Saturday, June 2, 2012

Hiking at Palisades-Kepler State Park

One of my favorite parts about living in Cedar Rapids is the incredible wealth of parks, picnic areas, and hiking / biking trails the area offers.  It's a very easy city to be active and outdoors in.  My favorite spot is Palisades-Kepler State Park.  

A not-so-decent but still effective panoramic view of the river
Located off of Hwy 30 just before Mount Vernon, this is hidden Iowa treasure.  I'd never heard of this park before until we moved to the area.  It's a sizable hunk of wooded land along the Cedar River and there's camping, cabin rental, boating access, and picnic areas.  The trails, however, are what I've fallen in love with.

My childhood is filled with very fond memories of exploring the trails of state parks.  I've been all over the hills in Lime Creek (Mason City), Phelps Park (Decorah), Grandad Bluff (LaCrosse, WI), Effigy Mounds (McGregor/Marquette), and Backbone State Park (Strawberry Point).

Can you make out the house?  I can only imagine how amazing the view is!
I feel so luck to have Palisades only a 10-minute drive away.  Mike and I have often whipped up a barbeque picnic, ate alongside the river, and then walked off our dinner.  It's a fantastic way to kill an afternoon.  

This weekend, I finally hit the trails for the first time this year.  I spent an hour on the Cedar River trail, which follows the bluffs along the river.  It's so gorgeous and peaceful and has an air of the Mississippi about it.     

This is a hilly, rocky, tree branch-laden path with some reasonable inclines.  I see people of all ages and shapes out here though, a lot with dogs and little kids.

Starts out gentle - there are several cute bridges like this
Then you get to your first set of steps
This is a little lookout point once you climb to the top of the first bluff
Hard to see the depth, but this is the view from the lookout point
The trail continues atop the bluff
Dropping off a bit on a shoulder
This is the sharpest incline, though it's hard to tell from the picture how steep it really is
Almost to the top!
A beautiful view to reward your legs for the climb

On the way back - lots of exposed rock faces to marvel at

Spotted this little guy - like a muskrat but had a bushy tail though ... Help anyone?

If you need some variety for working out, this is a great way to do it

I have yet to hit the end of the river trail and there are several others I haven't tried that extend into the hills away from the bluffs.  I just read on the website there are Native American mounds, which has me super intrigued.

Places like Palisades make me supremely happy - I love being outdoors and hiking.  Throw in bluffs and a river and I'm in my element.  

What are your favorite parks?


  1. I've always liked camping and outdoorsy things. Nor and i have discussed on more than one ocassion how old the girls have to be before we can do an actual backpack trip (the youngest should be 4 is our conclusion).

    In the meantime we go to the Louis and Clark campground that is about 30 min from our house. Its free (which is in our budget) camp ground that is mostly used by retirees in their RVs and people doing motorcycle tours. The camp ground is nice, including real toilets, potable water taps, and built in fire pits.

    The Big Girls love camping and have been begging to go again this year. Maddie is at a weird age/developmental stage (crawling and cant follow instructions) though so it will probably be a daddy-daughters trip until next year when Mae is 2.

    1. That sounds nice! I haven't been camping in ages, but it's something we'd like to get into. Actually, after Mike living out of a tent this deployment, I doubt camping will be high on his list when he gets back, lol, but maybe next summer.

      Do you guys do tents then?

    2. One tent for the time being but with air mattresses. *Maybe* in a couple years we can switch to two tents. That depends on how well Alta and Lilly could sleep on their own in one. If we tried that at this point I can pretty much guarantee one of them would freak out part way through the night.