Readers' Choice Midwest Hikes: Effigy Mounds National Monument, IA

Climb to views of the mighty Mississippi River.

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Forget about the great muddy waterway traveled by Huck Finn—that river no longer exists. But you can find pristine views and tap his adventurous spirit by hiking the edges of riverside bluffs. At Effigy Mounds, hike four miles on an out-and-back trek to vistas known as the Twin Views. Along the way you’ll pass sacred Native American dirt mounds shaped like birds, bear, bison, and other animals. And that’s not all: The path continues to a million-mile view of the wide river, which is hemmed in by high cliffs and speckled with tiny, tree-covered islands.

Go at dawn in the summer to see golden light reflecting off the morning fog that often pours through the valley, and view the wobbly first flights of the area’s many baby raptors. Continue along the increasingly rugged trail lined with mounds to arrive at several viewpoints to the east. For the best scene, though, hike beyond the trail’s official end to Hanging Rock, a natural platform that juts out over the Mississippi. Says Brainard: “In addition to perfect views, you may also have bald eagles soaring right over your head.”


Driving From Madison, Wisconsin: Take US 18 west for 95 miles into Iowa. Turn right on 
IA 76 and right again into the Effigy Mounds parking area.

Map USGS quad: Prairie Du Chien ($9,

Contact (563) 873-3491,