Explore the most popular camping trails in Iowa with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

Nice trail, watch your footing for rocks and roots.

The weather was cool and sunny. The marsh bottoms were a little wet and muddy. Over it was a great 6 mile hike.

West Lake Trail is one of my favorites in this part of Iowa. Very scenic hike along the low bluff under a canopy of maples and oaks.

hiking
28 days ago

This is an easy, somewhat short trail that is well marked and features a wide path (about 6 feet across) and a few short, rocky ledges to stair step up (no scrambles where you would have to use your hands to climb). However, please know that at some points there is a sheer drop of over 100 ft on either side of the path. There have been more than a few cases of people getting too close to the edge for whatever reason and falling to their death. Too many times it was a child who died because they stray too far from mom or dad and just don't realize the risks they take. Don't get me wrong. The trail is very safe and easy to hike. But if you take kids with then make sure they exercise some caution just the same. The trail is short but takes longer to hike than you might think due to the frequent overlooks and interesting rock features along the way.

trail running
1 month ago

Hard to find trails like this in Iowa. Beautifully maintained, low traffic, and decent elevation.

hiking
1 month ago

Many caves to visit , quick tip bring flashlights and head gear if you plan on adventuring inside the caves:)

I went last weekend. the pond is drained and there is a significant amount of work being done around the trail. the paths are mostly closed as of 9/2018. I'm sure they will be open and great in the future but it was a disappointment for now.

Crushed gravel trails. Have your map on you. Trail splits at cross roads and the trail head are not always visible.

Unless you plan to hold their hands the whole time, do not take littles on this trail. There are cliffs on either side of the bottleneck. That being said, the same cliffs offer stunning views of the Maquoketa River on either side. It is a nice, easy, short hike if you are in the area.

It’s open for 2018!!! New trails, steps, lights, bridges and boardwalks. Soooooo nice! Breathe in nature and bring a friend. Very family friendly!

hiking
1 month ago

very steep and washed out on the one side. we took the easy way in and doubled back to avoid the washed out part.

Great hike. Gorgeous and nice elevation challenge. I threw in the exercise stations to up the difficulty . Nice touch

It was fun my dad and I had a great time

Lots of frequent elevation change (600 ft is a net change), very poorly marked trail with markers only at trailhead or when it crossed a campground. There were no trail markers or distance markers, lots of lose rock and frequent forks to lose you way and your footing. On the plus side, some fantastic views and scenery along the way, just watch the transition from West Lake trail to East Lake trail. You have to find it yourself.

The path is very poorly marked. But when you figure out where you’re going, it’s a great trail. Nice to be near the water, there were several look out areas with seating. The paths varied in width and incline, which was a nice mix. Overall, we enjoyed ourselves.

we walked .18 miles & got to a stream that we had to cross with no bridge. we walked back out. total trip .39 miles. not recommended.

hiking
3 months ago

Nice little trail in the state park. Offers great views along the ridge line. The trail is marked easy, but the first third is more moderate with steep decline and incline until you make your way to the ridge. Along the ridge the trail is rugged and extremely grassy. Watch for ticks, we saw several. The back half of the loop is maintained with gravel and sections of cut grass. That part offers benches spaced along the path. We did the hike in July. Will probably be nice in the fall/early winter as well.

Pretty but got to watch out for the roots, rocks, and steep climb on the trails.

hiking
3 months ago

Nice 2 mile loop but not for the faint of heart. It is listed as wheelchair friendly but the only way it would be wheelchair friendly is if your wheelchair were a bulldozer. The beginning of trail is narrow, uneven and very steep down and back up through a ravine which does not give any indication as to what the rest of the trail is like. Very scenic plenty of shaded areas. Looking forward to revisiting in the fall to view the colors.

Beautiful trail. Would have been 5 stars if it was marked better with signs, etc.

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.

It is probably beautiful, but it is apparently closed for construction.

hiking
3 months ago

Great set of trails off the beaten path. If you are looking for a longer trail away from most of the public... you will love this location. Several times I have hiked the 10+ mile trails and never passed a single person.

on Backbone Trail

hiking
4 months ago

Beautiful trail with lots of spots to breakaway from the trail to explore further

off road driving
4 months ago

Drive through some grass trails that I believe were for hiking. Oh well! The lake is dry due to reconstruction.

hiking
4 months ago

As of June 2018, much of the park is under construction.

Bring your water and bug spray! Quick, scenic and enjoyable short hike.

hiking
5 months ago

This trail is a little hard to follow in a few locations. Just remember, the trail essentially goes around the lake, so if you don't know which way to go, it turns out that taking the option nearest the lake is usually (but not always) going to be the correct way. I got on the wrong trail 2 times during my hike, but within 10 minutes realized I wasn't on the correct trail so quickly backtracked and was okay. Its not that the trail is hard to follow, its that at some intersections there simply are no signs so you don't know which trail to take.

The trail itself is so-so. I liked it because it is hard to find a (hiking) trail longer than, say, 7 miles, in Iowa. The trail itself is just okay in my opinion. My dog got a bloody paw by the end of the hike. Nearly the entire trail is gravel, I think that was why it was tough on her paws. This trail is shared with equestrians, which seems to be very popular at this location judging by the many horses I saw at the part where you need to walk through the equestrian campground. On trail, however, I only saw 5 horses, 1 group of 3 and 1 couple. The vast majority of this hiking trail I was alone, except when I came across areas near parking lots, where many fisherman can be found.

Although this is a loop around the lake, you actually do not see the lake very often. That was okay by me, as it was jam packed with fishing boats anyhow. I did enjoy the hike, but nothing all that special really popped out. I will absolutely be going back to explore some of the other hiking trails at Brushy Creek, and maybe redo this hike as well.

Note: the maps from the Recreation Area itself refers to this trail as the Lake Trail. However, while on the trails, this name is only used in the southern portion south of the dam. For the rest of the trail, the labels/directionals on the trail refer to it as the "All Weather Trail"

Tick Count: 7 on the dog, 3 on me... that was found

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