When it comes to outdoor adventures, Iowa might not be the first destination that comes to mind. However, hidden within its picturesque landscapes lies a treasure trove of hiking trails waiting to be discovered. From gentle strolls through prairies to challenging hikes along river bluffs, Iowa offers a diverse range of trails for nature enthusiasts of all levels. Lace up your boots, grab your backpack, and get ready to embark on a journey through the top 15 hiking trails in Iowa.

1. Effigy Mounds National Monument

Located in Harpers Ferry, this trail system showcases ancient Native American burial and ceremonial mounds. With over 14 miles of trails, hikers can explore the unique shapes and cultural significance of the mounds while immersing themselves in the tranquil surroundings.

2. Maquoketa Caves State Park

Venture underground and traverse the intriguing limestone caves of Maquoketa. This park features six miles of trails that lead hikers through lush forests, towering bluffs, and enchanting caves, creating a memorable and adventurous experience.

3. Backbone State Park

Known as Iowa’s oldest state park, Backbone offers a stunning array of hiking opportunities. Its namesake trail takes hikers along rugged cliffs, past a picturesque lake, and up to the park’s signature geological formation, the Devil’s Backbone.

4. Mines of Spain Recreation Area

Nestled in Dubuque, this diverse natural area boasts over 21 miles of trails. Hikers can explore the ancient lead mining sites, wander through prairies and woodlands, and enjoy panoramic views of the Mississippi River.

5. Ledges State Park

A true gem in central Iowa, Ledges State Park captivates visitors with its unique sandstone cliffs and beautiful canyon views. The park’s trails wind through dense forests and lead to scenic overlooks, making it a favorite destination for nature lovers and photographers alike.

6. Preparation Canyon State Park

Located in the Loess Hills region, this park offers 14 miles of trails that wind through rolling hills and wooded valleys. As you hike, keep an eye out for diverse wildlife and take in the breathtaking vistas that stretch as far as the eye can see.

7. Waubonsie State Park

Situated in the southwestern part of the state, Waubonsie offers a mix of woodland and prairie landscapes. With seven miles of trails, hikers can explore deep ravines, climb limestone bluffs, and witness panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

8. Pine Lake State Park

For a more tranquil hiking experience, Pine Lake State Park is a perfect choice. This peaceful park in Eldora boasts over six miles of trails that meander around a scenic lake, through woodlands, and past wetlands teeming with wildlife.

9. Wapsipinicon State Park

Nestled along the banks of the Wapsipinicon River, this park provides an excellent backdrop for a leisurely hike. The trails wind through a mix of forests and prairies, offering hikers the chance to observe an abundance of bird species and other wildlife.

10. Maquoketa River Water Trail

If you’re looking for a water-based hiking adventure, the Maquoketa River Water Trail is an excellent option. Paddle or float down the meandering river, taking in the stunning scenery and stopping at sandy riverbanks for picnics or exploration.

11. Shimek State Forest

Straddling the Iowa-Missouri border, Shimek State Forest offers over 40 miles of interconnected trails that wind through rugged bluffs and scenic woodlands. Hikers can expect to encounter picturesque streams, unique rock formations, and an abundance of plant and animal life.

12. Yellow River State Forest

Known for its stunning river valleys and ancient limestone bluffs, Yellow River State Forest in northeast Iowa beckons hikers with over 25 miles of trails. The forest is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering opportunities for wildlife spotting, trout fishing, and camping.

13. Dolliver Memorial State Park

History and nature converge at Dolliver Memorial State Park near Lehigh. The park’s six miles of trails wind through dense forests, past limestone quarries, and lead to the fascinating remains of a historic mineral springs resort.

14. Stone State Park

Perched on the outskirts of Sioux City, Stone State Park combines rugged terrain with sweeping views of the Big Sioux River. Its network of trails guides hikers through dense woodlands, past towering bluffs, and to scenic overlooks that showcase the park’s natural beauty.

15. Volga River State Recreation Area

With its rolling hills, pristine rivers, and abundant wildlife, Volga River State Recreation Area is a hiker’s paradise. Over 17 miles of trails offer a mix of wooded paths, scenic riverfronts, and prairie landscapes, providing a truly immersive outdoor experience.


While Iowa may not be known for its towering mountains or vast wilderness, the state’s hiking trails hold their own unique charm and beauty. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker seeking a challenge or a nature enthusiast looking for a peaceful stroll, Iowa’s trails offer a captivating journey through its diverse landscapes. So, grab your hiking gear and set out to explore the hidden treasures of Iowa’s natural wonders.