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Preparation Canyon State Park Loop is a 5.2 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Onawa, Iowa that features a river and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, and camping and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Length 5.2 mi Elevation gain 859 ft Route type Loop

Dogs on leash

Kid friendly

Camping

Hiking

Walking

River

Wild flowers

Wildlife

Muddy

Description
Waypoints (0)
Facilities

You have to drive around to the back of the park to get to the parking for the hike in campsites. There are fire pits and a picnic table at each of the campsites. There is a small creek that winds through the sites but no other water source near the campsites. The sites are further apart so even when there are other sites occupied you don't see them. This is one of my favorite camping spots near Omaha.

There are outhouses and picnic shelters in the park.

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (71)
Photos (45)
Recordings (51)
Completed (91)
Amanda M
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJuly 25, 2020
HikingBugsOver grownWashed out
View Amanda's Recording
Tom Tom Domanski
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJuly 20, 2020
BackpackingOver grown

I enjoyed the trail. currently there is no water. I brought plenty. the southwest parts of the trail are difficult and a little over grown. there were no mosquitoes at all. the campsites looked great. especially #6, #1, #2 and #3. #9 and #10 are really secluded and the hardest to hike up to.

Stephanie Mayer
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJuly 13, 2020
HikingMuddyOver grown

I am beginning to wonder about the ratings All Trails gives a trail, because I have seen several trails they consider easy, that I consider to be moderate. To me, easy would be a trail that anyone of any age could “easily” hike. This is not the case with this trail. The word “canyon” is in the name, and that should definitely tell you something. I started from the campground and travelled south, curving east and eventually north and back west to my car. I did not do the full loop but I will tell you that about a third of my hike was strenuous uphill hiking. Obviously, if a person is hiking down into a ravine or canyon, they will also have to hike back out. Many of the trails on my route were overgrown and narrow. My advice is to stay on the wider paths, as they appear to be mowed occasionally and did not seem to be as steep. I was pleasantly surprised that there were not a ton of mosquitoes considering the majority of the hike is wooded. It’s a beautiful place to hike, quiet and secluded, and I imagine it is lovely in the autumn. A word of warning, trailheads and trails are not well-marked, and lack of cell service in some places can limit your ability to navigate the trails. I suggest trying to get hold of a map before you go. The lack of clear signage is the reason for four instead of five stars.

Luis Salazar
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarMay 10, 2020
HikingMuddy
View Luis's Recording
Suzan Kumru
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarApril 28, 2020
HikingBugs

Awesome area to hike but there are trail branches can definitely go from easy to hard quick so I think that the easy rating should be at least a moderate. There are some very nice looking camping sites you can stay in as well. There was part of the trail that had a downed tree which we had to crawl under but other than that there was plenty of shaded spots and down by the water areas it was cooler which were nice breaks on a warm day. This is a wooded area, be sure to check for ticks!

Benjamin Gray
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarApril 16, 2020
Hiking

Nice variety of micro ecosystems- lots of different species of trees and plants. Good birding.

View Benjamin's Recording
Tony Mascarello
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarDecember 7, 2019
HikingBlowdown

lots of blowdowns at the moment. I cleared several smaller ones, but there are still multiple larger downs that will require equipment to clear. Still a great place regardless.

View Tony's Recording
Kurt Kinney
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 21, 2019
Hiking

Brent’s Trail is not in Preparation Canyon but is not far from there. It is located in Loess Hills State Forest west of Pisgah, Iowa. This was a good trail that was difficult with some steep downs and steep ups with no switchbacks. It went to some good overlook bluffs of the Missouri River valley, through tall native praire grass hills, up washout draws and down washouts, and through some very weedy spots. The trail is well marked and the walking path is pretty much cleared of trees. It was a good afternoon and a good workout. My recording of the trail has a couple of breaks due to pausing recording and forgetting to resume recording. The straight run on Larpenteur Memorial Road from Gleason Hubel Wildlife to Murray Hill Scenic Overlook was the pickup shuttle from end of trail at Gleason Hubel to Murray Hill which was our start.

View Kurt's Recording
Heather Larson
Yellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarAugust 29, 2019
Hiking

I've been hiking for many years and this was the worst hike I've ever been on. The only time I would consider taking this trail again is late Fall or early Winter before the snow falls.

