Today I took an adventure to Waubonsie State Park, Iowa. I took Highway 2 East as I started from Lincoln Nebraska. Just as you pass the last farm and head into the Loess hills passing Bluff Road, about a mile you can turn right onto Waubonsie Park Road. Drive slow because you will most definitely encounter a handful of deer, if you arrive at dawn. At the fork take a right, then head on down if you want to stop by the park office, or turn next left to head towards Sunset Ridge Trail. Drive all the way to the end (Don’t veer left, stay to the right) and park in the lot right by the loop.
You can view the full version of park map and other details by clicking here. The red “X” is where I came in from off Highway 2. Parking is the circled red spot, by Sunset Ridge Trail head. The blue line from the parking spot, is my suggested starting point/trail.
Sunset Ridge Trail
The trail head was very easy to find. Just walk towards the loop from parking and you will find the sign near a bench to the right. Now if you see as much snow as you do in that picture be very, very careful. Starting off is a steep hill and guarded by wild turkey. This is a great hike with moderate difficulty more so because of the snow conditions in this case. A scenic overlook of the Valley is along the way and a great place to observe. All of my wild turkey spotting occurred along this trail, and I didn’t see any deer. If you do encounter wild turkey do not approach. They can be very dangerous. Once they flap there wings and gobble at you steadily walk back. If they are startled, skirt around if safe or just go on the other side of the loop. If you didn’t startle it and the Turkey isn’t bothered by you within a safe distance, they usually just keep walking and eating. In total I would estimate taking the trail head from my suggested starting point, over to Overlook trail (our next one) it is about 1.5 miles.
After exiting Sunset Ridge Trail, you’ll be next to the road. Just take a left and walk up on the Overlook trail, stay left. This trail is an easy difficulty. On our map we are still on the blue line heading to the point of interest. You will start to see amazing views but keep going by the stone terraces to the benches and information signs. I personally like the view better than the Sunset Ridge. A fantastic spot to stop for some water, food, and looking over the Missouri Valley with the Loess hills in sight. Once you are done here, keep going North onto the Ridge/Bridge trail head.
Ridge & Bridge Trail
Ridge Trail provides more scenic views of the Missouri Valley. To veer off onto Ridge trail you will take your first left from Overlook trail. If you were coming from our scenic overlook spot keep left heading North. Ridge trail is moderate difficulty due to the steep inclines and when covered in snow can be very slippery. Once you get to the end of Ridge trail we are now on the yellow line in the above map. We will just back track and continue on the access trail to Bridge trail. Bridge trail was probably my least favorite as you can hear a lot of road noise from the highway the closer you get. This one for the most part stays by a ridge. I did see a large group of deer running away once they noticed me. This would be the only reason I suggest this section of the park for the chance of finding deer due to the road noise.
Nearing the green line in our map, turn around by the highway. When we head back you can opt to take the Valley Trail which will have signs directing you. This will lead you down the ridge where I saw a large group of about 5-7 deer. Eventually it will loop by the Park Office and back through Overlook Trail for one last look of the view.
Mincer & Picnic Area Trail
On my way into the park I had to stop my truck for some deer to move. This occurred on the road between Mincer and Picnic Area trail. Very easy, short, and flat trails. Both trails run North/South along the road. Mincer is to the West whereas Picnic Area is on the East. I ended up going along both trails because the deer went to the West side of the road. On our map the green line is going through Mincer since it conveniently ends just shy of the parking lot. You can cross the street for a bathroom break or further explore this gym of a park.
- 5/5 Amenities: Plenty of amenities for this park. It includes but not limited to a park office, cabins, shelters, campgrounds, water wells, modern bathrooms, boat ramp, and even equestrian amenities for those enjoy such activities.
- 4/5 Trails: Trails definitely take you to the scenic areas on the park. I do wish they could extend the trail system in the Southern and Eastern sections. Bridge Trail has to much road noise for my liking.
- 2/5 Backpacking: While it can be done here, you would end up walking the same trails continuously. However if someone has made there own paths here I’d like to read about it in the comments.
- 4/5 Maps: The provided map from Iowa DNR was enough to understand where the trail options were. It provides details on all the important amenities. However the section around Overlook trail and the point of interest is a little ambiguous. Some parts are not to scale.
- 2/5 Wilderness: It’s not the most popular park around the region. Although having so many amenities and always being by civilization this park does not feel very close to wilderness.
- 4/5 Enjoyment: Overall this park has a lot to offer and enjoyed hiking here. Being from Lincoln, NE this is a regional place that I can easily access. There is lots of wildlife and the views are fantastic. The geographical attributes are truly unique to this region.