Explore Iowa’s Mountains: Top Hiking Areas and Natural Wonders

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Did you know that the seemingly flat Iowa has 28 named mountains? Yes, you read that right! Nestled among its iconic cornfields, the mountains of Iowa offer an unexpected yet enchanting allure. With a rich geological past and diverse landscapes, these hidden gems are waiting to be explored.

So, lace up your hiking boots and join us as we unveil the untold stories, breathtaking vistas, best hiking trails in Iowa, and outdoor adventures that Iowa’s mountains have in store. Let’s change the way you see Iowa forever!

Table of all named mountains in Iowa

Here is a table with all 28 named mountains in Iowa, including their height and location:

NameHeight (ft)Location
Hawkeye Point1,670Sibley, Osceola County
Ocheyedan Mound1,655Ocheyedan, Osceola County
Pilot Knob1,450Forest City, Hancock County
Gull Point1,410Milford, Dickinson County
Mount Hosmer1,040Lansing, Allamakee County
Pikes Peak1,130McGregor, Clayton County
Stone State Park Hill1,381Sioux City, Woodbury County
Mount Vernon1,148Mount Vernon, Linn County
Sugar Loaf1,050Dubuque, Dubuque County
American Legion Hill1,460Sidney, Fremont County
Mount Pleasant1,060Mount Pleasant, Henry County
Mount Hope1,207Wellsburg, Grundy County
Mount Ida1,010Elkader, Clayton County
Snake Alley Hill720Burlington, Des Moines County
Mount Pisgah1,340Thayer, Union County
Steamboat Rock1,000Steamboat Rock, Hardin County
Mount Hamill820Donnellson, Lee County
Mount Ayr1,250Mount Ayr, Ringgold County
Mount Olivet1,020Fort Dodge, Webster County
Mount Carmel1,080Lawler, Chickasaw County
Mount Moriah1,151Allerton, Wayne County
Mount Zion1,010Keosauqua, Van Buren County
Mount Tabor1,200Clearfield, Taylor County
Mount Nebo1,070Mount Union, Henry County
Mount Clare940Danbury, Woodbury County
Mount Carmel Cemetery Hill1,260Cherokee, Cherokee County
Pilot Mound1,430Pilot Mound, Boone County
Mount Horeb940Decorah, Winneshiek County
Keep in mind that the elevations listed are approximate, and the heights may vary slightly depending on the source.

Iowa – the state

Iowa, a Midwestern state in the U.S., is often underestimated in terms of its terrain. Despite being predominantly recognized for its agricultural landscape, Iowa also boasts numerous mountains, peaks, and hills, offering a diverse range of landscapes that cater to outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

Geography of Iowa

Iowa is bordered by six states and has the unique feature of being the only state with both its eastern and western borders defined by rivers—the Mississippi River and the Missouri River, respectively. The state consists of 99 counties and has a moderately dense population.

Iowa has a population of approximately 3.2 million people, making it the 30th most populous state in the United States. The state’s population density is relatively moderate, with most of its residents concentrated in urban areas such as Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Iowa City. Despite its largely rural character, Iowa has a diverse economy, with industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, and finance playing important roles in the state’s economic development.

Geology of Iowa

Geologically, Iowa is characterized by hilly terrain, particularly the small hills and the distinctive Loess Hills. The state’s bedrock increases in age from west to east, with the oldest rocks found in the eastern part.

The Loess Hills, a notable feature of Iowa’s landscape, were formed by the Wisconsinan Glacier and wind-blown sediments, creating a unique and captivating geological formation.

“I’m from Iowa, we don’t know what cool is!”

– Ashton Kutcher

Top 11 Iowa Mountains for Hiking

Discover the beauty of Iowa’s often-overlooked mountains (some of the best mountains in the Midwest) and the best hiking trails in Iowa, perfect for hiking enthusiasts seeking picturesque trails and hidden gems.

