East Wall Boardwalk

Maquoketa Caves State Park

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

Route Type:  Double Loop

Difficulty:  CHALLENGING  (Petzoldt Rating:  5.50 )

Mileage Hiked: 4.5 miles

Trailhead Temp: 73'F

Min. Elevation:  700'

Max Elevation:  850' 

Total Elevation Gain:  500'

Trails Used:  East Wall Boardwalk, Gorge Floor, Lower Gorge, Ridge, Upper Gorge, Valley Overlook


  • carrie

    on August 28, 2013

    Your pictures are beautiful!! We are planning a trip to the caves in October. I am originally from Iowa and now live in Michigan. I have not been to the caves since I was 10, and now I have a four year old son. I think we are planning to do the easier caves so as not to tire him out too much. I think Im going to follow your hike through dance hall cave. I would like to hike the whole park, others in my party are not so ambitious. Thank you for expressing your love of the great state of Iowa, I try to get back and share it with my son as much as possible.