|Distance||2 miles roundtrip|
- Beautiful butterfly garden
- Historic quarry and lime kiln ruins
Bellevue State Park is another one of Iowa's state parks in the Driftless Area, the part of the state along the Mississippi River that escaped the flattening effects of glaciers in the last ice age. This hike travels almost all of the trails in the Nelson Unit of the park but unfortunately misses the views (visit the nearby overlook for those). Overall, there isn't much special to see here, so I recommend you head to either the scenic bluffs of Mississippi Palisades State Park across the river in Illinois or Iowa's coolest rock formations at Maquoketa Caves State Park to the southwest.
The hike starts on a paved path through a restored prairie, pictured below. A wide variety of flowers bloom in the tall grass throughout the three warmer seasons.
Beyond the quarry, stay left at the intersection of a trail leading into town marked by a sign from someone's past Boy Scout project. The trail begins a gradual ascent, and then on the right, you'll pass the sign for the lime kiln, pictured below. If you look closely down the ravine, you'll be able to see the ruins of the kiln, a stack of stones somewhat resembling the beehive-shaped image on the sign (another un-photogenic sight). Twitter and Instagram!
Dogs are allowed on leash. This hike is a bit hilly but short in length, so it should be doable for most kids; if necessary, you can shorten and flatten the hike by skipping the Quarry Trail and doing the Meadow Trail in its entirety. You can hike this trail in all four seasons, though be aware there may be skiers on the quarry trail in winter. Summer is the best time to visit if you want to see butterflies. Locally this is a popular park, so expect to see people out hiking when the weather is decent. You don't have to worry about major crowds though, especially because there isn't a campground in this portion of the park.
At over 3 hours away from both Des Moines and Chicago, Bellevue State Park requires you zigzag through the country away from major highways. Use the Google Maps link below to navigate the rural highways you'll take to get here.
Google Maps Directions
Parking, Fees, and Facilities
Parking is free! There are restrooms in the nature center when it is open; otherwise, drive further on the park road to pit toilets.