When you want more than just a walk through the woods, these ten places in Iowa have a story to tell. Our state has a lot of fascinating history, here’s just a glimpse.
1. Gitchie Manitou State Preserve, Adams Ave, Larchwood
The trail is short; just 1.5 miles. It’s a bit rustic, and it leads to the site of one of Iowa’s most tragic stories. Three Sioux Falls brothers were charged with the murders of Roger Essem, Steward Baade, Dana Baade, and Michael Hadrath. A fifth victim, Sandra Cheskey, escaped. The incident happened on November 17, 1973.
2. Mason City Brewing Company Ruins at Lime Creek Nature Center, 2501 Lime Creek Rd., Mason City
This brewery was in operation until 1879. A city ordinance outlawed liquor and beer making. From 1890 until 1914 it was an ice storage facility. For more information and maps, stop by the Lime Creek Nature Center.
3. Effigy Mounds National Monument 1515 IA-76, Harpers Ferry
This site has over 200 ancient burial mounds created by Native Americans of the Woodland Culture. The hike is 12.5 miles and has some of the best scenery in Iowa.
4. Wildcat Den State Park, 1884 Wildcat Den Road, Muscatine
Here, you’ll see the historic Pine Creek Gristmill, built in 1848. The trail here is four miles long and it winds through rocky outcroppings along the Mississippi River.
5. Maquoketa Caves State Park
In 1868, a dance floor was installed just north of Natural Bridge. Although the structure fell into disrepair, you can still visit Dancehall Cave.
6. Woodland Mounds Preserve, 19587 Kirkwood Street, Ackworth
It’s one of the largest timber stands in the area, and there are five small burial mounds built by Woodland Indians, here.
7. Decorah Ice Cave State Preserve, Ice Cave Rd., Decorah
Located in the Barbara Barnhard VanPeenen Memorial Park, this cave is part of a geological state preserve established in 1973. It’s one of the largest ice caves in the Midwest. There is usually ice present on the floor and walls starting in early spring until August.
8. Stone State Park, 5001 Talbot Rd., Sioux City
This park is over 100 years old and was originally a city park. It’s one of the many sites in Iowa built by the Civilian Conservation Corps after being designated as a state park in the 1930s. There are 6.5 miles of trails to explore, here.
9. Preparation Canyon State Park
This 344-acre park was once the site of a healthy-sized Mormon town built in the mid-1800s after Charles B. Thompson pretended that "the Spirit" led him there to establish a "School of Preparation for the Life Beyond." Most of the townspeople had moved on toward Utah by 1900. Hiking around this park is a challenge, but the views are worth it.
10. Ledges State Park, 1515 P Ave, Madrid
The remains of the Fowler homestead are just one mile from the trail head. A stone chimney still stands. Take the path to the left from the last tent site and the remains of the ancient cabin are just 300 feet down the path.
Do you have a favorite historical hiking spot? Tell us about it.
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