Brushy Creek State Recreation Area – Southern Legs

Brushy Creek Google

Brushy Creek State Recreation Area is located in west central Iowa, just southeast of Ft Dodge.

In terms of state green spaces, it is relatively young. Like many places in Iowa, everything about it is man-made. It was once what it’s name suggests, a creek running through a canyon. Then in 1967 the Iowa DNR proposed damming it up and creating the lake. There was nearly 20 years of kickback before it was finally approved. Today Brushy Creek consists of the lake at the northern end of the park, and a large network of equestrian trails to the south. In fact, if you look at the larger trail map of the Lake Trail below, you can see where the original Brushy Creek wound through the canyon that filled up to create the lake.

Brushy FullIn total, they have about 45 miles of trails to walk. While I have completed my exploration of the park, I did not do it in one outing.

The focus of this post will be on the southern two trails that are both down and back style trails.

This was my third trip to the park, so I had an idea of what to expect. I had just completed the middle network only a couple of weeks prior to this trip and was anxious to finish my exploration.

I was also using this trip to prepare for my attempt at redemption with Yellow River State Forest. I was anticipating around 20 miles for this trip, which would give me the opportunity to test my legs as far as distance. When it comes to Yellow River’s elevation gain, that’s another story.

Brushy SE.JPGKnowing I had some miles to cover, I trimmed down my load and left the camera gear at home. All of the pictures are from my cell phone, and there is a noticeable difference in quality. Since I had such an ambitious day planned, I got a very early start. I arrived well before sunrise and parked in the Day Use parking area (Red Star) where both trails start from. I started with only my headlamp to see with, which could have helped with my mistake.

Now I had it built into my hiking plan to start with the SW section since that looked more appealing on the maps, leaving the SE section to be the one I bailed on early incase I found my legs were unprepared for a 20 miler.

Brushy splitTo help give better detail of the mistake, I pulled up my data and drew on the above screen shot. So the mistake came at the yellow circle where the trails divide. The trail map isn’t overly clear as to how this divide happens, and in the dark I missed the one iffy trail marking I found in the whole park…

IMG_4225As you can see from the pictures I took upon my return trip, when you are approaching from the treeline, there isn’t a sign that stands out to tell you which way to go. In the dark, I’m not sure I even noticed it.

IMG_4226If you approach it from the other directions, yeah, the signs stand out… So… I went the wrong way and started on the East Loop. Whoops.

Now the trail here was mostly an access road to the pastures for the farmer’s cows.


Brushy SEThis is actually what threw up the red flag as the West Loop Trail was supposed to have the river to my east, not a pasture. I figured it out, shrugged, and proceeded on. It was short-lived though as I ran into a creek where the only option was to splash on through it (Yellow Star). Now the creek wasn’t too bad, but I didn’t want to deal with wet feet on the onset of the hike. With what I had seen from the little bit I’d hiked so far, I wasn’t feeling like the rest was going to be much better and turned around.

That is one of the gambles of the rec areas. Since they need to be navigable for horses, many of the trails have fewer interesting features so things like wading through creeks aren’t normally worth the discomfort.

I didn’t like the idea of leaving miles behind, but figured I had plenty to go and returned to where I figured out my mistake. I looped around the sunflower field, headed down the gravel road, and picked up the West Loop to continue my hike.

Brushy SW.JPG

The West Loop began with an immediate descent down a rough road that appears to have been long abandoned (as a vehicle road). It was very apparent though, that this section receives far more traffic than the East Loop as it was well-worn.


This helped the trail have a really smooth flow. I found my pace to be pretty quick as I walked along the river. I picked out a route I wanted to traverse to cover as many of the trails within the network at the farthest point from the parking lot (Red Line). My favorite part was Maple Trail that started by the Blue Star. I’m a sucker for the long paths between rows of trees that form clear lines.