Hawkeye Point

Elevation: 1,670 feet (509 meters), Location: Sibley, Osceola County, Google Maps

Hawkeye Point is the highest natural point in Iowa, standing at 1,670 feet above sea level. Located in Osceola County, this summit is situated on private farmland but is accessible to the public. The point is marked by a simple sign, a silo painted with Iowa’s state flag, and an observation platform offering panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

What Makes It Unique: Apart from being the highest point in Iowa, Hawkeye Point is also known for its beautiful sunsets and sunrises. The serene rural surroundings make it a perfect spot for picnics, stargazing, or simply enjoying a quiet moment in nature.

Hiking Tips: There are no challenging trails at Hawkeye Point, making it an easy destination for visitors of all ages and fitness levels. Just park your car nearby and take a short walk to the summit.

Ocheyedan Mound

Elevation: 1,655 feet (504 meters), Location: Ocheyedan, Osceola County, Google Maps

Ocheyedan Mound is a geological wonder and one of the highest points in Iowa, located in Ocheyedan Mound State Preserve. This glacial kame was formed during the last ice age and offers a unique hiking experience with stunning views of the surrounding landscape.

What Makes It Unique: Ocheyedan Mound is a rare example of a glacial kame and has been the subject of extensive geological research. The mound offers a fascinating glimpse into Iowa’s geological history.

Hiking Tips: The trail to the summit is short but steep, so be prepared for a moderate climb. Wear appropriate footwear, and don’t forget to bring a camera to capture the fantastic views from the top!

Pilot Knob State Park

Elevation: 1,450 feet (442 meters), Location: Forest City, Hancock County, Google Maps

Pilot Knob State Park, located in Hancock County, covers 700 acres of diverse terrain, including woodlands, wetlands, and prairies. The park’s namesake, Pilot Knob, is the second-highest point in Iowa and offers impressive views of the surrounding landscapes.

What Makes It Unique: The park is home to a historic stone lookout tower, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. From the top of the tower, you can enjoy a 360-degree view of the park and its surroundings. Pilot Knob State Park is also an excellent spot for birdwatching, with over 150 species spotted within its boundaries.

Hiking Tips: There are several trails in the park, ranging from easy to moderate difficulty. The main trail leading to the summit is a 1.5-mile loop, which takes you through the forest and up to the tower. Make sure to wear appropriate footwear and carry water, especially during the warmer months.

Ledges State Park

Elevation: Varies, Location: Google Maps

Ledges State Park, located near Boone, is one of Iowa’s most beloved parks, featuring unique sandstone cliffs, deep canyons, and breathtaking vistas. With more than 1,200 acres to explore, the park offers a wide range of hiking and outdoor activities, including birdwatching, picnicking, and camping.

What Makes It Unique: The sandstone cliffs and dramatic canyons make Ledges State Park a geological wonder and a must-visit destination for nature lovers. The park also boasts a rich cultural history, with Native American artifacts and remnants of the Civilian Conservation Corps’ work.

Hiking Tips: Ledges State Park offers over 13 miles of trails, ranging from easy to challenging. The trails take you through the park’s diverse ecosystems and offer stunning views of the canyons and cliffs. Always check the park’s website for trail conditions and closures, especially after heavy rains, as some paths may be temporarily inaccessible.

Maquoketa Caves State Park

Elevation: Varies, Location: Google Maps

Maquoketa Caves State Park, situated in Jackson County, is a true geological treasure, boasting some of the most extensive cave systems in Iowa. The park’s 370 acres offer visitors a unique opportunity to explore numerous caves, hike through the lush woodlands, and learn about the area’s geology and natural history.

What Makes It Unique: The park’s main attraction is the fascinating cave systems, including the Dancehall Cave, a large, walk-in cavern with a lighted pathway. The park is also home to rare species of bats, making it an important site for conservation and research.

Hiking Tips: The park offers six miles of hiking trails that vary in difficulty. Some trails lead to cave entrances, while others meander through the picturesque forest landscape. When exploring the caves, make sure to bring a flashlight or headlamp, wear sturdy shoes, and be prepared for slippery or uneven surfaces. Additionally, note that some caves may be closed seasonally to protect bat populations.

