If you’ve ever been to Eagle Point Park in Dubuque, then you’ve had (not-quite) a bird’s eye view of the Mississippi River and the hills around it. However, if you are looking for even better views, you can drive south for half an hour until you arrive in Bellevue, home to one of Iowa’s State Parks.
The park is divided into two separate sections and has something for everyone. In the southern section, the Dyas Unit, there are campgrounds if you’re looking for a night out under the stars (don’t worry, there are some outlets for your electronics and restrooms). The Dyas Unit also has more than five miles of hiking trails that take you past streams, brightly-colored trees, and the last of summer’s wildflowers. One picnic area overlooks the Mississippi River and gives a stunning panoramic view of the land around you.
In the northern section, the Nelson Unit, there are three trails that provide a variety of hiking experiences. Hikers can walk a trail close to the bluff overlooking the river and its banks as well as the town of Bellevue. Heading west, park-goers can enjoy a butterfly garden in the warmer months and learn more about wildflowers. Hikers also pass the nature center, where there is plenty to learn about Iowan wildlife. Another trail leads through a restored prairie garden, teeming with different plants and chirping birds – and keep an eye out for groundhogs. The third trail, which is partly under construction, winds its way to an old limestone quarry. Hikers of any level (or motivation), can find something of interest since these three trails vary in length and difficulty.
The views from the scenic bluffs in Bellevue State Park provide fantastic vantage points for watching bald eagles as fall begins to turn to winter. However, go enjoy the park before it gets cold. The leaves will be brightly colored and the last of the wildflowers will be disappearing soon. Some people may be surprised at how the steep bluffs and panoramic views are such a stark contrast to their idea of Iowa, but don’t worry: it’s only half an hour from Loras. So if you’re looking for a little adventure and beautiful views, head to Bellevue State Park.