Pikes Peak State Park in northeast Iowa is one of the most visited outdoor destinations in the state. And once you see it, you understand why! Its impressive views, magnificent bluffs, and native woodlands make it a must-see.
The park is situated on a 500-foot-tall bluff overlooking the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers. And there’s plenty to see and do while you’re there. Read on to learn more.
A Brief History of Pikes Peak State Park
The Pikes Peak area in northeast Iowa was named by Captain Zebulon Pike, an Army officer and explorer. He camped in the area on an expedition in the early 1800s. So, it’s no coincidence that Pikes Peak State Park in Iowa has the same name as the more widely known Pikes Peak in Colorado.
But before Captain Pike stopped there, evidence shows Native American cultures called the area home. And the Woodland culture’s mounds on the blufftops throughout the area can still be seen.
The McGregor and Munn families that owned the land before it became a park never allowed settlers to move in. That means it’s been largely untouched! So, as you might guess, the Pikes Peak area was a favorite among nature lovers long before it became an Iowa State Park in 1936!
Things To Do in Pikes Peak State Park
Enjoy the stunning views.
The extraordinary views from Pikes Peak State Park can’t be described in words. It’s one of those things you have to see and experience for yourself. Bring your camera and binoculars to get the most out of your visit!
Unsurprisingly, the park is one of the best places to view fall colors!
The main overlook is near the visitor center and accessible from a nearby parking lot. Other lookouts are along the wooden boardwalk to Bridal Veil Falls.
Hike the trails at Pikes Peak State Park
If you enjoy hiking, Pikes Peak is for you! Over 10 miles of hiking trails wind through the park, and many interconnect and loop around.
The Bridal Veil Trail is a .5-mile wooden boardwalk near the main overlook and the most popular trail in the park. Stop at the lookouts along the route. Also, see Bear Mound, an ancient Native American burial mound north of the main overlook. Note that several stairs are along the route, especially as you get closer to the falls.
All other trails are gravel, mowed grass, and dirt surfaces. Most have plenty of shade, and some have some decent hills that are fun to traverse. See the DNR’s park map for trail locations and distances.
Mountain biking is allowed on the Point Ann Trail, which is nearly 3 miles long. Park at the Homestead parking area off Great River Road north of the main park entrance. Or use the McGregor Parking area off River Road, just south of McGregor.
See the waterfall
Hike to Bridal Veil Falls on a .4-mile wooden boardwalk through the woods (which has many stairs)! A couple of overlooks along the route have phenomenal views of the Mississippi River. When we were there, we spotted several bald eagles from one spot.
If you’re curious where Bridal Veil Falls gets its name, an old legend said that anyone who drank from its waters would marry within a year.1 Please remember that’s just a tidbit of folklore. We strongly advise against doing so for many reasons, including waterborne disease!
The Pikes Peak State Park Campground is a great place to stay and experience the park. Plus, it’s near all the other fun stops around northeast Iowa.
Have a picnic
What better picnic spot than from atop a bluff overlooking the great Mississippi River? Find three picnic shelters near the main parking area. You can even reserve the large stone shelter for an event. And there are other benches and picnic tables in the area, with a playground nearby.
Pikes Peak Campground
A beautiful, shaded campground has electric and tent sites, modern restrooms/showers, and a dump station on-site. And it’s within walking distance of the visitor center and main overlook! Reserve campsites through ReserveAmerica.com.
Campground renovations: The campground is undergoing renovations during the 2022 camping season. We’ll update this section when it’s complete and more information is available.
Things To Do Nearby (so many things!)
There are so many things to do in northeast Iowa that we can’t possibly cover them all. But we can tell you it’s among the top places to visit in the state because, well, there’s so much to do. Did we mention it’s beautiful?
Northeast Iowa offers nature activities galore, from fishing and camping to trails of every kind. It boasts miles and miles of hiking, biking, equestrian, and water trails. Below are some of the many places we recommend checking out!
Effigy Mounds National Monument is only 6 miles north of the park! Learn the history of area Native American tribes and see their animal-shaped burial mounds! Explore the visitor center, hike the trails, or attend a ranger program on your visit.
McGregor and Marquette are historic Iowa river towns on the north side of Pikes Peak State Park. They’re known for their scenic views, historic buildings, quaint shops, and eateries. Also, you’ll find places to stay, a casino, and a winery!
Wyalusing State Park in Wisconsin is just across the river from Pikes Peak State Park. It’s only two miles as the crow flies but a 30-minute drive from Pikes Peak. Still, it’s well worth the drive, in our opinion! From hiking and biking to canoeing, camping, and fishing, it’s a park worth exploring.
Spook Cave is a fun stop, about 15 minutes northwest of the park. Take a one-of-a-kind cave tour in a boat and stay at a campground with a waterfall!
Head to the Yellow River State Forest for a deep dive into nature! Yellow River is about 30 minutes north of the park and a fantastic place to get away from it all. Find 40+(!) miles of multi-use trails, primitive campsites, trout fishing, kayaking, and more!
Forty-five miles southwest of Pikes Peak, find Iowa’s first state park, Backbone State Park. This park is full of unique features and boasts the highest point in northeast Iowa – The Devil’s Backbone. Hike, fish, climb, paddle, camp, or rent a cabin at this incredible state park!
Also, consider visiting Decorah, Iowa, and the Volga River State Recreation Area if you’re willing to drive an hour from the park. Tour the Fish Hatchery and museums in Decorah, and explore many beautiful nature areas and trails. Or, head to Volga River Recreation Area to camp (full hookups!), boat, and fish – or hike, bike, or ride over 20 miles of multi-use trails!
Visit Pikes Peak State Park Today!
Pikes Peak State Park is at 32264 Pikes Peak Rd, McGregor, IA 52157.
1. Iowa’s State Parks and Preserves. State Conservation Commission, State of Iowa. June 1937. http://publications.iowa.gov/21694/1/Iowas%20State%20Parks%20and%20Preserves%201937.pdf