Autumn in the Midwest is a pretty big deal, people decorate the front of their houses with Autumn colours, there are Autumn themed weddings and towns will track the trees for when the leaves will be the best colours. So I thought it’d be the perfect time to explore the Mines of Spain recreational area in Dubuque, East Iowa.
There are 10 different trails in various lengths and hiking levels. Here’s a look at the 3 trails I completed!
The Julien Dubuque Foot Trail
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 look out with the Julien Dubuque Monument Tower (see Featured Image at the top of the page!).
On a warm October weekend, this was the busiest of the 3 trails. 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.
Trail Info: 1/2 Mile – Around 30mins with stops
Catfish Creek Trail
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 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.
Trail time: 2 Miles – 40 to 50 minute circuit. The start uses the same car park as the Julien Dubuque trailhead.
Horseshoe Bluff Trail
The Horseshoe Bluff Trail was my favourite of the 3 trails! 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 old quarry between two bluffs. There were so many different colours!
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!
Trail time: 1/4 Mile – shorter circuit 20 minutes. *TIP* Begin at the trail start sign. The route 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!
Entry to the Mines of Spain 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 website also gives a little bit of information about what there is to see on each of the trails. There’s an interpretation centre open Monday to Friday and during the summer but visiting in October requires a little bit of independent research!
Have you visited the Mines of Spain? Do you have a favourite trail? I hope to complete them all over time!