||2.5 miles roundtrip
- Views of the Mississippi River bluffs
- Bridal Veil Falls
- Prehistoric burial mounds
Pikes Peak State Park often appears on lists of the best and most scenic parks in Iowa. This scenery-packed hike strongly demonstrates why: not only will you enjoy the tremendous views of the Mississippi River bluffs that the park is famous for, you will also pass prehistoric burial mounds and a waterfall. All of this wrapped in a pristine forest setting with unique topography provides a nice surprise to visitors who believe Iowa is just a big, flat cornfield.
From the parking lot, walk towards the buildings and make your way to the overlooks. Mere steps from your car, you can enjoy the view pictured below, which for many is the entire reason to visit this park. Your view will likely be even better than mine; smoke from Canadian wildfires obscured the view and unusually high water covered much of the green islands in the middle of the river.
The famous view located only a few steps from the parking lot
Head south from the overlooks to find the trail to Deer Ridge. This is one of the most scenic parts of the whole route, the trail winding through a blanket of broadleaf underbrush over short hills as pictured below. The trail dead ends at a series of burial mounds. Stop for a second to appreciate the ancient history, then turn around and head back to the overlooks.
A serene scene in the lush forest of Pikes Peak State Park
Follow the signs pointing north to Bridal Veil Falls. A beautifully crafted wood deck called the Crow's Nest treats you to another splendid view of the river, as pictured below.
More Mississippi Views from the Crow's Nest
Beyond the Crow's Nest, a long set of wooden stairs leads down to Bridal Veil Falls, as shown in the first picture below. Ahead, veer right down some more stairs to a sturdy but unnervingly-angled deck viewing Bridal Veil Falls, shown in the second picture below. Though the falls are not much more than a trickle, the limestone rock overhang makes this waterfall unique. You can find these kinds of formations throughout the Driftless Area, the zone around the Mississippi in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois that was untouched by the flattening glaciers during the last ice age, with two notable examples in Wyalusing State Park
located just across the river in Wisconsin.
The series of wooden steps leading to Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls trickling over the limestone overhang
Continue on the trail by heading up the stairs and across the bridge over the falls (as seen in the above picture). More stairs will lead you to the top of Hickory Ridge, home of another, larger group of burial mounds, as pictured below. Turn right at the top of the stairs to continue on the East Hickory Ridge Trail, which ends at a bench and an overlook -- the vegetation doesn't allow for much of a view though.
Burial mounds on Hickory Ridge
Turn around at the bench and look for a trail leading between the mounds; it's highly important that you respect the remains here and do not step on the mounds. Once you cross to the other side of the mounds, continue hiking south along the western edge of the mounds until you find the West Hickory Trail. After leaving the mounds area, the remainder of the loop isn't very exciting, but it is peaceful as you meander through the dense forest. Stay left at the next intersection, then turn right onto the Weeping Rock Trail which ends at the parking lot.
This scenic hike will prove to you that there is more to Iowa than farmland. With the many scenic views and small waterfall, this is one place you shouldn't miss. Let me know what you think in the comments section below and be sure to use #nocoastbestcoast on Twitter
Dogs are allowed on leash. I wouldn't recommend doing this entire hike if you have kids due to the stair, length, and the monotony of the end of the hike, but families certainly could hike to Bridal Veil Falls and back. You can definitely hike here during the three warmer seasons; it's unclear which trails if any are groomed for skiing in the winter, but you'll be able to hike to the falls -- just be careful on the stairs in case they're icy. This is one of the more popular state parks in Iowa, so expect to see others on the hike.
Located just outside of McGregor, use the Google Maps link below to navigate through the rural highways required to reach this part of the state.
Google Maps Directions
Parking, Fees, and Facilities
Parking is free! There are flush toilets, water, and a concession stand near the lot.