10 Amazing Iowa Hikes Under 3 Miles You’ll Absolutely Love

Hiking doesn’t have to involve strapping on a water supply and settling in for an exhausting physical challenge. Iowa has many state parks with well-maintained trails that are less than three miles long. Here are a few of the most popular, and we dare say, are among the best hikes in Iowa!


Have you been to any of these amazing Iowa state parks? Where are your favorite Iowa hikes that are less than three miles long? Tell us about each one in the comments.

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The OIYS Visitor Center

Best Hikes in Iowa

June 28, 2022

Are there any kid-friendly hikes around Iowa?

Yes! There are numerous kid-friendly hikes around Iowa. And the best part is that some of them are less than a mile long! One of them is the Hidden Prairie Nature Trail. Located at the Kuehn Conservation Area in the town of Earlham, this hike is a favorite with kids because of the abundance of birds and wildlife moving about the area.

I’m looking for hiking trails near me in the Des Moines area.

There is a really good one in Gray's Lake Park. The awesome thing about the trail is that when you’re on it, you completely forget that you are so close to the hustle and bustle of the big city. That’s just how quiet and peaceful it is here. About 25 minutes from town, you can go to Polk City and embark upon the trails at the Big Creek State Park. There is also a beautiful beach for swimming during those warm weather months.

Can you suggest a great scenic hike?

There are so many wonderful scenic hikes in Iowa that it would be hard to single out just one. But if I had to, I would suggest the hike inside of Effigy Mounds in Harpers Ferry. You’ll find over 14 miles of trails, each one seeming more scenic than the last. Anytime is a great time of year to visit, but the colors are particularly beautiful in the fall. Be sure to bring your camera to capture all of the spectacular vistas!

What can you tell me about Preparation Canyon State Park?

Preparation Canyon State Park is amazing! Encompassing 344 picturesque acres, the park is located in western Iowa right in the heart of the beautiful Loess Hills. A very popular place for a day trip or weekend outing, you’ll find recreational activities including camping, hiking, and picnicking, just to name a few. Getting to the park is also very easy from Des Moines (2-1/2 hours northwest) and Cedar Rapids (4 hours west).