With bluffs that tower 500 feet over the confluence of the Wisconsin River and the Mississippi River, Pikes Peak State Park is one the most photographed locations in the state of Iowa. It’s also home to one of only a few natural waterfalls in the state. There are also over 11 miles of trails with plenty of scenic views of the Mississippi River.
History of Pikes Peak State Park
The original inhabitants were the Native Americans from the Woodland Culture dating back to 800AD. The first Europeans to explore the area were Joliet and Marquette in 1673. In 1805, the US government sent Lt. Zebulon Pike to explore the upper Mississippi River. Pike recognized the importance of the location and wanted the government to build a fort at the location. The fort was never built here, it was built at Prairie du Chien. In fact, Pikes Peak State Park was never developed. Not by the early explorers or anyone since. As you walk the trails through the park, you are seeing the landscape just as it has always been. And if you’re wondering if there’s a connection with the famous Pikes Peak in Colorado – yes, this is the same Zebulon Pike who explored this area of Iowa and eventually moved on to Colorado.
Scenic Overlooks at Pikes Peak State Park
Bridal Veil Falls Trail
If you’re looking for a great, yet short hike, I highly recommend the Bridal Veil Falls trail at Pikes Peak State Park in McGregor, Iowa. From the parking lot to Bridal Veil Falls and back is just one mile. The trail is almost entirely a wooden boardwalk which is well-maintained. However, be aware that there are a large number of steps leading down the falls, which means you have a large number of steps going up to get back to the parking lot.
The trail starts just to the north of the scenic overlooks. At first, the path is pavement but then changes to a wooden boardwalk. Along the start of the path, the first thing you’ll notice is Bear Mound, an effigy built by the Native Americans dating back to nearly 1000AD. In fact, there are over 60 mounds total within Pikes Peak State Park.
In 2023, the campgrounds were completely renovated. They have 60 spots available, both with and without electrical. Reservations can be made online.