Pikes Peak State Park is one of the most photographed places in Iowa. Pikes Peak is rich in natural, cultural and historical resources, and famed for its majestic views of the Mississippi River. Stand atop the 500 foot bluff (1,130 foot elevation) for a breathtaking view and see the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers. The park is named after Lieutenant Zebulon Pike, sent by the government in 1805 to select a site for a military fort. Pike chose this site but the government built the fort across the river. Pikes Peak officially became a state park in 1936.
A half-mile wooden boardwalk guides you down one of the park’s glens to the picturesque Bridal Veil Falls. On your way to the fall, just north of the main overlook, you will notice Bear Mound, an effigy built by ancient American Indians of the Woodland Culture, who inhabited the area from 800-1200 A.D. There are 63 mounds in the park, most of them conical or linear in shape.
For the adventurer, take a longer, remote four mile trail to Point Ann, a bluff that overlooks the Mississippi and the town of McGregor. Bring a bottle of water and bug spray for the eight mile round trip. You can shorten the trip by parking at the Homestead or McGregor parking lots. The north end of the park does not have restroom facilities.
There are a total of eleven and one half miles of hiking trails, consisting of dirt, grass or crushed rock. The majority of the trails are shaded, as they lead you through old-growth forests of oak-hickory and maple-basswood stands. Keep an eye out for the elusive pileated woodpecker or red fox. A portion of the trail is open to mountain bikes.
Pikes Peak State Park offers excellent picnicking opportunities. Visitors can enjoy a leisurely outdoor meal and, at the same time, enjoy some of the finest views in the upper Midwest from the overlooks and trail viewing platforms. A rustic stone picnic shelter is located in the main picnic and overlook area as well as two open “gazebo” shelters. The stone shelter may be reserved online. A playground located near the stone shelter offers fun for younger visitors. The sidewalk and shelter in the picnic-overlook area are accessible to the mobility-impaired as are the shower buildings, several overlook structures and the effigy bear mound.
Pikes Peak State Park has an attractive campground with electric and non-electric sites, modern shower and restroom facilities, as well as a trailer dump station.
October is the busiest time of year at Pikes Peak due to the fall colors. The colors peak around October 9-15. The town of McGregor hosts an Arts & Crafts Festival and Marquette hosts a Flea Market during the first two full weekends in October. Learn more about the ancient Woodland Culture at Effigy Mounds National Monument, operated by the National Park Service. A visitor center, guided hikes and programs are available. It is located 7 miles north of Pikes Peak on Hwy 76.
The towns of McGregor and Marquette, Iowa, located two to three miles north of the park offer a variety of sightseeing.
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