Who’s ready for the summer?! There are so many ways to enjoy the great outdoors in Dubuque, Iowa. In this post I share some of my favourites, along with some of my bucket list plans for this summer! Are there any others you’d add to the list?
Mines of Spain Recreation Area – Hiking
The Mines of Spain have an historical significance in Dubuque, it was where early inhabitants first settled in the area. Dubuque was once a huge lead mining community which is where the park gets its name from. Julien Dubuque lead this and his monument and burial site can be reached by a hiking trail. The Mines of Spain is now a recreational area complete with picnic benches, canoe launching areas and 10 hiking trails totalling 15 miles that have different levels of difficulty.
I share information on 3 of the trails in my post: ‘Can You Believe That Iowa Looks Like THIS‘. My favourite so far is the Horseshoe Bluff Trail!
Find out more: http://www.minesofspain.org
Mississippi River – Water sports & wild camping
Not only is the Mississippi River a HUGE trade route but it can also be enjoyed recreationally! People fish, go on boat cruises, take part in water sports and wild camp on its sandbars. I’m looking forward to dusting off my wake boarding skills in the summer!
*Bucket List* There’s a company in Dubuque that offer Stand Up Paddle Board tours and yoga which is definitely on my bucket list to experience!
Eagle Point Park – Relax
Eagle Point Park is Dubuque’s largest city park and is over 100 years old! It sits high on top of the bluff overlooking the Mississippi River and Lock and Dam 11. In January/February the park is a popular nesting area from eagles during migration hence being called Eagle Point Park! The park is home to tennis courts, play equipment, event pavilions, picnic areas and a fish pond. There is a $1 charge for vehicles that has been in place and stayed at the same rate since the 1930s! The park is closed to traffic between November – April, however pedestrians can enter through a gate at the back entrance all year.
Swiss Valley Nature Reserve – Learn
Swiss Valley is located 4.5 miles outside Dubuque, in Peosta. There are over 10 miles of hiking trails and a campground. The Swiss Valley Nature Center has displays and exhibits and plays host to various outdoor education programmes throughout the year such as: Star gazing opportunities, wilderness training and painting workshops!
The Swiss Valley Nature Center has a whole range of goodies that visitors can ‘check out’ and use for free! Such as fishing poles, bird watching gear, GPS navigation systems so people can go geocaching and in the winter, snow shoes and kick sleds. The idea is that by offering the use of the equipment for free, it will encourage people to get out and enjoy the outdoors!
I recently attended their pancake breakfast fundraiser where they served up homemade syrup for the pancakes! They also demonstrated the syrup making process. Did you know that it takes 40 GALLONS of sap to make just one gallon of syrup? Most of it gets evaporated! It takes roughly 1 hour to boil 14 gallons of sap and it has to be boiled at 219F.
Crystal Lake Caves – Explore
OK so the caves aren’t technically outside, they are underground but it is still the perfect excuse to explore Dubuque’s natural surroundings! Crystal Lake Caves are located 5 miles outside of Dubuque (heading past the Mines of Spain…perfect excuse to combine a visit to both at the same time?!). The caves were formed over millions of years by slow moving underground water. They were first discovered in 1868 by a miner that was in search of lead!
During the summer the caves are open every day of the week. Tours last around 45 minutes and cost $14 for adults and $7 for children between 4-11.
*Bucket List* Crystal Lake Caves now offer a Wild Cave Tour which lasts for 1hr30 and involves exploring harder to reach passages that include some belly crawling!
Up for heading further afield? How about checking out Maquoketa Caves State Park
Dubuque Arboretum – Relax
Dubuque Arboretum claims to be the largest public garden in the USA to be run completely by volunteers! The Arboretum is free to visit and is open year round. There are over 60 different types of gardens connected by walking trails and throughout the summer the arboretum hold live music events! My favourite garden is the Japanese Garden!
Previous post: Autumn at the Arboretum
The Heritage Trail – Cycling
The Heritage Trail stretches for 26 miles between Dyersville and Dubuque and was once upon a time the location of a railroad that connected mining and mill towns in East Iowa. Nowadays it is a well maintained crushed limestone trail through woodland areas and is popular for hiking and cycling.
Annual passes for the trail are $10.25 or $2.10 per day and can be bought from cycling shops in Dubuque as well as several locations in 4 towns along the route. The trail is open all year round (in winter it is used for cross country skiing and snowmobiling).
*Bucket List* My goal is to make it along the route to where Sundown Ski Resort is, they donated an old ski lift chair which now acts as a bench!
Union Park Sky Tours Zipline – Adventure
*Bucket List* Union Park first opened in 1891. A Dubuque local donated some of his farm land to provide an area where people could go for day trips. The park is now home to Sky Tours Zipline, which include 9 ziplines ranging from 300 – 1000ft in length! Tours last for around 2 hours. – Stay tuned, I’m booked to do this in May!
Where are some of your favourite outdoor spots in Dubuque, East Iowa or your home town? (If you can’t physically go on holiday, exploring the local area is the next best thing after all!)