We had the itch to travel somewhere but not the time, so we decided to check out the Maquoketa Caves here in Iowa. It had been a long hot week so something different was in order.
Maquoketa Caves are located near the town of Maquoketa in Eastern Iowa. It is a rural farming area and you will pass through rolling hills planted with corn and beans, farm houses complete with Silos and old red barns. It is a pretty drive, but somewhat remote. If you look closely you may even spot an old one room schoolhouse from the road.
Maquoketa Caves State Park
The park has 16 named caves. There is no entrance fee, but you do have to stop at the Lower Shelter to get a wrist permit and instructions from a DNR representative. From there the park is self-guided. The entire trail is a 1.7 mile loop trail and mostly easy walking. There are several areas that loop around to the beginning so you can make your hike as long or short as you want. There were a few places where you had to climb up uneven rock steps, but not difficult. You do have to be careful as you do walk through water at times and the rocks can be slippery, and the dirt path muddy. There are also wooden steps you need to climb down to the cave and back up. We saw all ages hiking there. For more information follow this link: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/iowa/maquoketa-caves-state-park
We followed the trail down a lot of steps to a natural stone bridge which is just before the largest cave in the park, Dance Hall Cave.
Upper Dance Hall and Lower Dance Hall Caves
Dance Hall Cave and Lower Dance Hall Cave which connect through underground caverns, are large open areas, thus the name. The caverns almost remind me of a subway system. The ground is wet and water runs through the middle, at times you will cross the water on strategically placed stepping stones, otherwise, there is a sidewalk through the caverns. At the end of Dance Hall Cave you can continue underground or walk up wooden steps and exit the area.
Rainy Day Cave
We exited Lower Dance Hall cave and followed a path through a lush green forrest with bridges crossing small creeks.
We continued uphill to Rainy Day Cave. This cave was smaller and the entrance was slippery. Once inside the cave narrowed and the ceiling lowered. I am short so I didn’t have to duck, Steve did. It was very dark, even with our headlamps. I went first and stepped in water up over my feet and then saw the ceiling lowered to where I would have to crouch or maybe crawl though very shallow water to go further. Needless to say, I had enough of this cav
After Rainy Day Cave we continued on to Ice Cave. There was a bit of an incline and climbing up rocky steps were involved, but it was more fun than difficult. I’m just a 50 year old kid, I still like to climb on rocks!
Ice Cave is an open cave, not large but good size. Living up to its name, it was considerably colder inside than the other caves. It felt so good as the day was hot! We had to use our headlamps in here as well, but there was no water to walk through. Looking out from inside the cave was quite picturesque.
Our last stop was balanced rock. This rock looks like it is balancing on it’s point from a distance, yet close up you can see it sitting solid on the rock beneath it.
After balanced rock, we followed the trail up the many wooden steps and we were back where we started. All in all this trail took about 1.5 hours. It was very crowded when we were there, I wouldn’t advise going on a Sunday afternoon, although it was fun seeing so many kids excited to be there!
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