The Maple Trail did rejoin the West Loop where I followed it around the bend and to an open field. This was a nice little place to take a break as the sun was really starting to warm things up. By this point I had realized that I was way ahead of schedule, and not just because of ditching out early on the East Loop. I was making great time on the West Loop. I debated on whether I was going to stay on the loop for the return, or sneak down to Turkey Trail and weave through the other sections like I had planned. I ultimately chose to weave as that is the purpose of the exploration, to learn about as much as possible to share with you.

Brushy SWThat being said, I should have skipped Turkey Trail and stayed on the loop for a little bit longer. Around the Purple Star it looked like they were doing a lot of work, possibly changing up the trail system, so the area was really rough. Not only that, but the mosquitoes were horrible in this one area! They were barely noticeable everywhere else, but along Turkey they chewed me up like mad.

Once I got through Turkey and on to Cedar Trail, it was pretty smooth sailing back to the car. Once I got back on the gravel road at the end of the trailhead, I realised I could just walk down the road to entrance to the parking area rather than around the sunflower field and through the short wood.Brushy splitWith that I am considering my exploration of Brushy Creek State Recreation Area complete. This section hike totaled a little over 12 miles for the day, bringing the total miles hiked at Brushy to about 33 miles. Now I recognize that I skipped a good portion of the East Loop, and a few trails of the Middle Network, so maybe 35-40 for a full circuit. I will likely return in the future and see how far I can push in a single outing, because I like challenges like that.

IMG_4234I feel that these trails are very easy to navigate and aren’t overly demanding. As long as you can handle the miles, you can hike these trails. Be sure to bring your map to help you navigate the network portion of the loops, and it’s always a good idea to at least have some water and snacks as well. If you are an equestrian rider, these trails are very popular if you’re looking for some place new.

Don’t forget to hop on over and check out the video on YouTube.

I hope this trail report helped you find a new place to get out there and go for a walk!


Brushy Creek State Rec Area – Middle Network

Brushy Creek Google

Brushy Creek State Recreation Area is located in west central Iowa, just southeast of Ft Dodge.

In terms of state green spaces, it is relatively young. Like many places in Iowa, everything about it is man-made. It was once what it’s name suggests, a creek running through a canyon. Then in 1967 the Iowa DNR proposed damming it up and creating the lake. There was nearly 20 years of kickback before it was finally approved. Today Brushy Creek consists of the lake at the northern end of the park, and a large network of equestrian trails to the south. In fact, if you look at the larger trail map of the Lake Trail below, you can see where the original Brushy Creek wound through the canyon that filled up to create the lake.

Brushy FullIn total, they have about 45 miles of trails to walk. While I have completed my exploration of the park, I did not do it in one outing.

The focus of this post will be on the middle network of trails between the turquoise Lake Loop, and the southern “legs.”

This was my second trip to the park, so I had an idea of what to expect. The weather was pretty hot and humid in early August, so when there was a momentary drop in both I jumped on the chance to get outside.

The day was beautiful with clear skies, comfortable temps, and low winds.

I parked at the campgrounds and the first thing I noticed was  just how busy Brushy Creek is! When I hiked it the year before with Jessie, there was barely anyone else around.

Every camp site was full, and the majority of them had horse trailers. As I found during my hike, this is a pretty popular spot for equestrian traffic. The morning started out with almost no one else on the trails, but by 9 AM I started running into riders on a regular basis.CJP_5421

Brushy Creek Middle Marked up.jpg

As I mentioned, I parked at the entrance to the campground in the center of the map (Red Star). I opted to travel in a clockwise direction like usual, and the path I ended up following is the orange line. I knew it was going to be a good day when the first image I saw as I crossed the road to the first trailhead was the scene I used for my featured image. The bright morning sky, with the remnants of the fog rising from the creek was a real mood setter (here it is again).


Immediately I saw that this section of trail was going to be different than the Lake Loop. The Lake Loop is a graveled path where you spend most of your time walking in the open. This network is a hard-packed dirt trail, wandering through a thick wood.