Steven Kennedy
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJuly 27, 2019
Hiking

I stayed at campsite 8 and made my way north and around the eastern ridge trail. The first half of the trail led through the forest before elevating to the eastern ridge. Lots of spiderwebs across the trail, so watch out for that. There were also a few spots of overgrowth across the trail. I enjoyed the park, though I think it would/will be better in the fall and early winter. Campsite 8 is nice. A Barred owl hung out nearby all night screeching. Someone (or something) was on the trail after I laid down in my tent (it was completely dark). If you camp here, make sure to have your campsite before dark and don’t be walking around near other campsites scaring others. I was the only one in the park when I got there late afternoon. I did notice campsite 4 is completely in the open (no trees overhead). If you want to avoid ticks, or have an open view of the sky, this would be one to stay at. Cell service is at a minimum in the park. Upper elevations work, but I was only able to get texts at campsite 8 and lower.

View Steven 's Recording
Paul Grandgenett
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarMay 16, 2019
Camping

Nice campsites concentrated on the Eastern side of the park. Well maintained trails. Trails around campsites 1-6 are relatively flat (easy), but trails approaching site 7 and throughput the middle of the park at moderate to difficult with steep inclines/declines. We will visit again.

Tony Mascarello
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarApril 14, 2019
Hiking

Excellent place, trails are VERY well maintained and lots of great camp options. should be a great place to bring the kids and dogs!

View Tony's Recording
Sydnie McNeal
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJuly 2, 2018
Hiking

I enjoyed this hike. This park is really beautiful, which is the biggest reason for the high rating. There are some signs on the trails, but I found them hard to navigate. I found no map online, and they were out of maps at the entrance, so I had to follow the trail recorded by others on this app. The different loops can definitely be confusing. I also would not rate this as easy—more like moderate to difficult. There were many steep inclines, the trails are not well maintained and hard to make out at some points, and certain areas were extremely wet and muddy. Side note—photos of this park online feature a trail along the top of this beautiful hilltop, which is what drew me to Preparation Canyon. This loop is all forest and does not include that trail, which I did not know. You have to turn right at the entrance instead of left and follow the signs for the scenic overlook. There is a deck built into the hill that leads down into the trail. I followed the trail for about a mile, not sure how far it actually goes. But I would highly recommend going to the scenic overlook, as it was STUNNING.

Dave Stock
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarFebruary 5, 2018

I hiked in and stayed one night this weekend. Very happy with the place. Online maps are not entirely accurate for the 8 camp sites. Call their number or grab a map when you pay registration. I love that each spot is secluded from the others and a little ways off the trail. If you are carrying a pack the hills will challenge your legs.

Owen Williams
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 28, 2017
Hiking

Fun state park with lots of different options to make a longer or shorter loop as desired. Maps were only available at the northwest entrance only, but I'd highly recommend picking one up as all of the different loops can get confusing. It was nice that the grass had been cut recently, so the trails were not overgrown at all. I can't wait to come back when it's warmer to try out the hike-in camping.

Sarah Hubert
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 15, 2017
Hiking

Beautiful lichen everywhere. Saw a marbled orb weaver. The trails should definitely not be described as easy though

Jody Joens
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 3, 2017
Hiking
David Kull
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarAugust 12, 2017
Hiking

Short but steep up and downs, trail not maintained, with tall grasses nearly swallowing my wife up completely.

Angela Haggerty
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJuly 14, 2017

I'm not sure I'd call this easy. Maybe for a 20 or 30 year old. But it is steep in parts and muddy. I'm 60, in good health and I would call this moderate. Easy is flat, well maintained trails. This is not that. But all in all, we had a good time.

Jon Shaad
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJuly 5, 2017

Trail was well maintained for the most part. Great place for beginner hike-in camping!

Niamh Corrigan
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJuly 2, 2016
Hiking

The environment was calm and enjoyable. Although the trails were hard to navigate as they had not been cut clearly.

James Cook
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 3, 2015
Hiking

Beautiful trail and good scenery.

Molly Flodman
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJuly 11, 2015

Great trails! Some very steep, but well maintained. Easy to navigate with a map. Lots of trail markers. Saw deer and a turkey. Definitely will come back!

Jesse Hillger
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 2, 2015

Amazing!

Chloe Karr
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarJune 15, 2013
Hiking
First to Review

Some wicked hills here. Nice short hike for a morning.

Troy Campbell
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarAugust 1, 2020
Hiking
View Troy's Recording
Matt W.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarJuly 5, 2020
Hiking
View Matt's Recording
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