Park Visit: Ledges State Park in Madrid, Iowa

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I always see people asking about Ledges and for good reason; it has some of the area’s most interesting trails and challenging inclines! I took my son the summer that we moved here and he had a wonderful time splashing in the waterways across the main canyon road, but we hadn’t made the trip recently. This past weekend’s beautiful weather clinched the deal and we took a Sunday morning hike up!

You can see more specific details on the Ledges State Park page or check out its location on the interactive map.

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I highly recommend printing off the PDF trail map. There is a great overview of the trails on Iowa Parklands that I read through before we went. You’ll pull up to this official sign and see some park buildings off to the right – you can also turn left on the unmarked road before you enter the park, and then take the first right to find the Lost Lake trail we went on, but you can only access the canyon road and trails going around the other way.

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We drove through the canyon first, the signs guide you clearly and once you’ve entered there is only one direction. There are several (at least 3, I should have counted) spots where the water runs over the road and makes for a great splash spot.

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Giant sandstone walls are a unique feature, with the highest trails (as shown by the guardrails above) along the canyon road. I had planned on us also attempting to hike up to the Crow’s Nest viewing spot, but we ran out of time!ledges-park-boone-iowa-des-moines-iowa-4

Lots of shallow sandbars for playing and throwing rocks as well.

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This bridge tends to be photographed a lot – it is fun to run over, too!

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We kept driving out of the canyon one-way and headed over to the Lost Lake trail. You almost feel like you’ve left the park on the way over, it’s pretty sparse, but you can’t miss the parking lot and sign. This trail has an accessible loop that is packed gravel and wheelchair/stroller friendly, but there are several more elevated dirt trails that jut off the main path.

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Along the main path and surrounding the lake, there are several interpretive signs with wildlife information. These make a great motivator for kids who might drag their feet a bit – racing to the next sign is an easy sell.

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My son followed a little deer trail and found this amazing rock overlook! The view was so pretty, even though most of the trees had lost their leaves.

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We hiked back down and took the main path back around the lake and back to the parking lot – but not before admiring the colors from this angle. My Geocaching app told me there was a cache nearby, so we decided to look for that. It was so exciting, my 19 month old spotted it first, making it her first cache!

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It was a really great one, called “Lost Lake Found”, and was perfect for geocaching with kids. Relatively close to the path, pretty easy to find, and full of trinkets. I’m hoping to make a long list of similar caches, so if you geocache and have any kid-friendly favorites, please leave a comment! If you have no idea what I’m talking about or have been meaning to figure out what geocaching is all about, check out this post for a Geocaching 101, it’s so much fun.

The one drawback? There was a lot of trash! I always carry a garbage and a recycling bag to scoop stuff out, and they were both full after this short, 1-mile hike. This was a great loop that I’ll be recommending to folks with younger kids, and we’re looking forward to going back and exploring some of the other trails soon.

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