Backbone Forest Trails

Backbone State Park, Iowa

Elevation Gain1,211ft
Trailhead Elevation1,145ft
Elevation Min/Max1050/1149ft
Elevation Start/End1145/1145ft

Backbone Forest Trails

Backbone Forest Trails is a hiking, biking, and horse trail in Clayton County and Delaware County, Iowa. It is within Backbone State Forest and Backbone State Park. It is 5.8 miles long and begins at 1,145 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 7.3 miles with a total elevation gain of 1,211 feet.

Backbone Forest Trails Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

Hiking Iowa (Falcon Guides)
Elizabeth Corcoran Hill
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"When E. R. Harlan spoke during the 1920 ceremonies dedicating Iowa’s first state park, he quoted Shakespeare to convey the importance of the sanctuary: “those who ‘find tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything’ will find here an exalted interest.” Indeed, the Backbone, a narrow ridge sculpted by the Maquoketa River, towers above Backbone Lake and offers a breathtaking view of the gorge below. In the park’s large tract of forest—untouched for the past eighty years—you’ll find diverse migratory bird visitors and more than 600 species of plants."

Backbone Forest Trails Trip Reports

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This a beautiful park with a lot of different activities like camping, fishing, swimming and you can rent cabins too. There’s lots of wildlife as well like deer, eagles and lots of small forest creatures. It’s a fun place to geocache too if you’re into that. Definitely a must see if you’re in the area in Iowa.
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I love this park, but thats because its the closest thing we have in Iowa to Devil's Lake. And it shares a lot of the same lore as well. Backbone (originally Devil's Backbone) and Devil's Lake are both named after the Native American stories about them.
As for the Trails, Devil's Backbone is the main one and the most heavily traveled. If you have strollers don't hike it, some minor climbing is required. If you do walk it you will be greatly rewarded. Any average hiker can hike it. Most of the rest of the trails are the average to easy type. Expect lots of traffic during the summer. Parking is small for the Backbone Trail trail-head, so take what you can find. Expect loud cars and motorcycles as well, they like to cruise through here.
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Backbone State Park is a beautiful area set along the Maquoketa river. The Backbone Trail is a moderately challenging trail with several “off trail” paths that offer scrambling and minor climbing opportunities. The Backbone Trail however is a short 1.5 mile loop trail and the most heavily traveled.
The Bluebird Trail is a mowed grass trail which offers a nice simple stroll along side and though a timbered area.
The East Lake Trail is a very scenic trail with some elevation change and a view of the Maquoketa river. The trail runs along side some rock cliffs that add to the beauty of the park.
Backbone State Park offers some nice hiking trails. A good day hike area.
The only down side to our trip was the large amount of people using the area.
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This is a fun place. The backbone trail is named because it looks like you are walking on a giant spine with vertebrae. There are some very high cliffs on this hike with an overlook to the river on either side of the ridge.

The hike is very leisurely and there are lots of little places to climb up, down, under, and through.

There are plenty of places for trout fishing in the streams around and also a few bolted routes for rock climbing.

The camp ground is not much to speak of.

The backbone trail really is the highlight of this park.

Backbone Forest Trails Photos

Trail Information

Backbone State Park
Nearby City
Backbone State Park
Additional Use
USGS Dundee
Local Maps

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