Well, June sure has thrown us for a hot weather loop. I was pretty sure I read somewhere that June was supposed to be cooler than average. Oh well, that is Mother Nature for us. Now, if you are anything like me, then once those temps hit 90 (especially with the humidity) all you want to do is be BFFs with the air conditioner. Unfortunately, while A/C and I are best buddies, the kiddos get pretty squirrelly if confined to the arctic oasis for too long. Here are three easy trails to get you through the hot weather, because anything more than easy just might not be worth leaving the A/C for.
- Easy- These trails have mostly flat surfaces, nearly no trip hazards, and are stroller friendly. Great for all ages!
- Moderate- These trails have various elevations, some trip hazards, and could support stroller use. Great for most ages, could be challenging for the youngest children.
- Intermediate- These trails have steep elevations, some height hazards, and are not stroller friendly. Best navigated by preschool ages and older, must have control of the smaller kiddos.
- Hard- These trails have all the hazards. Experience is necessary. Best for older children and adults
The Sac and Fox trail is a 7 mile, crushed limestone trail out by the Indian Creek Nature Center. The nature center is just about the halfway point on the Sac and Fox, so obviously it would be super smart to visit there and then head out north or south on the trail. Keep in mind, from the nature center the trail is longer going north. There is a noticable trail head at the north end with some street parking. At the Bertram Road and nature center trail heads you’ll find parking, bathrooms, and water. There is a large parking lot at the southern most trail head. Hit this trail in the early hours of the morning if it is going to be a particually hot day. This trail is mostly sunny, so sunscreen and hats is highly recommended.
Aside from being able to hit this trail pretty much any time you are visiting the nature center, if you wander into nature center’s store there are some guide books for the trail. If you have some scouts (or kids that like to collect things), then they can earn a patch for hiking the entirety of the Sac and oFx trail. The best part is that you can break up the 7 miles into smaller hikes over time. That still counts for earning the patch! There are also a few caches out that way if you like to go geocaching. I’ve not had a bunch on luck getting my GPS to sync accurately in that area, but I’ve still been able to find the cache.
A word of caution: the southern portion of the trail floods due to its proximity to the Cedar River. This mostly happens during the spring time, but if you are hiking after we’ve had some heavy rains, you might find the trail closed due to flooding.
One of the best draws to downtown Cedar Rapids is the Cedar River Trail, which is a small part of the much larger Cedar Valley Nature Trail (a 51 mile trail from Cedar Rapids to Waterloo). Cedar River Trail is paved and multi-use, so you will find many types of people along the way, from cyclists to inline skaters, to dog walkers, to hikers. I’ve even seen a woman riding what I can only describe as the offspring of an elliptical and bicycle…an ellipticle on wheels. Seriously, mad props to that lady, because I’m pretty sure my legs would fall off if I attempted that for any amount of miles. I digress… While there is both a north and south designation to the 13 miles that is the Cedar River Trail, the best spot to take the kiddies is along the north portion of the trail.
There is parking at a trail head at McCloud Pl. and Center Point (across from the New Pi CoOp). Head south on the trail, and in one mile you will find a playground for the kids to play on. There are also a couple of places to leave the trail and check out the stream that boasts the title of Iowa’s only urban trout run. Supposedly, you can catch and release trout, but I have yet to see any.
One of the great things about this trail being paved is that it is the perfect spot to teach your children how to ride their bikes. Our sidewalk has just a slight incline so my munchkins just couldn’t get the hang on getting going on their bikes. One trip to the Cedar River Trail and we have a couple of small cyclists. Aside from the hike, if you would rather take your bikes and make it a longer trip, then you can keep riding down to Cedar Lake, loop around, and head back for a 4.5 mile round trip. Just note that you’ll want to make sure your kids are in tiptop shape when it comes to bike riding safety, because you will have to cross roads once you pass the playground.
Lastly, use the trail for a fun date night as you ride your bike around Cedar Lake. You’ll find a bar called the Sag Wagon that caters to the cycling community.
Over on the western side of Cedar Rapids, nestled quietly off Stoney Point Road, is Morgan Creek Park and Arboretum. Though the trails here all connect to each other there are two points of access depending on where you are wanting to enjoy your hike. If you prefer the prairie, then you’ll want to park in the Morgan Creek Park area (there is an entry to the wooden section of the trail towards the front of the park, or drive all the way back for the prairie). If you want to check out the arboretum then drive further down Worcester Road for the enterance there. My County Parks offers a nice map of the trails here.
Educational opportunities abound out here. There is an abundance of plant life and wildlife. I’ve seen snakes, rabbits, deer, and all sorts of birds. The prairie has wild-growing milkweed, so if you are lucky you can see the entire life cycle of the Monarch. There is also a butterfly garden in the arboretum, which is usually full of a variety of butterflies during the summer. While you are out on these trails you are going to want to bring bug spray… a lot of bug spray. Now, I know that I’ve listed this as a great place to visit in the hot weather, but there is a caveat: If you can wear long pants, it might be a good idea. I had chigger bites on my ankles and up my calves last summer after hiking in the prairie. I have had no bites this year, so you can take or leave the suggestion.
I think Morgan Creek is the perfect place for an evening or twilight hike. The landscape in the prairie is a great place to catch the sunset. It’s during the evening that you can really begin to hear the many different sounds and songs of nature. The animals start moving around again after the heat of the day. If you have any littles that love bats, this would be a good spot to see them in action, swooping around the sky catching various insects. It’s really fun watching them and listening to them using their echo-location.
These three locations will hopefully help you get outside in the heat without working too much to enjoy nature. Be sure to check out the other posts in the our Hiking Easter Iowa series: