Last Updated on June 9, 2022
In my opinion, one of my favourite places to go hiking is the Mines of Spain in Dubuque Iowa! I’ve been in both summer and autumn but the recreational area is open all year round. There are 10 different trails in various lengths and hiking levels. Here’s a look at the 3 trails that I have completed!
Hiking the Mines of Spain Trails
Horseshoe Bluff Trail
🚶🏻♀️Trail Info: 3/4 Mile – around 25 minutes with stops. *TIP* Begin at the trail start sign on the right hand side of the car park. The steps leading up from the car park to the outlook is a ‘long’ uphill climb, going in the opposite direction means you come down the hill rather then up!
The Horseshoe Bluff Trail is my favourite of the 3 trails I’ve completed at the Mines of Spain! Rather than follow the sign for the start of the trail, I turned left, following the sign for the ‘overlook’.
When you reach the top, looking in one direction offers views of the river, you can even see the Julien Dubuque Memorial Tower sitting between the trees. The other direction gives a high up vantage point that looks through the canyon between two bluffs!
A staircase leads down and follows the trail between the two bluffs. It’s one of those moments that make you feel small, being towered by rock on either side!
The trail then continues by a rail line (where is it possible to reach the banks of the Mississippi River) and then into a wetland area with a large pond…be careful not to step on frogs! There were a lot on the trail around this area and they blend in with the grass!
🚾There’s a large parking area with toilet facilities at the start of the Horseshoe Bluff Trail.
The Julien Dubuque Foot Trail
🚶🏻♀️Trail Info: 3/4 Mile – Around 30mins with stops (if you park in the ‘top’ car park the walk is less than 5 minutes)
Parking in a lower car park next to a little stream, the trail leads up a metal stairway and follows a pathway a little way, uphill, through the trees. Eventually it pops out to where there’s another car park to a lookout with the Julien Dubuque Monument Tower.
This tends to be one of the most popular trails due to the little castle like structure being a bit of a Dubuque icon (not to mention the views)! The Monument was built in 1897 and is high up on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. Julien Dubuque was the first settler in Iowa. He was granted the right to mine for lead on the Native American land and eventually the town of Dubuque was named after him. The Monument is the site of his grave.
One direction looks over Dubuque and in the other, it’s forests and water as far as you can see. There’s even a couple of free to use static binoculars.
Catfish Creek Trail
🚶🏻♀️Trail Info: 2 Miles – 40 to 50 minute circuit. The start uses the same car park as the Julien Dubuque trailhead.
This trail follows the bank of Catfish Creek, a Mississippi River subsidiary. When the river is high, this trail is impassible. I was expecting to see more of the river but despite the leaves falling off the trees, it was still partly obscured. Dead leaves littered the forest floor in October but it all added to the adventure kicking through them all!
It reminded me of being back at home, I loved being back in the forest, it makes a change from the usual Iowan cornfields I see daily! There’s not much in the form of view points along the trail, it’s just a nice forest path, with some steps involved.
Tips For Visiting the Mines of Spain Dubuque
The Mines of Spain is around a 10 minute drive from Downtown Dubuque and entry/parking is free. Before visiting, I went on the website and downloaded the trails map on my phone. This showed the car parks, toilet locations, all the different trails and lengths and any points of interest.
The Mines of Spain website also gives a little bit of information about what there is to see on each of the trails. The EB Lyons Interpretative centre is open Monday to Friday during the summer but visiting in October requires a little bit of independent research!
The trails are located on:
🗺Mines of Spain Rd, Dubuque, IA 52003
The EB Lyons Interpretive Center at Mines of Spain is located at:
🗺8991 Bellevue Heights Rd, Dubuque, IA 52003
Have you visited the Mines of Spain in Dubuque? Do you have a favourite trail? I hope to complete them all over time!