Anyone who has spent time with my family knows that it takes a lot to tire out our very active children, and because of this, my wife and I specially plan weekend activities so that the boys will eventually sleep and we can enjoy a little peace and quiet.
In the fall, this means hiking. The fall colors and brisk air are my favorite part of the season. Our boys love to crunch leaves underfoot and my wife is just glad that the gnats and mosquitoes are gone for another year. We ran across this book and it has helped us to discover some especially fun places to spend an autumn day.
Our favorite trails are in Palisades-Kepler State Park on Highway 30 just outside Mount Vernon. We have explored many of the trails, and usually end up forging our own way at some point along the journey. When hiking with children, be especially careful; there’s a reason they call it the Cedar Cliff trail! There is a lovely gazebo with a railed lookout that is a perfect setting for a snack. Our dog loves all the squirrels on these trips!
A special, little-known trail is the Amana Trail to Indian Fish Trap State Preserve, just past the intersection of Highways 151 and 6 (I couldn’t even find a photo on the internet). I like to tote my fishing pole along with us and while the kids picnic, I take advantage of the glacial boulders that Native Americans positioned to funnel fish for spearing. The boys first tackled this trail when they were 2 and 3, and rumors that it is haunted by the spirits of Native Americans makes it even more entertaining during October. We usually end our trip by eating far too much at one of the family-style restaurants in Amana.
Our favorite hiking spot in Johnson County is the MacBride Nature Recreation Center. Our first stop is always the Raptor Center. The boys love the owls and hawks, but I never cease to be amazed by the golden eagle. On our last visit, we hiked along the river and up the bluffs, eventually finding our way back through some beautiful campsites. These campsites are very primitive, and are a long walk from both the parking lot and bathrooms, but they make up for those inconveniences in beauty and privacy. We plan to break out the tents and give camping a shot next summer.
Do you have a favorite Cedar Rapids outdoor day trip? I’d love to hear about your favorite nature spots in the comments.