If you like stunning scenic overlooks, especially along the Mississippi River, then there’s one specific place you need to add to your Iowa Road Trip bucket list – Effigy Mounds National Monument in Allamakee County, Iowa. It’s located along the Great River Road, just north of Marquette, Iowa. Although the visitors center has specific hours, the trails are technically open every day from sunrise to sunset.
Address: 151 Hwy 76, Harpers Ferry, IA 52146
What is the total hiking distance if I wanted to visit all 5 overlooks in one hike? and how long would that take?
From the parking lot directly to Hanging Rock, it is 3.5 miles one way. However, there is an additional one to two miles added when you swing over to the other views on your way back, so the total hike will end up being between 8 and 9 miles. When I visited Effigy Mounds, it took me a total of 4 hours to visit all scenic overlooks, which included time for photos and time to rest at some of the stops. Here’s the breakdown of how much time it took me:
Parking lot directly to Hanging Rock: 3.5 miles, started at 1:55 pm and arrived at 3:05 pm, I then stayed at Hanging Rock for 36 minutes to take photos and rest. I left Hanging Rock at 3:36 pm and stopped at the Third Scenic View at 4:15 pm, Twin View at 4:35 pm, Fire Point at 4:50 pm, Eagle Rock at 5:10, and then returned to the parking lot at 5:40 pm
What order do you recommend if I want to visit all 5 views in one hike?
I recommend hiking directly to the scenic view that is the farthest from the visitors center (Hanging Rock), then catching the other overlooks on your way back to the parking lot. If you choose the opposite, you would visit several of the overlooks at the start of the journey, which would be rewarding, but it also might cause you to skip the last overlook, Hanging Rock, because there are several miles between Hanging Rock and the other views. In my mind, if you conquer the hardest one first, you’re more likely to stop at all the rest on the way back. However, if left Hanging Rock for last, you might already be tired from the other views, and then see the sign that says you still have multiple more miles to go, you might not be inclined to journey to the last stop.
What are trails like?
The trails are well-groomed and well-labeled. The surface is mostly mulch chips. The trails are extremely well labeled because the signs are constantly reminding you to be respectful of the mounds – and stay on the trail and stay off the mounds.
Besides being a long 8 to 9-mile hike, what else should we be aware of?
1) The first half mile has several switchbacks and inclines. Don’t race up the inclines, as this is just the start of a long journey. Don’t waste your energy at the start.
2) The very last stretch or climb up to Hanging Rock might be challenging for some, as the trail narrows and you’ll be climbing some rocks as stepping stones to reach the final view.
Hanging Rock Overlook
It’s 3.5 miles one way from the parking lot to Hanging Rock. As mentioned earlier, the first half mile has a lot of inclines and switchbacks, after that, it’s mostly level walking until the last mile before the overlook. In the last mile, the trail will drop down into several ravines, cross walking bridges, and the incline back uphill. During the very last stretch before the overlook, the trail will narrow and become a bit more challenging with rocks and boulders along the path.
Third Scenic View Overlook
Twin Views Overlook
From the Third Scenic Overlook, it is only .5 miles to Twin Views, which as you would expect is two unique views. One faces north and the other faces east.
Fire Point Overlook
Fire Point Overlook might be the best known and perhaps the most visited of the overlooks. That’s because its one of the closest overlooks to the visitor’s center and because the rangers typically lead daily guided hikes to this location.
Eagle Rock Overlook
Just a few hundred yards from Fire Point is our last overlook, Eagle Rock. From Eagle Rock, it’s about a half mile back to the visitors center, which is mostly down hill.