Late fall hiking in the Loess Hills
My quest to find good, marked hiking trails in the Loess Hills has been satisfied – for now – with a heart-pumping hike at Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa, this week.
I’ve blogged about this county conservation park twice before: once in 2014 when I drove the Loess Hills Scenic Byway in its entirety but didn’t allow myself time to really explore any of the hiking trails, and once about a very brief boardwalk hike on a cold day in spring 2015. Neither of those visits allowed me the time to fully appreciate this park and its many hiking trails.
This time I spent several hours hiking on trails with names like Badger Ridge, Fox Run Ridge, and Hawk Ridge – you get the idea that these hikes are along the ridges of the Loess Hills, right? Many of them, with their steep ascents and descents, offer wide-open vistas of these unique landforms. Other trails take you into the valleys between the hills. The trails are very well marked and designated easy, moderate, and difficult (although I would argue with some of the designations).
Our November weather has been so warm that after a few ups-and-downs I stripped off my fleece jacket and walked the rest of the day in just a T-shirt and jeans.
As I wrote back in 2015, Hitchcock Nature Center is a 1,268-acre nature preserve. Besides its 10 miles of hiking trails along the scenic Loess Hills, the center is also home to the Loess Hills Lodge Interpretive Facility, featuring native prairie plants, hands-on activities for the kids, and an observation deck.
To get to Hitchcock Nature Center, take I-29 to the Crescent exit and travel east to the Old Lincoln Highway. The park is located 5 miles north.