Like most lake area trails, they are pretty flat and flow well over the rolling hills. Now personally, I’m not a big fan of spending a lot of time on an exposed trail, so I intentionally skipped out on Pond Trail. Recognizing on the map that it is an exposed trail, mostly for equestrian use, with a good portion of road walking, I wasn’t excited to try and work it into my loop. So I stuck to the trees.


I was definitely enjoying my hike in the woods, but I noticed that there was very little animal life to capture with my camera. As I exited the Clay Hill Trail and hit the southernmost portion of the Lake Loop I finally caught this fawn, who saw me well before I was able to get within range for a close up shot. Shortly after I was able to get her in frame, she bounded away into the tall grass. Aside from a toad and a couple bugs, that was the extent of the wildlife that trip.


The sun was burning strong over the prairie grasses during this short walk before I returned to the woods. If you attempt to string together the multiple sections of the park, this is the connector between the Lake Loop and the middle network.

From there I entered Preserve Trail and began heading back south. The point of note I’d like to chat about is a potential rest area that could be improved a slight bit (Yellow Star). At the first curve of the trail is a little bench, looking down to the creek. Now as it is, it is a good place to take a pause if need be. The bench is a little worn, but it is functional. Now what could be nice, is to drag in a picnic table, replace or clean up the bench, and clear up the view a bit by cutting down some of the foliage. Now that could create a desired picnic spot.

CJP_5408Not too far from that point I ran into a little guy climbing his silk. I made a valiant attempt at getting it nice and sharp without actually having a lens designed for that close up macro view point. It was a fun little break in the hike regardless.

The next point of note was a creek crossing along the Meadow Trail (Blue Star). Originally I had planned on following it north to the Lake Loop again, then road walking down to Big Rock Trail where I’d have to cross again. Honestly, I didn’t notice there was a creek before I set off. However, after I ran into it, it became clear that it was on the map. I just wasn’t looking for it.


You might have to look close, but that is a swarm of mosquitoes. Also, there aren’t really any stepping stones to help hikers across, so you’ll have to get your feet wet. I do like it when they place ways to cross streams to help keep your feet dry though (hint hint DNR…). In this case, since it was only going to be about 1.5 – 2 mile loop (Yellow Loop) and come back to this point, I chose to avoid the swarm and wet feet.

Continuing on the trail I found it to remain pretty consistent. The only portion of the network that I was unsure about as I planned my trip was the upcoming Bridge Trail. It looked as though you had to cross the road and then walk alongside it for a bit, which isn’t overly normal for a marked trail. Once I got to that point though, I realized that the trail actually went under the bridge, then you walked trail on the north edge of a fallow field, before taking a gravel drive south where you can re-enter the tree line.


If you want to stretch it out a bit more for mileage, you can continue along the road as it turns into Cemetery Trail, but it is an exposed trail that goes around the septic treatment pits.

The Bridge Trail that I stayed on terminates at a 4-way intersection of trails, a place where Bridge, Cemetery, and Creek trails all meet. I was originally going to take Cemetery at this point, but a pair of riders where heading down that direction and their horses where acting pretty skittish at sensing my presence. So as you can see on the map, I went straight and looped back around to cross over my previous path instead. After that it was a short walk up Creek Trail, then through the campground and back to the car.

Since I mentioned the connectors to the Lake Loop, I should comment that where Cemetery terminates into Day-Use Trail is where the connector for the southern trails is. With such a large trail network, one thing that is nice about Brushy Creek is that their trails are very well marked, with only one hiccup on the SW leg I’ll discuss in that upcoming trail report. So that being said, make sure to take a map with you just to verify you’re on the right path.