Gull Point State Park

Elevation: Varies, Location: Milford, Dickinson County, Google Maps

Located on the shores of West Okoboji Lake, Gull Point State Park is a popular destination for both nature enthusiasts and water sports lovers. The park’s 147 acres encompass rolling hills, dense woodlands, and stunning lake views, offering visitors plenty of outdoor activities such as hiking, birdwatching, and swimming.

What Makes It Unique: Gull Point State Park is a haven for water activities, with its sandy beach and calm waters. The park’s location along the Iowa Great Lakes Flyway also makes it an excellent spot for birdwatching, with more than 200 species of birds sighted in the area.

Hiking Tips: The park features a 1.5-mile self-guided interpretive trail that provides information about the local flora, fauna, and history. The trail is relatively easy and suitable for all fitness levels. Don’t forget to bring binoculars for birdwatching, and consider packing a swimsuit to enjoy the beach after your hike.

Mount Hosmer

Elevation: 1,040 ft, Location: Lansing, Allamakee County, Google Maps

What Makes It Unique: Mount Hosmer, located in Lansing, Allamakee County, offers stunning panoramic views of the Mississippi River and the surrounding Driftless Area. This unique mountain is named after Harriet Hosmer, a famous 19th-century American sculptor, who reportedly won a footrace to the summit during her visit to Lansing.

Hiking Tips: The summit can be reached via a short hike, making it an excellent adventure for hikers of all levels. Mount Hosmer Park provides well-maintained trails, picnic areas, and a lookout tower, perfect for a family-friendly excursion.

American Legion Hill

Elevation: 1,460 ft, Location: Sidney, Fremont County, Google Maps

What Makes It Unique: American Legion Hill, situated in Sidney, Fremont County, is a prominent landmark with a rich history. The hill is named in honor of the American Legion, a U.S. wartime veterans organization, and serves as a symbol of patriotism for the local community.

Hiking Tips: The summit offers visitors the chance to enjoy picturesque views of the surrounding countryside, making it a worthwhile destination for hikers and nature enthusiasts. The area surrounding American Legion Hill is also home to a variety of wildlife, providing opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife spotting.

Stone State Park Hill

Elevation: 1,381 ft, Location: Sioux City, Woodbury County, Google Maps

What Makes It Unique: Nestled in Sioux City, Woodbury County, Stone State Park Hill is a remarkable destination for outdoor enthusiasts seeking a diverse array of recreational activities. The park spans over 1,069 acres, encompassing unique features such as oak savannas, prairies, and the Loess Hills, making it an ideal spot for hiking, birdwatching, and nature exploration.

Hiking Tips: The hill’s summit provides magnificent views of the surrounding landscape, inviting visitors to appreciate the beauty of the park’s diverse ecosystems. With over six miles of trails, Stone State Park Hill caters to hikers of all experience levels.

Mount Vernon

Elevation: 1,099 ft, Location: Mount Vernon, Linn County, Google Maps

What Makes It Unique: Located in Mount Vernon, Linn County, Mount Vernon is a charming small town with a rich history and cultural heritage. The town, founded in 1847, is named after George Washington’s plantation estate and is home to Cornell College, a historic liberal arts college.

Hiking Tips: While Mount Vernon itself is not a mountain or hill, the town offers several opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding countryside. The nearby Palisades-Kepler State Park, just a short drive away, provides hiking trails, birdwatching, and picturesque views of the Cedar River.

Dolliver State Park, Lehigh

Elevation: 1,125 ft, Location: Lehigh, Webster County, Google Maps

What Makes It Unique: Situated in Lehigh, Webster County, Dolliver State Park is a nature lover’s paradise. With 594 acres of land to explore, the park features beautiful woodlands, stunning bluffs, and the picturesque Des Moines River. The park’s diverse landscape offers a variety of recreational activities, including hiking, birdwatching, and fishing.

