint Creek, Little Paint Creek and equestrian campgrounds with capacities of 48, 80 and 40 sites respectively. It also contains 6 miles of trout stream stocked from April through October and a marsh from which bass and panfish may be taken. Camping fees are $9.00 per night during the summer and $6.00 per night the rest of the year. An additional $3.00 per night is charged for equestrian campgrounds. Starting February 13, 2006 advance campsite reservations can be booked through the park reservation system. Half of the campsites are still available for self registration on a first come first-serve basis. See maps for campground and trail locations. Hiking, snowmobile and horse trails and several picnic areas are located on the Paint Creek unit. Several scenic overlooks are accessible by horseback, foot or auto and a large portion of the cross country ski trail system is found here. The entire forest is open to hunting (except for campgrounds), hiking and cross country skiing. However, designated hiking trails are maintained only on the Paint Creek Unit and designated cross country ski trails are maintained only on the Paint Creek and Luster Heights Units. Yellow River Forest is comprised of the following: Luster Heights Unit - 770 acres Mudhen Unit - 196 acres Paint Creek Unit - 5237 acres Paint Rock Unit - 864 acres Waukon Junction Unit - 209 acres Yellow River Unit - 1227 acres Total - 8503 acres

Had a great weekend at yellow river. We hiked about 15 mi Saturday and only saw one other person out trail running the whole time and the weather was fantastic. We did see a few horse riders. The trails are very easy most are set up for horses. The Bluff view trail had gret views of the river and big paint camp ground. There was alot of water in the streams we forded the river twice in almost knee deep fast moving water which was fun. Camp ground was nice and well kept. Primitive toilets and no running water, not a problem for us but thought other might want to know.

Overall a nice trail with a lot of shade, which is well appreciated over the summer. The greenery was also absolutely beautiful. Just wish there was a little more water in some of the smaller streams. Surprisingly, for a holiday weekend, there were very few people on the trails (averaged about one group every hour out hiking). There were a lot of people camping at the Big Paint Campground though.
Like the rest of this state, this trail was overall very flat, other than the Heffern's Hill Loop which went all the way up without a vista or anything other than the trail ahead of us. We went all the way up to go all the way back down.
The only downside was unexpectedly wading through the Paint Creek when we were on the Paint Creek Trail. Some equestrians ahead of us forded the waters. We were a little worse for wear when we came across the knee-high waters without a bridge or any easy way to cross the 6-foot plus gap of water. There is a way to go around this if you go up a little ways, but this will still likely involve some sketchy traversing and likely getting a little wet or muddy.

This is a fun park with many trails and very nice backpacking campsites. Many of the trails are shared with hikers (we saw only a few on a busy weekend), mountain bikers (we didn't see any), and horses (there were many, and therefore many pounds of horse waste on the trails). We hiked a total of about 16 miles over two days. The elevation changes are among the most you will find in Iowa.

The campsites are all well maintained. If you plan to filter water, however, Heffern's Hill is you only real choice.

scenic driving
8 months ago

I can't really rate this because I'm not sure what happened. I followed directions from on star and was suddenly on a dirt road in the forest (old junction road into fire tower road). I would go through Harper's ferry if I were you (unless you have high clearance and 4x4. (I was in a Cadillac and thank goodness it was all wheel drive! I was told later this is very primitive camping and hiking. I will be going back this summer (just not driving through in my Cadillac, lol! Curse you on star!) there was a guy behind me in a mini van and when we made it through my son actually got out and high fived him! It's definently a story we will have forever. I will be back to hike and more prepared. From what I seen this looks more like a few days of hiking to really get the experience.

First time back in a long time and enjoyed every minute of it! We backpacked out and setup camp in John Schultz and then the following day did a number of trails as we investigated the other sites and ended up at Heffern's Hill. The scenery was great and the trails were pretty well maintained. The campsites were very well maintained and wood had been delivered to many of them. We will definitely be heading back a couple of times this fall as it was a great trip. One note - water is a bit scarce at the campsites so plan to bring plenty or make a trip to HQ for water.