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With a variety of trails classified from easy to moderate, including one that connects trail surfaces to the city streets of Solon, Lake Macbride contains trails for hikers at every level.
Planning and Preparation
Before setting foot on a trailhead, planning ahead is one of the most important steps you can take, especially when preparing to hike a more remote trail.
“Having your general safety stuff,” is what Lake Macbride Park Manager Ron Puettmann recommends. “You’ve got plenty of water, got good durable shoes. Some of our trails are earthy trails and go through the woods so there’s going to be tree roots that stick up, there’s going to be uneven surfaces.”
Packing extra bottles of water or even an extra pair of socks can ensure comfort and help prevent heat exhaustion.
“If you’re planning long hikes, make sure your shoes are comfortable,” Puettmann said. “You’ve got good, sturdy hiking boots. And if it’s going to be a long, long hike, don’t be afraid to throw an extra pair of socks in. Halfway through, just change your socks because that can make a huge difference in how far you go and how comfortable you are.”
Puettmann, who has been at Lake Macbride for 25 years, spent most of his childhood outdoors on his family farm. Puettmann knew he wanted to work in natural resources, and after spending a summer in college employed by Ledges State Park in Madrid, Iowa, it “clicked” for him.
Trekking the Trails
With classifications such as easy and moderate, it’s simple to decipher which trail to hike based on personal experience and amount of time you’re willing to commit. The classifications are based on the trail’s length and surface type.
One of the park’s most popular trails is the Beach to Dam Trail, Puettmann said. “That one runs from the beach to the dam along the shoreline. It’s across limestone surfaces.”
The mile-long Beach to Dam Trail is considered an easy trail and offers scenic views of Lake Macbride.
“If you’re into a little bit heavier or more difficult hiking, we have a couple that I’d recommend and enjoy because you get off the beaten path and get way back in the woods, where few people get to,” Puettmann said.
For more advanced hikers looking to get off the beaten path, Puettmann recommends the Field Campus and North Shore trails. The North Shore Trail is 4.7 miles long and can be traveled on foot, bike or mountain bike. The Field Campus trail spans 2.3 miles.
“The Field Campus Trail, especially at the west end, it ends up over the spillway and the dam area and there’s a nice scenic overlook there and some limestone steps that were installed,” Puettmann said.
Not only are you guaranteed views of Lake Macbride through a clearing of trees, or various rock formations that have evolved over time, a number of wildlife and household pets may be present as well.
Deer, raccoons, mink, squirrels and rabbits are the most common wildlife that could potentially cross your path.
“We have had some trail cam footage of bobcats, which is kind of cool but they’re pretty secretive, so you’re probably not going to see one, is my guess,” Puettmann said.
Hikers often bring their four-legged companions as well. Puettmann reminds visitors to keep their dogs leashed at all times and leave no trace behind.
Being mindful of plants when walking through trails that aren’t paved or limestone is also important, as poison ivy is prevalent at Lake Macbride.
“Poison ivy, which is normally pretty low to the ground, will climb up trees but in some areas it will form its own type of shrub or tree to reach sunlight,” Puettmann said. “It crowds in and it may not even look like poison ivy because of its shape; it may look like a sapling. Being able to identify it right away is probably the biggest thing.”
Although summertime is when Lake Macbride sees the most foot traffic, Puettmann encourages Eastern Iowans to visit year-round to see nature as it changes through the seasons.
“There’s a lot of advantages and beauty in all the seasons,” Puettmann said. “In my opinion fall is the best. That’s just because of the cooler weather, the leaves falling and changing color. But spring is also beautiful with the wildflowers and the Field Campus Trail, the ones that get to more remote areas. We have some of our more pristine woodlands there and wildflowers come up.”
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