Overall, a really enjoyable little hike. The route I ended up finishing netted 8 miles and took a little under 3 hours. It is a fairly smooth trail that most anyone can tackle, with plenty of options so you can stay within your known limits. On the other side of that, with that extensive network, it also offers opportunity for those looking to really crush some miles to build a hefty hike for themselves. I know this hiker is looking to challenge himself with an attempt to hike all three sections in one day. I’ve estimated it should be roughly 34 – 40 miles for the entire attempt…

CJP_5397Make sure to check the DNR website if we’ve been having some wet weather since the trails are dirt. Last year the only available trail was the Lake Loop as the middle and southern sections were closed. I know Volga was pretty much taken out of commission for a while due to riders not adhering to the postings and riding anyway.

So check out the video on YouTube, stuff your pack with water, snacks, and your map, and enjoy your walk!



Madera Hammocks

CJP_6864So I took opportunity of the great weather today to get out for some snowshoeing down at Lake MacBride State Park. The lake was quite frozen and I used it to take a shortcut back to the car after I got the photos that I set out to capture. Besides, my camera battery was dead… 180-some shots and my favorites are the pano up top, and two close ups of the snow.



While I was looking for some nice winter shots to capture, they weren’t the actual intent of the hike.

CJP_6865The actual intent was to get some pictures of the new Madera Hammock I just got the other day. Now this one is Cheryl’s, the one I ordered for me is a pre-order and isn’t expected to ship until the end of February. Now this is my first hammock experience, but I have been researching them for a while now. Like a couple years “a while.” The construction seems to be pretty solid, and the cost wasn’t too bad. This was just a simple taste test for practice’s sake. I’ll have to post a review after I get more experience with it.


So far I’m starting to understand where the draw to hammocks comes from. Even though it was cold, it was quite nice to lay in it and just… chill. lol


Now the other reason I wanted to get out and take some product shots was to be able to announce that even though I don’t have any experience with hammocks, the company thought my passion for the outdoors was a good fit for their ambassador program.

So periodically I will post about their brand, offer discounts for their products, and provide reviews. In return, if you decide to purchase through the links I provide, like this one:

I get a small commission.


So if you are curious about hammocks and don’t want to drop hundreds of dollars on your first one, they are almost always running sales. I got Cheryl’s for about $50 with the tree straps.

As always, I hope you enjoy your walk!

Brushy Creek State Rec Area – Lake Loop

Brushy Creek Google

Brushy Creek State Recreation Area is located in west central Iowa, just southeast of Ft Dodge.

In terms of state green spaces, it is relatively young. Like many places in Iowa, everything about it is man-made. It was once what it’s name suggests, a creek running through a canyon. Then in 1967 the Iowa DNR proposed damming it up and creating the lake. There was nearly 20 years of kickback before it was finally approved. Today Brushy Creek consists of the lake at the northern end of the park, and a large network of equestrian trails to the south. In fact, if you look at the larger trail map of the Lake Trail below, you can see where the original Brushy Creek wound through the canyon that filled up to create the lake.

Brushy FullIn total, they have about 45 miles of trails to walk. While I have completed my exploration of the park, I did not do it in one outing.

The focus of this post will be on the turquoise-ish lake loop trail on the north end of the map.

My first trip there was an impromptu trip in August of 2016. The summer was waning and Jessie and I still hadn’t completed our annual “Kill Jessie Hike.”

IMG_2880We had planned on heading up north to Volga, but at the last minute Iowa happened and the weather forecast went from sunny, to severe thunderstorms.

I scoured the map, my database, and weather forecasts for a minimum of a 10 mile trail (’cause that’s the rule to try and kill Jessie), we could get to, hike, and get home before supper.

The storm front was moving swift and I found that by the time we would get to Brushy Creek, the storms would have already rolled through the area. So I called Jessie, and we agreed that it was the best option. So we prepped our gear and left before the sun came up.

Brushy Creek Lake.JPG

Due to the weather we both opted to leave the cameras at home as they aren’t weather sealed and we didn’t fully trust that our hike was going to stay dry. So photos are limited for this one.