Hiking Tips: Dolliver State Park’s extensive trail system caters to hikers of all skill levels, providing excellent opportunities to appreciate the area’s natural beauty. The park is also home to several historical sites, including ancient Native American burial mounds and the intriguing “Copperas Beds,” an exposed geological formation.

Things to consider for Hiking in the Iowa Mountains

Hiking in the Iowa Mountains (some of the best mountains in the Midwest) offers a unique and rewarding experience. To make the most of your adventure, consider these practical tips:

  1. Research trails, terrain, and difficulty levels before setting out.
  2. Check the weather forecast and dress appropriately for the conditions.
  3. Wear comfortable, sturdy footwear suitable for varying terrain.
  4. Bring water, snacks, and a map or GPS device for navigation.
  5. Carry a basic first-aid kit and insect repellent.
  6. Be aware of local wildlife and exercise caution when encountering animals.
  7. Practice Leave No Trace principles to help preserve the environment.
  8. Inform someone of your hiking plans and expected return time.
  9. Always hike with a buddy or in a group when possible for safety.
  10. Be prepared to adjust your plans if trail conditions or weather change unexpectedly.

By keeping these tips in mind, you’ll ensure a safe and enjoyable hiking experience in the Iowa Mountains.

Best Times to Visit Iowa’s Mountains

When planning a trip to Iowa’s mountains, it’s important to consider the best time to visit the state as a whole. The state experiences all four seasons, and each season offers unique opportunities to explore Iowa’s rugged terrain.

Spring (March – May)

Spring in Iowa is a time of renewal, with wildflowers and foliage beginning to bloom. It’s a great time to explore the state’s parks and hiking trails before the summer crowds arrive. The weather is mild, but it can be wet, so make sure to bring appropriate rain gear.

Summer (June – August)

Summer is the most popular time to visit Iowa’s mountains, with warm temperatures and long days offering plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation. Swimming, camping, and hiking are popular activities during this time, but be prepared for high humidity and occasional thunderstorms.

Fall (September – November)

Fall in Iowa is a beautiful time of year, with the leaves changing color and the weather cooling off. It’s a great time to explore Iowa’s parks and hiking trails, and the cooler temperatures make for comfortable hiking conditions. Make sure to bring layers, as temperatures can vary throughout the day.

Winter (December – February)

Winter in Iowa can be cold and snowy, but it’s a great time to explore the state’s winter wonderland. Skiing, snowshoeing, and ice fishing are popular activities during this time, but make sure to dress warmly and check weather conditions before heading out.

By considering the best time to visit Iowa’s mountains and taking into account seasonal considerations and weather patterns, you can ensure a more enjoyable and comfortable trip while exploring the state’s rugged terrain.


What mountains run through Iowa?

Iowa is not known for its large, imposing mountains. However, the state does have 28 named mountains, although they are relatively small and scattered throughout the state. Some of the more prominent peaks include Hawkeye Point, Pilot Knob, and Mount Ledges.

What is the most mountainous area of Iowa?

The Loess Hills are the most mountainous area of Iowa, stretching for about 200 miles along the western border of the state. The hills were formed by windblown silt and sediment deposits left behind by glaciers during the last ice age, and they provide a scenic backdrop for hiking, biking, and other outdoor activities.

What are the closest mountains to Iowa?

Although Iowa itself does not have any major mountains, the closest mountains to the state are the Ozark Mountains, located in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. These mountains offer a range of recreational activities, including hiking, camping, and fishing, and they are a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts from across the Midwest.

What is the most prominent hill in Iowa?

Hawkeye Point is the highest natural point in Iowa, reaching an elevation of 1,670 feet above sea level. It is located near the town of Sibley in northwest Iowa, and it offers visitors panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. Despite its relatively modest elevation, Hawkeye Point is a popular destination for hikers and nature lovers in the state.

What is the most mountainous area of Iowa? What are the closest mountains to Iowa? What is the most prominent hill in Iowa?

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Author: Richard
Meet Richard Buettner, the esteemed editor of GeoAffairs, armed with a Master's degree in Geography and sharing his valuable insights through 25 years of dedicated experience in the field.

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