Fall is a great time to see the changing colors of nature, and while taking a drive to see colorful leaves may sound appealing, nothing beats walking through the woods and seeing the changes close up.
“It doesn’t cost anything to experience all that nature has to offer,” said Ryan Schlader, community outreach specialist for Linn County Conservation.
Linn County: Where to hike
Linn County has a plethora of trails for those wanting to see the colors — or any part of nature — up close, he said, with varying levels of difficulty.
“Each park is different, and everything has its niche,” he said. “We always tell people to keep coming back — there’s always something new to see out there.”
Some prime hiking areas in Linn County can be found at Pinicon Ridge Park near Central City, Squaw Creek Park in Marion and Wickiup Hill Park near Toddville.
“We have five to six miles of trails in Wickiup Hill, and we have several paths for these trails,” Schlader said. “The trails are available for all abilities. We have a prairie trail that’s about a half-mile, a wetland trail near a current wetland, and a savanna trail that are fairly flat.”
Those trails range from one-eighth of a mile to three-quarters of a mile, he said.
Serious hikers can take the park’s hiking trail with varying elevations and a two-and-a-half-mile path.
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Pinicon Ridge north of Cedar Rapids is another popular option, he said, with hills, flats and the Wapsipinicon River flowing through.
“When you start talking about Pinicon Ridge, the hills and some areas might be more intermediate for some folks, but they’re not too bad,” Schlader said. “You can walk one trail for a couple of hours or you can hike a hill for just about a half-hour. There’s something for everyone.”
The same is true at Indian Creek Nature Center in southeast Cedar Rapids. With 4 miles of trails winding through roughly 210 acres of savanna, prairie and wetlands, hikers are bound to find something to fit their individual needs, said Jason Bies, trail specialist at the nature center.
“Most of the time when people find hikes to be difficult, it is generally a function of topography — how sloped is it, how rugged,” Bies said. “The continuous up-and-down can wear on some people.”
For those looking for a flatter hike, Bies said, the one-mile Wood Duck Way would be ideal, while those wanting more of a challenge may opt for the nearly two-mile Woodland Trail. Even more challenging as far as distance, he said, is the 7-mile Sac and Fox Trail, which borders the edge of the park.
Johnson County: Where to hike
Neighboring Johnson County has a fair number of trails, as well. One of the longest for serious hikers is the Iowa River Corridor Trail, which stretches 13 miles. Hikers can take the paved trail starting at any connected area park, including Ned Ashton Park, Napoleon Park, Terrell Mill Park and City Park in Iowa City.
The Terry Trueblood Recreation Area in Iowa City has a little more than three miles of paved trails through preserved prairie, and a 19-mile paved trail runs through North Liberty and connects the community to Coralville.