We arrived just after sunrise and parked in the lot near the campground (red star). There wasn’t a whole lot of activity at the park that day, but a few fisherman were out on the lake throughout the hike. All of the other trails were closed due to a pretty wet summer, but the Lake Trail is gravel and was pretty much the only available trail in the state it felt like.

We set off from the parking lot and hiked in a clockwise direction. The trail is mostly open with little tree cover. It skirts either prairie or corn/bean fields along the outer edge of the lake the majority of the time. Now and then it would dip into the trees and give a brief escape from the wind and sun if they happen to be particularly harsh, which we did have some good winds during our trek.

IMG_2888The first note is marked with a green star. Here we found that there was an unmarked path that allowed us to bypass the campground. It was just a farmer’s access road for the most part, but by the amount of road apples, it was a common shortcut.

The biggest treat on the trail for me were the points in which there were bridges that cut across some inlets (blue stars). The old trees that once grew in the canyon are still there, and the surface of the water was completely green with algae at a couple.

Eventually we did get rained on, but it was only briefly. After that shower passed, the sky opened up and we finally got some great blue skies for the rest of our hike. The trail didn’t claim Jessie, he walked away with some sore feet though.

The trail overall was pretty flat and we made good time. Given your confidence with the number of miles you can hike in one session, this trail would definitely be accessible to pretty much anyone. I found that throughout the park the trails are marked pretty well. I found that I never really had to reference the map, other than to just check on our progress.

One thing I found interesting was that the park is one of the designated grow sites for the prairie recovery program in Iowa (orange star). I actually knew nothing about this until I saw some signage and looked it up. From what I understand, they grow native species of prairie flowers and grasses, let them go to seed, and then distribute the seeds across the state to encourage more growth. A nice little surprise to unexpectedly come across.

After a little bit more hiking we came to an open area where it appeared that they may have discontinued trail maintenance on the outermost portion since it appeared to be very overgrown (purple star). We just crossed the road and took the campground trail back to the parking lot.

IMG_2873That is the down and dirty of the Lake Trail. I have found that Iowa lake trails tend to be pretty similar. Few overlooks or scenic views, but that doesn’t mean you should skip them. If you are a mileage muncher like me, most tend to give you around 10+ miles. Even though this hike wasn’t jam-packed with scenery, it does have those inlets that I really enjoyed. I’ve been kicking around the idea of getting out on the water in a kayak with my camera for a different perspective. This is one place that would be very interesting to check out from the water.


The trail ended up being 12.5 miles and took about 5 hours to finish. So be sure to take plenty of water and some snacks before you decide to tackle the whole loop.

Also, please check out the video over on YouTube as well!

I hope you enjoy your walk!

Gull Point State Park (plus Hawkeye Point)


DSC_1104Hawkeye PointGull Point State Park is located in northwest Iowa on the southwestern shores of the Okoboji Lakes in Wahpeton.

I visited Gull Point with my wife and my little Adventure Baby for a nice stroll through some woods on our third stop of the day over a Halloween weekend to check out what northwest Iowa had to offer. The whole idea for the weekend was to spend some family time in the woods checking out the last remnants of the fall colors and to see how much Adventure Baby could handle riding in her chariot (she was just shy of 11 months). Let me just say, even though it was slightly chilly, the weekend did not disappoint!

Gull Point Trail Map.jpg

The park has a short interpretive trail across the road from the campgrounds that produced a couple surprises. Now the park is pretty much flat with a small amount of grade to it at points. That being said, it was a pretty quick little trail to close out our hiking for the day.

DSC_1068aThe weather continued to decline as we left Fort Defiance and some very light sprinkles started to show up. We put the rain cover on the child carrier and marched once more down the trail. I’ll just say that for an interpretive trail, it wasn’t overly interpretive, just sign-less trail. We started at our orange star as usual and immediately found ourselves on a well worn trail.

