Hiked along north end of trail next to Paint Creek. Mostly flat, and shady. Trail markings could be better. Wanted to add there is absolutely no cell service anywhere in this area, and the bugs are absolutely vicious. Also watch out for the horse sh*t on the trail.

This is a great area to explore but the trail is very different than your map and there is zero cell service anywhere nearby so we got lost until we wandered around long enough to find a campground with a paper map and ended up hiking 9 miles rather than 6.8 in the adjoining hunting preserve so we missed over 1/2 of the intended trail loop, which is actually an in and out trail that connects to other trails. The trails are well maintained but very poorly marked.

solid trail. went out with a buddy on a saturday and only saw 5 to 6 people out there. great hike if you have the energy and time to really get lost in nature. lots of different scenery.

A beautiful place to hike in all seasons!

washed out
7 months ago

I spent a pleasant two days backpacking and hiking, saw surprisingly few people for an August weekend. There are few amenities. A hidden gem. Plenty of trails, though most involve hiking on roads or double track. The Bluff trail was the exception; it's short but definitely worthwhile.

Great natural resource right in our backyard. I camped overnight 1 night. saw nobody late Friday night and many groups Saturday morning. Great training for backpacking and thru hiking. I'll be back, but with better rain gear. Trails can be slick near the creeks and humid if it's rained recently.

10 months ago

washed out
11 months ago

Really enjoyed that the trail wasn’t heavily trafficked even though we went on the weekend. The biggest let down was that a large part of the trail is on an actual road open to cars. Perhaps that’s just a personal preference but I enjoyed the part of the trail within the forest a lot more.

Wed Apr 11 2018

Had a great time doing this with my teen daughter and her friend in early-early spring. We literally didn't see another person the entire time we were in the forest. The western part of this loop is fantastic - it feels wild, it's not super easy, the terrain is somewhat rugged. I think they could do a better job of keep the trail off roads on the eastern and northern parts though, as it ruins the ambience to walk along a road. Still, this was better than we expected, and it was fun to get in some good snow-free backpacking while Minnesota is still covered in snow and ice. We stayed at the Brown's Hollow camp, which was quite a lot less primitive than I expected, given that it's a filter and cathole camp area - there are big, proper fire grates and benches in predefined camping areas. Given the iffy weather, that was an unexpected perk. I'd certainly do this again.

Great trail for an easy walk. Travel the loop counter clockwise and camp at the last camp. It's an awesome little open grass field with great shade trees and a good creek for collecting water. I did this trail in a few hours with my 14 year old son...so needless to say it's a pretty easy walk. Very enjoyable and I would do it again.

Love coming out here during the summer. This is probably one of my favorite places to camp close to Madison and I love the trails. When your up on the bluffs you have great views of the campsite and creek below. The "bluff trail" being my favorite as you can find delicious chanterelles up there (and angry wasps too haha) if you know what your looking for... They pop up all long the trail. Just save some for me please! Speaking of, this area is a hot bed for fungi hunters, found a nice chicken of the woods and a few other random edibles while out. Lots of good memories out here with my dog and my girlfriend hiking the bluffs.

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
Tue Mar 22 2016

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.

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