Maquoketa Caves State Park, IA
Maquoketa Caves was one of those rare hikes in which you start out with rather low expectations and by the end are strolling along in stunned silence recounting all the amazing sights you have just encountered. Located southwest of Dubuque, Iowa outside the town of Maquoketa, Maquoketa Caves State Park is well known locally but otherwise unheard of. I DON"T KNOW WHY THIS IS!!! The tiny Raccoon Creek has dug a deep, and I mean deep, gash in the limestone of northeastern Iowa. In places, sheer rock walls rise nearly 200' out of the creek bed. Interspersed along the walls of the gorge are some 14 named caves which are open for public exploration. Not expecting to find any 'real' caves I didn't bring any spelunking equipment (meaning I had no flashlight). This limited me to fooling around in a couple of the more shallow caverns as I wandered the four-ish miles of trail within the gorge. For the prepared explorer there are much more interesting places to get oneself into, however...
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 42.119071, -90.773181
Mileage Hiked: 4.5 miles
Trailhead Temp: 73'F
Min. Elevation: 700'
Max Elevation: 850'
Trails Used: East Wall Boardwalk, Gorge Floor, Lower Gorge, Ridge, Upper Gorge, Valley Overlook