By Wade Ellett, Let’s Move QC Outdoors Blogger
To celebrate the beautiful weather with which we’ve been graced, let’s hit the trail, get a little sweaty, and breathe in that fresh spring air. Not sure where to start? Here are 3 new spots just north of home that will have you eager for exploration!
Pine Valley Nature Area is absolutely gorgeous. From windswept prairie, I hiked downhill into thick woodland, before making my way down to stream beds flowing along limestone ridges that feed into the Maquoketa River.
Our odd find of the day here was a cow skeleton, bleached by the sun but largely still intact, more or less. I was surprised that Inkling had so little interest in it! Let me know if you find it too.
Pine Valley is incredibly beautiful, but it also served as a really good reminder that it’s time to start wearing insect repellent again! Inkling and I both picked up more ticks than I would have liked, despite her flea and tick prevention.
Make sure that you’re using appropriate safeguards against ticks and mosquitoes as you explore these areas, for both you and any four-legged friends that come with you! There’s over 8 miles of trail to explore here, so make sure that you’re doing regular tick checks along the way.
How to get there: Three miles north of Monmouth, IA, off 30th Avenue, and you’ll find it no problem. Google Maps had no trouble leading me to the parking area, so if that’s how you navigate it’ll be smooth sailing for you too!
Resting on the banks of Bear Creek, this 200-acre park is ready for you, and it’s very family friendly. If you have children, they’re going to love crossing the swinging bridge or climbing the lookout tower.
There are only 4 miles of trail here, but it feels like more because of the way they’re laid out. We ended up hiking about 5 miles here, covering some of the same ground twice, but enjoying every step.
If you’re looking to camp, they have modern campsites, as well as primitive campgrounds which are accessible only on foot. You can also rent the bunkhouse, which sleeps 12, or a semi-modern cabin which sleeps 4.
We didn’t camp, but thoroughly enjoyed the hours that we spent here! I think the temperature during our hike was the highest it had been so far this year, and already we made a point to stay well-hydrated! If you’re setting out for a good long hike, don’t forget to bring some water with you.
How to get there: Two miles south of Baldwin, IA
A customer at work suggested I hit up McNeil; he swore by it, but warned me it doesn’t look like much at the entrance.
When I pulled up with the pup, I understood what he meant. As you start into this preserve, you’re essentially walking along a strip of grass between two fields. Don’t let that fool you though. After a quarter mile or so, the trail will turn into a nice little forest of cedars and other assorted trees.
The whole preserve is only 58 acres, so it isn’t huge, but the trail loops through this little woodland interspersed with pockets of native prairie, making it feel larger than it is. Keep your eyes peeled for turkey, deer, and pheasant here because Inkling scared a few out of hiding during our hike!
Among the trees it was nice and cool, but as we explored the prairie, the sun really baked me! It’s been awhile since I had to worry about wearing much sunscreen instead of several layers of clothing, but I always carry some in my pack! Now is a good time to grab a bar or a tube to keep with your hiking stuff!
How to get there: When you head out to McNeil, you’ll find it 1.5 miles east and 1 mile north of Preston, IA, just off of 33rd Street. If you use Google Maps or other GPS units, it may lead you past the turn off to the quarry on 64. When you’re within a few miles just keep your eyes peeled for the brown signs, they’ll lead you right where you need to go!
With weather this nice, there’s no reason to remain stuck inside! Whether you explore one of these three spots, visit an old favorite, or find a new haunt of your own, I hope you’ve got a great outdoor adventure in store for you soon! Just remember to bring your bug spray, sunscreen, water, and sense of adventure and you’re sure to have a great time.
|Meet Wade Ellett, Let’s Move Quad Cities Outdoor Blogger. Wade is an outdoor adventurer who shares his passion for QC outdoor adventures here! Read his other posts by clicking here.|