Hiking With Kids: Trails to Explore in Cedar Rapids and Eastern Iowa

“Children still need a childhood with dirt, mud, puddles, trees, sticks, and tadpoles.” – Brooke Hampton

I couldn’t agree more.  Being outdoors and exploring nature provides something for everyone in the family.  There are countless opportunities for discovery, creativity, stress relief, exercise, and imaginative play; the list goes on and on.

Trails to Explore in Cedar Rapids and Eastern Iowa

Hiking is something my family loves to do. We call it a “family adventure”.  Someone once told me that our kids will remember the adventures we went on together, not the stuff we bought them.  At some point, kids always outgrow stuff but they never outgrow adventures and the memories made.  

If you’re ready to take your family on an adventure, check out these local area trails!

Trails to Explore in Cedar Rapids and Eastern Iowa
Trails to Explore Around Cedar Rapids

Pinicon Ridge Park: This county park has several trails that vary in length, giving you plenty of options that are perfect for a quick hike or for a longer adventure.  

Indian Creek Nature Center: Here you can explore roughly 5 miles of local area trails.

Lake MacBride State Park – This state park offers 13 miles of trails.  My family recently hiked the ‘beach to dam’ trail and we all really enjoyed it.  

Devonian Fossil Gorge – Here you will find lots to explore, and it is easy enough for toddlers to climb around on as well. Great for a variety of ages!

Squaw Creek Park – Located in Marion, the 2.5 mile Squaw Creek Loop Trail is great for all skill levels.

Wickiup Hill Natural Area – Located just over in Toddville, many may only know of Wickiup as the place with the awesome play area and learning center.  But they also have a variety of trails to hike and explore!

Boyson Park & Trail – You can find access to this trail off of Boyson Road as well as 1st Ave over by Thomas Park.  

Pleasant Creek State Recreation Area – Located in Palo, you will find 8.5 miles of trails with connecting access to many area facilities and scenic overlooks

Palisades-Kepler State Park – This is one of our family favorites!  With over 6 miles of trails, this is a wonderful place for a family hiking adventure.

J Harold Ennis Preserve – Hike a mile loop that goes along the Cedar River.  Located just past Palisades off Cedar River Road

Lily Pond Trail – Located in Amana, Lily Pond Trail is a 2.5 mile loop that features a lake and is rated as a moderate trail.  

Squire Point & Woodpecker Trails – These trails provide a beautiful view of Coralville Lake and approximately 5 miles of hiking.  

Wapsipinicon State Park – A short drive to Anamosa, Wapsipinicon State Park offers multi-use trails that lead to some fun places for creek stomping!  

If you’re looking for more of a “day trip” adventure and are willing to drive a little farther, here are some incredible spots to visit and explore:

Trails to Explore in Eastern Iowa

Pikes Peak State Park – Located in McGregor, guides refer to Pikes Peak as “a hiker’s delight” with over 11 miles of various trails!  One of the most popular takes you past Bridal Veil Falls, a beautiful waterfall that falls into a refreshing spring.  Pack a picnic lunch and make a day of it! 

Maquoketa Caves State Park – Although the caves are currently (July 2020) closed, the trails are open!  Over 6 miles of trails take you to many highlights including the dramatic “natural bridge.”

Backbone State Park – We hiked the “Backbone Trail” when my son was little enough to be worn in the Baby Bjorn!  This park is absolutely beautiful with 21 miles of hiking and multi-use trails.  Located in Delaware County in Dundee, Iowa, this park is a must-see!  

Wildcat Den State Park – The trail system is one of the major features of Wildcat Den State Park.  Located in Muscatine, the trails offer a variety of terrains to excite even the riskier hikers!  

Decorah – The town of Decorah is worth the drive for those who love exploring the outdoors!  With outdoor attractions such as Phelps Park, Pulpit Rock, Dunning Springs, the Ice Cave State Preserve, and many recreational trails for hiking and biking, you’ll definitely enjoy your trip!  

Mines of Spain – located in Dubuque, the Mines of Spain include 21 miles of hiking trails with 6 individual nature walks within the park.  

Fontana Park – located in Hazelton, Fontana Park has 1.25 miles of looping trails that pass along the lake and wind through a lovely wooded area.

Go Enjoy Nature!

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Ashley is a ‘small town’ girl who moved to the ‘big city’ of Cedar Rapids after high school. A graduate of Coe College, Ashley is currently a kindergarten teacher and a true lover of yoga pants, cozy sweatshirts, chai tea lattes and cookie dough. Ashley and her husband, Mitch, first met each other back in middle school, dated when they were freshmen in high school, then reconnected one final time via Facebook back in 2006 shortly after Mitch returned from his first deployment. They've stood by their vows of ‘for better or worse,’ and as they approach their 10 year wedding anniversary, they aren’t afraid to admit that marriage isn’t easy. They welcomed their first child, Stella Grace Bass, in May of 2013 and their second child, Archer Mitchell Bass, in December of 2017!