Know Before You Go: This trail can be buggy in the summer, so bug spray is recommended. The trails can also be pretty slick when they're muddy. Internet access is spotty in this park, so we recommend taking a photo of the trail map or downloading it from the site above before you head out on your hike. Length: 4 miles, depending on the loops and spurs you take. Time: 2 hours, depending on how long you hike. Terrain: Steep. Loose dirt, mulch, and grass. Can be slippery when muddy. Difficulty: Moderate to difficult - the hills are quite steep. Dog-friendly: Yes. Kid-friendly: Yes
Located in the heart of the beautiful Loess Hills in western Iowa, Preparation Canyon State Park is a hidden treasure. Thick deciduous forests and steep hills create a challenging but gorgeous hike. Trails can be rough and slippery when wet.
Taking a photo or downloading a trail map is very helpful in this park. The trails form a spiderweb of sorts, so it’s easy to get turned around. The trails criss-cross over steep hills with spectacular views down under a green canopy to the canyon floor. And back up. And down. And up. And so it goes.
It’s the site of a settlement founded by a member of the Mormon Trail wagon train. It once offered a school, a newspaper, an ice skating rink, and a post office. The settlement was called Preparation, named for the School of Preparation for the Life Beyond. The founder is said to have convinced his Mormon followers to give him all their land. Eventually they demanded it back and ran him out of Iowa.
The Loess Hills stretch from northern Iowa south to near Saint Joseph, Missouri, over around 200 miles. They were formed by the wind blowing soil to form dunes along a waterway that eventually became today’s Missouri River. Loess is actually a type of sediment, thus the name Loess Hills. The Hills have a rich history, including the burial site of Sergeant Floyd, the only member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition to die, in Sioux City; and Council Bluffs, where Abraham Lincoln visited while being briefed on possible sites for the Transcontinental Railroad.