I had almost decided to cut this one off the list, but I’m glad I decided to create these park tour trips and was able to fit it in, because the wooded surrounding were very pleasant. We hung a right at the first intersection and found a nice little chapel nestled quietly in the trees (red star). I later learned that it is considered the Boy Scout Chapel as it was built as a memorial to a boy scout troop that is no longer around, but was apparently quite popular.

DSC_1074We headed south from there and crossed the bridge toward the large loop. A few yards west of the bridge there was a canoe launch that looked to be part of some camp, and a neat little overlook (green star) that suggests that the park must be pretty active. The next surprise was at the blue star where we found a small scout camping area that had a bench overlooking a small nature space.

DSC_1080The rest of the trail was simple path flowing smoothly through the woods. All in all a small little gem I did not expect. The Okoboji Lakes are a very popular destination in Iowa and this little walk is definitely worth hopping over to.

A short and simple little review for a short and simple little hike. The 1.5 mile loop only took a touch over 30 minutes to hike. It’s flat and fast, so the only thing I would suggest is to bring your map!

DSC_1092This tiny treat completed our hiking tour for the day and Adventure Baby did great! She did finally start to express a little fussiness while were buckled her in this time, but once we were moving she continued to enjoy the ride. Day 1 test: success! Now on to a quick visit to Hawkeye Point before heading to our overnight in Sioux City.


Bonus: Hawkeye Point, Iowa

DSC_1170Hawkeye Point is located near Wilson in the far northwest corner of Iowa.

Given the rugged, rocky hills of northeast Iowa, most people tend to think that the highest point in Iowa would be in that part of the state. In actuality it is in the northwest corner at Hawkeye Point.

DSC_1135At 1,670 feet, Hawkeye Point is the summit of Iowa. It is a small patch of ground that was donated to the state by the original family who worked the surrounding fields for decades. I was a little apprehensive as I pulled into the standard looking farm driveway that split the old farmhouse and barn, but once I got past them I saw the signs and knew I was going to the correct place. There are plans to build it up into a park with camping, but for now it is still just a spot on an Iowa farm. It is pretty simple in design; a tiled mosaic marking the point surrounded by a flag pole and posts with signs pointing to the other 49 highest points in each state with their elevations and distances away. Most of the work was done by local 4-H and youth groups.

DSC_1168The wind was really whipping through and the temps had dropped a good chunk by the time we got there, so we only stopped for some quick pictures and hopped back in the car to head to our room for the night. Adventure Baby had definitely had her fill of adventure for the day and proceeded to take a solid nap!

DSC_1153Thanks for reading and enjoy your walk!

Rock Creek State Park

DSC_9020Rock Creek Google Map

Rock Creek State Park is located near Kellogg which is just north of I-80, about halfway between Des Moines and Iowa City.

Rock Creek Trail MapThe park has a single, relatively flat, 11.5 mile trail traveling the circumference of a lake that is a standard model in many of Iowa’s state parks. In this case 3/4 of it is trail covering the southern portion of the lake (blue line), while the remainder consists of walking along the roads to finish off the northern part (green line).

DSC_2799This park did take two visits to be able to complete as it is a park that seems to suffer from low maintenance. The first time I attempted the hike, I parked at a nice little picnicking area (orange star) and only made it to a small pond where everything was completely overgrown and impassable (red star). That is one of the bigger problems with parks with trails that primarily consist of grass. Their trails require very regular mowing.

Good news is, the second trip was far more successful. I was apprehensive about the trip, but felt a sense of relief once I found that the trail was semi-recently mowed.

So I began the trip from the orange star and hiked clockwise around the lake. Another problem with grass trails is that the morning dew clings to it and it wasn’t long before my feet were drenched. Some sections were drier than others, but ultimately I did the whole 11.5 miles with wet feet. (Wet is a sore spot with me, my ultimate kryptonite.) That aside, the trail was easy to follow as it looped around the eastern inlet.

