Ledges State Park is arguably one of our state's top state parks and attracts a steady stream of hikers and nature lovers every year.
However, it is sometimes in the news for some unfortunate reasons as occasionally a visitor has fallen to his or her death. There's even been some discussion about whether some aspects of the park should be off limits. Yet, despite the risks...this Boone County gem remains a popular destination.
Officially deemed a State Park in 1924, it is one of Iowa's first parks. We have several others across our state and they are all on my list to visit...eventually.
The network of trails lead to some stunning views including that of the Des Moines River, which glides along one edge of it.
From picnicking to camping and from hiking to canoeing, there's no shortage of activities that can be enjoyed within the park or on the river.
Since June 2 was National Trails Day, a friend and I adventured up to Boone County on Highway 17 to spend a few hours exploring and hiking. From Des Moines, it's only about 40 minutes and there are plenty of signs to guide you once you are nearby. There are some paved roads through the park but some of them are currently closed for construction.
We decided to head to "Lower Ledges" and a path there to start on. For those who have never been, there are quite a few areas where parking is permitted and there are even paved lots.
It had rained the night before so the ground was a little soft but not terribly so. As you might imagine, there were plenty of bugs so I would recommend applying ample bug repellent before heading on your journey. While much of the trails are into the woods, it's also probably a good idea to apply some sun screen as well.
At first we ventured off the well worn path and found ourselves in a (mostly dry) creek bed.
However, eventually...we realized it really is best to just stay on the paths - especially because neither of us are experienced hikers.
Sometimes the trails are mostly dirt or gravel.
And sometimes they have some stone or railroad ties to provide some extra traction as you stair-step climb or descend the varying elevations.
From time to time, our path took us on some grated concrete.
Along the trails, the foliage can be pretty dense.
Sometimes the trails will take you to some hidden ponds or other water bodies...
But mostly...it's about heading upward and the reward for the physical exertion is worth it. You find yourself enjoying some breathtaking views. My photos barely do them justice. It's hard to believe you are still even in Iowa!
We found another trail that had more signs along the way to provide a little more information about the varying wildlife, plants, and trees.
If you need a little rest, there are a few benches to be found along the trails.
There are numerous areas where there are shelters or permanent restrooms. There is also a campground at the main entrance. In fact, we drove by one shelter area and saw people setting up for what I presume was going to be a Saturday afternoon wedding.
Once you are done hiking, you'll have worked up a significant appetite. Since you are only about five miles away from Luther, Iowa, I would highly recommend a visit to Whatcha Smokin'. Iowa Adventurer stopped there last fall and profiled it. However, my friend had never been there so we enjoyed a great meal there after our hike.
Iowa has numerous State Parks and preserves. They are free to enjoy (unless you are camping...and then there would be a fee associated with that) and since your tax dollars pay to upkeep them, you might as well enjoy these great amenities. Ledges is worth the visit. Enjoy a full morning or afternoon there - but stay hydrated. I look forward to a return trip sometime. It's a great workout (and I could use that, for sure)!