Pinicon Ridge Park is a beautiful 966-acre Linn County Park just north of Cedar Rapids. And when we say beautiful, we mean gorgeous. In truth, here at Des Moines Outdoors, it’s up there among one of our favorite Iowa parks.
Pinicon Ridge is divided by the Wapsipinicon River and offers scenic views, excellent camping, trails, fishing, and more! And it’s a perfect park for viewing fall colors.
About the park
The park has two entrances, a south gate, and a north gate:
- From the south gate, visitors can access many of the park’s amenities: the wildlife enclosure, Wapsi Bluff Shelter, observation tower, trails, Horseshoe Falls playground, boat rentals, and group camping.
- Access the campgrounds, cabins, the campground playground, and Flying Squirrel Trail from the north gate.
Things To Do at Pinicon Ridge Park
Take in the views at the Observation Tower.
The 72-foot tower offers a bit of a workout rewarded by incredible views of the Wapsi River valley. The view is excellent any time of the year, but it’s perfect for seeing the changing colors in the fall.
The observation tower is open during daylight hours, except in winter. There is parking in front of the tower, and it’s free to climb.
Canoe or kayak
Canoe or kayak around the river’s backwaters for a leisurely float at the park. Or float a few miles down the beautiful Wapsi River (schedule a shuttle at concessions)! There are plenty of great stops along the water!
Boat rentals are available at the Watercraft Concessions (access from the south gate). It’s open every day from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. Call 319-438-1961 for more information. See the brochure here.
Hit the trails
There are five trails at Pinicon Ridge Park, for over seven miles to hike!
Access trailheads for the Bobwhite Trail, Wapsi River Nature Trail, Woodpecker Hill Trail, and White Oak Trail from the park’s south gate.
- The Bobwhite Trail is a two-mile loop accessible west of the park’s south gate, off Main Ridge Road.
- The Wapsi River Nature Trail is a 2-mile paved route from the park to Central City. Find the trailhead near the boat concessions. This path takes the Mary Lundy Bridge across the river and then turns south along the Wapsi to get to Central City.
- The Woodpecker Hill Trail is a wooded 1.7-mile loop trail with access along Horseshoe Falls Road.
- White Oak Trail is a 1.8-mile loop trail through hilly woodlands on the park’s northwest corner. This trail also connects the group camps. Find the main trailhead off Horseshoe Falls Road near the boat ramp.
On the river’s east side (north gate), find the trailhead for Flying Squirrel Trail (off Valley Farm Road). This 2.7-mile path winds through the river valley and woodlands with river views.
See the park map for trail locations.
Take a selfie at the pedestrian bridge
The Mary Lundby Bridge is a 520-foot-long pedestrian bridge over the Wapsipinicon River. It’s, perhaps, the most scenic way to get from the park’s west side to the east side by foot. Of course, you’ll want to stop at the selfie stand on the bridge’s west side for a great photo op!
See the wildlife
At the Alexander Wildlife Area, you can see elk grazing throughout the 6.5-acre enclosure. Find it near the park’s south gate.
Go camping (or rent a cabin)
Pinicon Ridge has excellent campgrounds & cabins! Several sites even offer great views along the Wapsi River.
Find a range of camping options, from primitive tent sites to modern sites with electricity (& some with water). Campsites are available first-come, first-serve, except the group campsites. For more, see the Camping & Cabins section below.
Play at the playgrounds
Pinicon Ridge Park has two fantastic, accessible playgrounds! One is near the Riverside Shelter (south gate), and the other is at the Flying Squirrel Campground (on the east side of the pedestrian bridge; north gate).
You’ll find plenty of excellent fishing access at Pinicon Ridge! Fish along the river or the banks of the backwaters. You can also rent a kayak or canoe at concessions to get out on the water. Anglers catch Smallmouth Bass, Bluegill, Walleye, Crappie, and Northern Pike, to name a few.
Have a picnic or host an event
There’s no shortage of excellent (and scenic!) picnic spots throughout the park! And with four open-air shelters and two enclosed lodges, it’s the perfect place for family reunions and other group events. The shelters and lodges are reservable through MyCountyParks.com.
Winter activities at Pinicon Ridge Park
The fun doesn’t stop at the park after the temps drop and the snow starts to fly! Pinicon Ridge offers an array of winter activities, from sledding and ice fishing to cross-country skiing and snowmobiling!
The designated cross-country ski trail is the Wapsi River Nature Trail and the Flying Squirrel Campground. Enter the path at the campground entrance on Valley Farm Road. Four inches of snow is required for skiing.
The snowmobile trail opens between December and April whenever there’s over 1 inch of snow on the ground. It’s a marked .88-mile snowmobile trail that follows the park road.
Pinicon Ridge Park map
Pinicon Ridge Park Camping & Cabins
Pinicon Ridge is a popular park for camping and cabin stays!
The campgrounds offer a variety of sites and great amenities! Below are the campground highlights:
- All campsites are first-come, first-serve, except the group campgrounds.
- Primitive tent sites, electric sites, and sites with electric and water are available.
- Group camping is for more than six people and three camping units. (Make reservations at MyCountyParks.com)
- Modern restrooms/showers
- Dump station near the park’s north gate.
- Four cabins are reservable through MyCountyParks.com
- All have air conditioning and heat, a covered porch, picnic tables, and fire rings.
- Sleep 6 to 8 people.
- Take a virtual tour of the cabins at MyCountyParks.
Things To Do Nearby
Central City is next to the park – stop to pick up a few groceries or play a round of golf at the Meadowview Golf & Country Club. Then, a bit further south, stop in Cedar Rapids to visit the museums, do some shopping, and stop at one of the delicious restaurants.
The Indian Creek Nature Center is 23 miles south of the park in Cedar Rapids. Stop by to hike the trails, explore the Amazing Space, and visit the gift shop for unique, local finds.
Palisades-Kepler State Park is 24 miles to the south. It’s an 840-acre Iowa State Park on the Cedar River, with scenic views, excellent trails, wildlife, and more!
Coralville Lake is a forty-minute drive from the park. The 23-mile-long reservoir is a super popular boating destination. It also has three beaches, mountain bike trails, disc golf, trails, camping, and (much) more!
Lake Macbride State Park is 33 miles south of Pinicon Ridge. This 2180-acre park has a 940-acre lake and is great for swimming, hiking, boating, fishing, and camping.
Visit Pinicon Ridge Park Today!
The park’s south gate is at 4732 Horseshoe Falls Rd, Central City, IA 52214.
The north gate is at 4948 Valley Farm Rd, Central City, IA 52214.