DSC_9032Eventually I found myself on a road for a short bit as I lost the trail near boat ramp/ pseudo marina (blue star). This is one of the areas where there are residential homes along the shore, so it is plausible that the docks here are designated for the homeowners. The next 1/2 mile of shoreline you are basically walking through the backyards of these houses. At least the yards are large, unlike some parks where I feel as though I could see right into their living rooms. This is also the section I got the best pictures in. I found a couple of cranes and a finch at the docks, then all along the shoreline I found some nice flowers.DSC_9028

DSC_9049Shortly after that is when the low maintenance reared its head again. In the park’s defense, is was pretty wet leading up to the hike, and many parts of the terrain in the remaining section (red circle) would be hard to mow. Unfortunately, this is also where the mosquitoes decided to join the party. Rather than digressing into a complaint session, I’ll just say that there is a lot of potential for this area of the park if there would be a little more effort put into keeping the trails mowed (or transitioning into gravel, etc.). I found myself pushing hard to get out of the longer grass and thick mosquitoes. In fact the mosquitoes pushed me off my plan of sticking to the blue trail, and taking the yellow trail to the beach (green star). One positive was capturing some photos of a funnel spider getting a young grasshopper that hopped onto its web.DSC_9086


DSC_9097Once out of the infestation… I milled around the beach for a bit watching the geese with a bird friend.


After having a snack I decided to start the road march up and around the northern tip of the lake and back to the vehicle (green lines – dark planned, light impromptu). The road walk was what you’d expect from a road walk. One interesting thing I found was that at the north end of the park is a paved trail that leads east from the park entrance all the way to the town of Grinnell (bold yellow line). Something nice if you happen to live in town. Rock Creek trail.jpg

From here I headed south back to the vehicle, past the campgrounds, and called it a day.

As for my gear recommendations if your journey takes you to Rock Creek State Park: a pack with plenty of water and some calories as 11.5 miles will burn some energy. Some first aid, a map, and of course, bug spray and waterproof shoes… heh. This was one of my faster paces, covering the distance in a little under 3 hours and 45 mins, part of that could be contributed to the literal bugging out at the end. So keep that in mind when planning your timetable compared to your average pace over flat ground.

DSC_2776In the end, Rock Creek State Park has a lot of potential to be a nice stroll around the lake. I think if they could improve the condition of their trails with rock and/or wood chips it would be far more enjoyable. Parks like this are one of the reasons I started this site and the Youtube channel. If more people show interest in visiting our parks to use the trails, then maybe the park service will be more likely to put money into improving the parks that aren’t as popular. During this visit I did see work being done to other parts of the park, we just need to work to get the trails added to the to-do list.

For another look at the park, please check out the video over on the YouTube channel.

DSC_9021As always, thanks for reading and enjoy your walk!

Elk Rock State Park

DSC_8532Elk Rock MapElk Rock State Park is located near Knoxville in southeast Iowa, about 45 minutes from Des Moines.
Elk Rock Trail a.jpg

Elk Rock was one of those parks that I had been looking at for a while before I finally made it there on a last minute decision. The weather initially called for storms, but then everything shifted and I found myself with bright sunny skies, and a desire to get away for a day. What I got was an excellent day of hiking, full of beautiful weather, wildlife, and scenery!

DSC_8849The first impression I had was on the drive into the park. Coming from the north you cross over Lake Red Rock on a long bridge that gives you a great view of the bluffs the lake sits in. It made me really desire to get out on the water in order to check out photo opportunities from that angle.

DSC_8501I drove into the center of the park where the equestrian campground was to start my hike (orange star). This was a very nice little area with a quality playground for little ones. I followed the road for a short couple hundred yards north toward the trail-head of the North Loop Trail (blue). The trail was supposed to be a 1.8 mile trail, but ended up being around 2.5 miles. This seemed to be a theme throughout the park, I ended up hiking more miles than advertised. Not a whole lot more, maybe an extra half mile per trail, but a standard example of why you should use the numbers given out more as guidelines.

