Dubuque, IA: Yellow River State Forest

Climb to blufftop views of hardwood forest and rolling farmland in this little-known Iowa preserve.
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Climb to blufftop views of hardwood forest and rolling farmland in this little-known Iowa preserve.

 -Mapped by Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 25.5

Waypoints

YEL001

Location: 43.171117, -91.258621

Begin your trip by heading south from the Forester Trailhead.

YEL002

Location: 43.167234, -91.260956

Trail junction. Left leads to the Big Paint Campground, right continues on the route.

YEL003

Location: 43.165876, -91.259888

3-way junction. Camp Glen Wendel is straight ahead, right is the White Pine Trail, and left is the Forester Trail. If you got a late start, camp here for the night, then continue left in the morning.

YEL004

Location: 43.164997, -91.25905

Continue right on the Forester Trail at this junction.

YEL005

Location: 43.164257, -91.259454

Go left at the gate here and descend into a ravine.

YEL006

Location: 43.164823, -91.252869

Cross the dry creekbed here.

YEL007

Location: 43.165296, -91.252006

Turn right on the Ash Trail here.

YEL008

Location: 43.160675, -91.248362

Vantage point over a tree-filled ravine. You'll be able to see a church and farm, too.

YEL009

Location: 43.159604, -91.247765

Junction to Camp John Schultz. Right takes you into camp, left continues the trip.

YEL010

Location: 43.160677, -91.24434

Stay right at this junction (left takes you back to the road).

YEL011

Location: 43.157347, -91.243857

Turn right on Firetower Road.

YEL012

Location: 43.152613, -91.236453

Leave Firetower Road behind by turning left on the Brown's Hollow Trail.

YEL013

Location: 43.154857, -91.227792

Brown's Hollow Camp

YEL014

Location: 43.157496, -91.21977

Go left on Donahue Road.

YEL015

Location: 43.161992, -91.218729

Junction with the Firetower Trail. Turn left and begin a short, steep climb.

YEL016

Location: 43.164703, -91.219364

The steep climb ends here--congrats!

YEL017

Location: 43.162346, -91.228805

Cross a meadow, ignoring the footpaths to continue straight on the Firetower Trail.

YEL018

Location: 43.162373, -91.231105

Stay straight at this unnamed junction.

YEL019

Location: 43.162644, -91.234111

Junction of Firetower Trail and Walnut Trail. Turn right on the Walnut Trail.

YEL020

Location: 43.163967, -91.236373

Junction with Cedar Point Trail. Continue to the right to stay on Walnut Trail, or turn left for a short spur hike to the Cedar Point Overlook.

YEL021

Location: 43.172053, -91.237567

Walnut-Saddle Trail junction. Turn right on the Saddle Trail.

YEL022

Location: 43.1693, -91.227817

Go left at the kiosk to continue on the Saddle Trail.

YEL023

Location: 43.172696, -91.221518

Junction with Donahue Road. Turn left and cross the bridge over Paint Creek.

YEL024

Location: 43.172757, -91.221393

Bridge over creek

YEL025

Location: 43.173006, -91.221152

Junction. Turn right to go to Heffern's Hill Camp.

YEL026

Location: 43.172792, -91.220137

Turn left and begin climbing slightly on the Hickory Trail.

YEL027

Location: 43.172324, -91.215525

Pitch a tent at Heffern's Hill Camp for your second night.

YEL028

Location: 43.177944, -91.215054

Junction with unnamed path on the left. Stay straight.

YEL029

Location: 43.180912, -91.215952

Go straight at this junction (don't follow the yellow arrow).

YEL030

Location: 43.17787, -91.223558

Hickory Trail ends. Go right on the road to pass the equestrian campground.

YEL031

Location: 43.17747, -91.229758

Continue along the gravel road to the northwest.

YEL032

Location: 43.180597, -91.232781

Cross the State Forest Road here.

YEL033

Location: 43.183301, -91.235902

Exit the trail here and cross Little Paint Campground road.

YEL034

Location: 43.183838, -91.236244

Begin the Elm Trail by turning left from Little Paint Campground.

YEL035

Location: 43.186496, -91.236955

Turn left at this trail junction.

YEL036

Location: 43.18797, -91.244357

Turn left on Kelly Road.

YEL037

Location: 43.185512, -91.246138

Turn left and duck under the gate to re-enter the woods.

YEL038

Location: 43.185214, -91.246073

Kelly Rd-trail junction here. In mag, go L on Maple Trail or maybe Red Pine trail.

YEL039

Location: 43.184993, -91.243421

You'll take a left to cross the road and pick up the trail.

YEL040

Location: 43.181677, -91.243295

Go left to continue on the Maple Trail (though the Department of Natural Resources map calls it the Larkin Valley Trail).

YEL041

Location: 43.181353, -91.245039

Pass a small pond on your right.

YEL042

Location: 43.180413, -91.245398

Hike past another cornfield here.

YEL043

Location: 43.173989, -91.242199

Turn right on the Paint Creek Trail from the Maple Trail. You'll be tracing the State Forest Road.

YEL044

Location: 43.171224, -91.243927

Turn right here on the Paint Creek Trail (or cross the road to a picnic area for a snack).

YEL045

Location: 43.171959, -91.246046

Bluff Trail junction on your right. Take the short spur for sweeping southerly views over the forest.

YEL046

Location: 43.174165, -91.250769

Hike past Big Paint Campground on your left, across the creek.

YEL047

Location: 43.174843, -91.262167

Turn left on White Pine Road, then look out for the short spur trail on your left to re-enter the woods. Continue across State Forest Road to close the loop.

Forester Trail

Location: 43.170553, -91.258471

Rocky bluff along Forester Trail

Location: 43.169145, -91.258321

Camp Glen Wendel

Location: 43.165874, -91.25963

Rock formation

Location: 43.164551, -91.255129

Heffern's Hill Camp

Location: 43.172337, -91.215277

Butterfly along the Elm Trail

Location: 43.187553, -91.240066

Pond along the trail

Location: 43.186091, -91.240983

Trailhead sign

Location: 43.185528, -91.245875

Ascending the valley

Location: 43.176234, -91.245618

CED001

Location: 43.163327, -91.243366

Turn right on Cedar Point Road.

CED002

Location: 43.16812, -91.242343

A short road walk brings you to Cedar Point Overlook, an excellent spot to scope for hawks during the fall migration.