Pikes Peak State Park: Grand Canyon of Iowa

The Grand Canyon of Iowa is Pikes Peak State Park, just a little south of Effigy Mounds National Monument.  Located on the high bluffs above the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers, Pikes Peak has wonderful hiking and great views of the beautiful river valley.  After spending the morning at Effigy Mounds, Tom and I looked forward to going to a place with no greater purpose than to enjoy the view.

Pikes Peak State Park is located on top of a 500′ bluff.  It is named, just like the taller peak in Colorado, for explorer Zebulon Pike.  Zebulon was a US Army Officer who was sent on two missions of exploration.  The first, from 1805 until 1806, was to find the source of the Mississippi River.  The second expedition, from 1806 until 1807, sent him to the southwest to explore the border of Spanish-colonial settlements in New Mexico and Texas.  In 1810 he published a very popular book about his explorations.  In 1812, at the beginning of the War of 1812, he was named a Brigadier General.  He died during the Battle of York in 1813.  It was interesting to learn all that about Zebulon Pike because I had always associated him with Colorado, but didn’t know anything else about him.

But back to the Pikes Peak in Iowa.  In 1837, Alexander McGregor established a ferry across the Mississippi River at this point.  He claimed or bought all the land along the shore and eventually settled a town, still called McGregor, along the river.  The bluffs and forests on top of them were never developed or allowed to be sold.  Eventually the McGregor family gave the land to the federal government which transferred it to the state of Iowa which made it a state park in 1935.

Pikes Peak State Park has 11.5 miles of hiking trails.  The most popular is the 1/2 mile wooden boardwalk that takes visitors to Bridal Veil Falls.  You go by three very impressive overlooks on this easy trail.

The parking lot was packed on the day we were there.  Driving through the town of McGregor we noticed all the people out enjoying a beautiful October Saturday.  Even though the leaves hadn’t started to change, people were taking advantage of the sun and warm air.  The main overlook at Pikes Peak was crowded with people but there weren’t any of the usual selfish selfies.  I decided most of the people were locals or folks that came every year.

As well as great hiking trails, Pikes Peak also has a large campground on top of the bluff.  There are primitive and electric sites and is usually open all year, but the campground will be closed in 2022 for renovations.

Tom at Bridal Veil Falls

Tom and I walked the boardwalk trail to the lovely falls.  As usual, once you get on a trail, it isn’t as crowded as the overlooks.  But the view was just ordinary.  It was a woods and the trails went up and down.  The overlooks are the highlight of the park and make this place special.  Even though the “canyon” is more suited to boating than hiking, Pike’s Peak State Park is a very Grand Canyon of Iowa.