DSC_8516Now the North Loop Trail starts out semi-rough with some soft sandy sections that are pretty chewed up by the horses. This was probably the worse section concerning horse damaged trails, probably because it is closest to the campground. That aside, it was a nice walk in the woods. The trails were open under the canopy of leaves that allowed the wind to flow through, but not enough to keep the bugs at bay. There was a nice break in the trees that offered a pleasant vantage point of the lake at the northern most point of loop.

DSC_8540After spending a moment checking out the view, I headed back down the trail. The elevation remained relatively flat as the trail found its way to the road that serves as a junction point for the three trails (green star). A short walk down the gravel road and you’ll find the trail-head to the East Loop Trail (yellow).

DSC_8650The wildlife woke up as I began the East Loop Trail and the birds were everywhere. It gave me plenty of practice and I captured several with my camera. Along with some slugs, snails, millipedes, butterflies and dragonflies. The best part of this trail was toward the end where you come across an open field of tall grass. The wind blew through freely and the birds were quite chatty.

DSC_8738A notable thing about this trail is that a lot of it skirted the edges of various cornfields. This is actually another tidbit that isn’t that uncommon about equestrian trails I’ve found. Quite a few of them do tend run their trails on the outer portions of a park and along cornfield borders. In these sections the sun felt its strongest, and the lack of scenery did make time seem to stretch a little. I did have to remind myself that the trail was made with horses in mind, not just people.

One place I found a lot of potential to improve this trail was at the northern most point (red star). It overlooks the lake and has a hitching post for horses and a rotting picnic table. Unfortunately, the view is completely blocked by dead-fall trees. If the park service were to go out and clear away all of that dead-fall  and possibly add a nice bench, it would open up a view of the lake and create a nice rest spot for future park users. I think it could be quite nice.

DSC_8507The trail returned to the road again and I moved on down to the West Trail Loop (red). This was my favorite trail of the three. It was less damaged by far, more than likely due to it being furthest from the equestrian camp. My opinion could be skewed I’ll admit, since it had the best trails and was following up a somewhat mundane cornfield walk. Anyway, the trail was thickly wooded and the trail it self was smooth and flowing. Even though it is called a loop, it was actually more of a down and back with a loop at the end.

DSC_8779I almost got a picture of a deer standing in a moss covered pond, but unfortunately I couldn’t capture the focus until after it was on the shore. The wildlife was active in this section as well. Aside from the deer, my favorite photo of the day was captured here. The cardinals had been taunting me all day, but i finally got one in my lens. I returned along the West Loop Trail until I got back to the paved road, which I hoped on for the walk back to the vehicle (orange line). On the way out I did stop over at the boat ramp and parking lot. Even though it is just a place to put in your boat, it was still photogenic as well.

DSC_8807In total I hiked 10.74 miles in 4 hours and 15 mins. I was shutter-bugging it the whole way, but still managed a 2.5 mile per hour pace. So someone just out for a walk should be able to move a bit faster if they wanted. Since this is a longer hike, I would very much recommend you take a pack to carry your food, water, and map. It would be a good idea to have sunscreen and bug spray for sure, along with at least a rudimentary first aid kit. The only other must I would suggest, your camera. If the weather is good, so will be the photos.

One thing nice about the style of this park is that because of the pseudo-hub where all of the trails meet, you could hike only 1, 2, or all 3 trails depending on your time and abilities. There aren’t any difficult sections, just some low grade rolling hills, so anyone who can handle the distances can handle the hikes.

DSC_8847Elk Rock State Park was a very enjoyable hike that I will return to. While sections of the trails are frustrating due to damage from horses, and the cornfields were a little boring, overall I had a great time. If you’d like to check out the video, you can watch it over on the YouTube channel. I hope you enjoy your hike out at Elk Rock State Park as much as I did!

DSC_8591Thanks for reading!