Although the address is Decorah, it’s technically in Allamakee County and is certainly one of the better, yet lesser-known scenic overlooks in Iowa. It’s a 20-minute drive from Waukon or 30 minutes from Decorah and is situated on the gravel road named Ellingson Bridge Drive. You can park along the gravel road and there is a super short hike (less than 100 feet) to the overlook. There is no groomed path and there isn’t a formal observation area – you’ll just stand at the edge of the rocks where the view drops off and faces westward to see the winding Upper Iowa River. Here’s the exact location on Google maps for the Heritage Valley Scenic Overlook in Allamakee County, Iowa.
Paint Rock Trail
Technically, it is part of the Yellow River State Forest, as the forest has several sections or units. This section is known as the Paint Rock Unit and is about a mile north of Waukon Junction on the Great River Road. Turn onto the gravel road called Paint Rock Road and head to this Google Map location, which is where you will find the first parking lot area. A short distance down the road, you’ll find another parking area which is next to the fence that closes off car access and starts the official trail. From the second parking lot, it is approximately one mile to the scenic overlook. The first half-mile of the trail is a continuous walk uphill with a wide, easy-to-follow trail. The halfway point is when you reach a clearing and are no longer under the canopy of the trees. From here, it’s still another half mile to the overlook, but you’ve done the hardest part of the climb. Visit the Iowa DNR website for a detailed trail map of Paint Rock Trail.
How long does it take to hike Paint Rock Trail?
It took me 30 minutes to do the climb to the top. I then spent about 30 minutes at the top exploring, taking photos, and resting. The descent was just under 30 minutes – so the entire trip was just under an hour and a half.
Luster Heights North Overlook
Just south of Waukon Junction is a set of other scenic overlooks: the north and south overlooks that are part of the Luster Heights Unit of the Yellow River State Forest. Follow the Great River Road south of Waukon Junction and then turn east on Luster Heights Road to this google map location for parking. This parking is the starting point for both the north and south overlook and can be found at this exact google map location. The trail is just under one mile. The first .3 miles is along a gravel road that leads into the facility, then it follows a more traditional hiking trail that is well maintained and labeled. Overall, the trail is well-labeled and is relatively flat. Visit the Iowa DNR website for a more detailed trail map showing the location for the Luster Heights North Overlook
How long does it take to hike to the Luster Heights North Overlook?
The trail is just under a mile and it took me just over an hour for the whole trip, which was getting to the overlook, time for photos, and the return trip.
Luster Heights South Overlook
This overlook departs from the same parking lot as the previous overlook, but instead of heading north along the gravel road, look for the trailhead on the east side of the parking lot. The trail is well maintained and is only .4 miles to the overlook. I spent about 30 minutes total for this overlook, including getting to the location, time for photos, and the return trip. Visit the Iowa DNR website for a more detailed trail map showing the location for the Luster Heights North Overlook