Hiking the Horseshoe Bluff Trails at the Mines of Spain

Horseshoe Bluff Trail is one the best short yet scenic hikes in the entire state of Iowa. Its loop path is less than one mile, yet packs in some incredible views.

Where to park: 11346 Mines of Spain Road, Dubuque, Iowa 52003

Where to start the hike: The hike starts right at the parking lot and you can choose to go left or right since it’s a loop.

Why would you go left: Turning to the left to start the trail leads uphill – as some folks want the climb out of the way at the start. They also want to reach the overlook, providing them with an overview from the 3rd level of the quarry.

Why would you go right: Turning to the right is a flat, easy hike for about a quarter of a mile on a dirt/gravel path. Heading in this direction has no inclines and provides a dramatic entrance from the base floor of the canyon. If you

Is the path handicap accessible? No. Turning to the left from the parking lot is a large incline to the overlook that is not accessible. Turning to the right is accessible – but only to the base or lowest level of the canyon. Once at the lowest canyon level, you would need to take stairs or another walking incline that are not accessible.

Cost: There is no cost for parking – and there are no fees for entering or using the park.

Trail Map (via AllTrails) https://www.alltrails.com/explore/trail/us/iowa/horseshoe-bluff-nature-trail?mobileMap=false&ref=sidebar-static-map

Is this a natural canyon? Was it created by the waters from the Mississippi River?
No. It is a man-made quarry, created after years of mining for lead.

How many levels are there to the quarry?
In total, there are four levels and levels 1, 2, and 3 are open to the public.

Level 1 is the base, which is accessible by taking the trail to the right when you are at the parking lot. You can also get to level 1 by going to the left, you just have to take some stairs or declining trails to get to it.

Level 2 is approximately 30 to 40 feet above the floor level and can be accessed by either stairs or trail.

Level 3 is where the overlook is located that oversees the area.

Level 4 is the top of the bluff next to the river. There are no stairs to get to the top level, it is only accessible by free climbing the rocks. However, several years ago, signage was added asking hikers not to climb to the fourth level. The top level is about 200 feet above the floor and after multiple occasions where hikers fell to their floor, they started restricting access.

A drone photo showing Horseshoe Bluff Trail looking south down the Mississippi River. At the bottom of this photo is the overlook that resides on the third level. Just beyond that is the trail on the second level and further beyond are the trails on the base level.
A view from the second level, looking south.
A view of the quarry from the second level.
YouTube video
This video shows some of the trails along Horseshoe Bluff Trail at the Mines of Spain. The video starts at the lowest level of the canyon and takes the stairs to the second level of the canyon.

Between the base and the second level, there is a set of wood stairs.

If you leave the parking lot and hike to the right – you’ll be coming in on the base floor level showing views of the 200-foot cliffs.
YouTube video
Drone footage showing Horseshoe Bluff Trail located in the Mines of Spain Recreational Area in Dubuque, Iowa.

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