Wildcat Den State Park Wildcat Den State Park is located in southeast Iowa near Muscatine, just west of Davenport and the rest of the quad cities.
This is another park that I ventured to with the family without any knowledge other than it being on the DNR website and had a trail. While I will admit the kids weren’t as enthused as their mom and I about getting out, by the end the were enjoying themselves with the scenery.
The park offers about 6 miles of trails, mostly in a loop with a down and back tail on the east side. It was thickly wooded with some noticeable hills throughout. We started our hike by parking at the orange star in the center of the park. The parking area was surrounded by a pretty open area for picnicking, as well as a shelter. I did wander around a bit looking for the trail-head since it wasn’t immediately obvious. It didn’t take too long though before I found it on the north tree line and we were off.
We opted to go counter-clockwise at the first junction (1) and found the trails to be well maintained. Every now and then we came across large piles of finely ground gravel that I’m assuming were staged for trail maintenance. Overall it was a nice trail that was easy to follow. The foliage was a mix of deciduous and evergreen trees throughout the park. I really do enjoy a walk in the pines. There is just something about pine groves that is simply pleasant.
One nice surprise about the landscape was that the trail went into a valley with tall rock cliffs on both sides (2). There were a few overlook places above us that probably gave some attractive views of the trail. We went off trail a bit and checked out this mini canyon that had been carved in the rock. This is the point where the kids’ moods started to improve.
Eventually we needed to get moving again and continued on. The down and back portion of the trail heads off to the east side of the park with a decent decline that terminates at a road in front of a historical attraction. There is an old one room school house and the old grist mill. We walked around and the area checking out the mill and took advantage of the restrooms for a little break.
Once everyone was feeling ready to go we got back on the trail and started our climb back up the hill. We merged back up with the main loop and continued on. The northeast portion of the park really is where the biggest attraction to place sits. Along with the canyon before, we found some really nice sandstone bluffs at the green star that were a lot of fun. The incline had soured the kids’ mood again, but here is where they really perked back up.
The trails through here are honestly stand alone if they wanted to be since you can park at the base of them. You weave all through the stone on heavily trafficked trails. There is some scrambling over rocks and climbing into alcoves, it was honestly a lot of fun. Since sandstone is a pretty soft rock, there were certain section where you could find the locals had carved various graffiti. Make sure you hit up this area on your visit.
When considering gear, we went pretty light. It was only a couple to hike the whole park, and we did fart around a bit. The kids didn’t really bring anything, while my wife and I had our daypacks. She carried their water and snacks, while I carried my water and the first aid mostly. You can drive to most of the attractions, so if you aren’t sure you are ready for a hilly 6 mile hike then plan on hiking to the canyon and out, then drive to the bluffs and mill. While I could recommend trekking poles for those that want support, this is definitely not a gear intensive hike so no worries there. Of course as always, bring your map!
Wildcat Den State Park is a very enjoyable little stroll among the trees and bluffs of eastern Iowa. If you’re in the quad cities area, it is only a 30 min drive away. Grab the kids and left them wander around bluffs and build memories.
Thanks for reading!