While my brother and I were exploring Iowa, one place I knew we had to visit was Maquoketa Caves State Park. I had come across a pin on Pinterest about this park and quickly added to my list of “Places to Visit”. If you think Iowa is just farm fields and rolling hills, this park will blow your mind. This park is about 4.5 hours from St. Louis and features approximately 16 caves and about 7 miles of hiking trails. We arrived early in order to beat the crowds. We parked at the small lot just off of the road where all of the trails start and end.
We first explored the north trails, taking the trail through Dancehall Cave. What a neat experience! A pathway leads through the cave and follows a small stream. I have never been inside a cave and not been on a tour so this was neat to experience it “alone”.
When you finally exit the cave, you are surrounded by towering bluffs and interesting rock formations. We followed the trail to the left which hugged the bluff wall.
The rest of the caves are partially accessible, but require a permit and more gear to enter. I got a bit turned around because once you exit Dancehall Cave, you are on the south trails. We followed the bluffs for a while and the rock formations were amazing!
We started to head back towards the parking lot and passed the Balanced Rock and a view of Dancehall Cave from above.
We headed for the north trails again. We stopped to see the Natural Bridge which is in the same area as Dancehall Cave and then made out way to caves #3, #4 and #5.
You can see the route we hiked on the map below. Staircases lead everywhere to the caves through lush vegetation.
We completed the Ridge Trail loop.
We had a quick picnic lunch at the picnic area, packed up and headed east towards Mississippi Palisades State Park. This park was fantastic and I highly recommend it!