Quarry Loop

Bellevue State Park, Iowa

Trip Date: Sunday, June 2nd, 2019
Last Updated: Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★☆☆(3/5)
Overall Difficulty Easy
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 2 miles roundtrip
Time 1 hour
Terrain Hilly
Best Seasons All
Family Friendly Yes
Dog Friendly Yes
Accessible No


Hike Summary

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.

Purple flowers blooming in the pollinator habitat at the start of the hike

Purple flowers blooming in the pollinator habitat at the start of the hike

The pavement ends at the butterfly garden, a neatly landscaped area with a pond and iron sculptures as pictured below. Visit here on a hot summer day for the best butterfly viewing opportunities -- butterflies love the heat and sun.
The small pond and metal sculptures in the butterfly garden

The small pond and metal sculptures in the butterfly garden

The trail continues into the forest, the wide expanse pictured below that cuts through the overgrown underbrush of the forest. Veer right at the next two intersections, following signs for the Quarry Trail. There isn't much to look at during this part of the hike due to the dense trees.
The wide, gravelly trail through the forest

The wide, gravelly trail through the forest

After your second right onto the Quarry Trail, the trail begins descending, slowly winding its way down the hill until you reach the quarry itself. To the left of the trail, you can see remnants of the quarry through the forest: steep stone cliffs with vertical lines carved from workers painstakingly hammering metal rods to separate the rocks. Pretty cool if you haven't seen anything like it before, but it certainly isn't photogenic (hence why I haven't shared a picture here).

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).
This sign marks the lime kiln ruins which can be seen further down the ravine.

This sign marks the lime kiln ruins which can be seen further down the ravine.

After reaching the top of the hill, turn right onto the Meadow Trail to continue back to the parking lot. The trail will bend left, and shortly after there will be a service road leading to the right with the prairie view pictured below. Definitely try to find this spot, otherwise there isn't much else to look at during the hike back to the parking lot!
Prairie on the edge of the Meadow Trail

Prairie on the edge of the Meadow Trail

Once you emerge from the forest back into the butterfly garden, finding your way back should be straightforward. While this hike isn't particularly special, it's a quick way to take advantage of a nice day and to see some lovely nature. Connect with me using the social media links below and share your adventures!

Important Information

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.

Nearby Hikes

The view of Bellevue and the Mississippi River and bluffs from the overlook
Overlook Trail
Bellevue State Park, Iowa
The wide trail heading uphill into dense forest
High Point Trail and Rock Top Trail
Mississippi Palisades State Park, Illinois
The Twin Sisters and the Mississippi River beyond in the late afternoon sun
Sentinel Trail to the Twin Sisters
Mississippi Palisades State Park, Illinois
Indian Head
Mississippi Palisades State Park, Illinois

External Links