Fourth of July weekend, 2020, we ventured out on a socially distance road trip along Iowa’s Mississippi River and did a bit of hiking at the Mines of Spain Recreation Area near Dubuque, Iowa. There are a few different trails here and we choose Horseshoe Bluff and then went and visited the Julien Dubuque Monument.
What are the Mines of Spain?
The Mines of Spain are an area of land that is now a State of Iowa Recreation center and at one time was a lead mine. It is believed this area was settled by Native Americans around 2050 BC. The first known residence of a more modern area were the Meskwai Tribe who settled here sometime between 1760 and 1780 and were living here when European’s came to Iowa. The first Europeans to come to this area were the fur traders and traded with the Meskwaki. The Native Americans also began to trade lead that they mined in this area.
In 1788 Julien Dubuque, founder of Dubuque, Iowa was given a grant from the Governor of Spain to work the lead mines in this area. The mines were named, Mines of Spain. Spain claimed this land at this point in time. He also received rights to the land from the Native American People at that time. Julien Dubuque is believed to be the first European settler in Iowa. He was friends with the Meskwaki chief, Peosta and married his daughter, Potosa. When Julien died he was buried with full tribal honors.
Horseshoe Bluff Trail
The Horseshoe Bluff Trail is a loop trail and you can follow it on 3 levels with the bottom level leading to the edge of the Mississippi River. The trail is about a mile loop trail.
We parked at the trailhead and once you climb the initial steps you can go right or left. We went left and this was a good choice. This trail is easy to follow and has an incline. Walking through the forest on a hot day seemed even more muggy with all the vegetation growing. We did see some wildflowers along the way.
After just a short walk you will reach a lookout. If you look towards the bluff and down, that was our destination. At this point you are on the top level of the hike. There are 3 levels, which are well marked and you can turn back at any level or loop around.
Continuing left, follow the stairs to another viewing area. If you look close you can see the Julien Dubuque Monument from here. I circled it in the picture. To be honest, even with the sign pointing in the general direction, due to all the foliage, we still had a hard time locating it when we were there!
Follow the stone stairs down and you will find yourself on the second level. At this level you can see some of the rock the bluff consists of. This level wasn’t very long at all and we came to another set of stairs. A lot of them. Going down was not bad. When you loop back to the beginning, you will be glad to have followed the trail left, there were a lot less stairs to go back up.
This level is longer than the other two but still a short trail. You will pass an amphitheater on you left and then just follow the trail straight. We came to some railroad tracks and saw the river on the other side. Here we turned around and ended up looping back up.
Heading Back Up
Make sure when you loop back up you stay to your left to go up to the middle level, a lot less steps!!
Julien Dubuque Memorial
We drove to the memorial as it was getting late. This paved 1/4 mile walk is scenic. We discovered this isn’t just a memorial to Julien Dubuque, but is his grave site also. The view from the memorial was beautiful so very fitting for the founder of Dubuque to have such a beautiful final resting place.
We enjoyed The Mines of Spain and Horseshoe Bluff hike. It was fun looping around the different levels. We didn’t know what to expect but found it to be a nice off the beaten path place to hike. We also enjoyed the view from the memorial and it was nice to learn a bit of history of our state.
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To Read More of My Posts From Iowa, Follow These Links:
The Bridges of Madison County, Iowa February 2020
Maquoketa Caves, July 2019
14 thoughts on “Hiking Mines of Spain, Dubuque, Iowa”
The current situation allows one to discover all kind of neat stuff right in our own back yard. Thanks for sharing. Allan
There is a silver lining, so they say! Glad we were out and about!! Take care!! Lori
Such an interesting area to explore. I’m adding this to my future travels list. The bluffs along the river are always something fun to explore. Thanks for sharing!
We enjoyed it! We actually drove along the Mississippi for 2 days from southern Iowa to Northern! It was fun!!
looks like a nice hike through the woods, and with the mighty Mississippi close by to boot!
Wasn’t too bad!!! Not a lot of this in Iowa so we enjoy what we find, loved the bluffs!! We live in Des Moines area so we are pretty flat with cornfields!!
What a beautiful place to hike — and get lost in! Also, love the view from the memorial. As always, I appreciate history lessons like this one — short but interesting. A great day for you and me!
Thank you for the kind words! I too love the history of these places! It is nice finding places not very far from home! Take care! Lori
The hike looks very secluded, yet gorgeous! It’s a great way to really get away from the crowds and be at peace with nature around you. Never been to Iowa, and your post makes me want to visit. Thanks for sharing!
We did feel like the only ones there! I think we only saw 4 other people on the trail! It was very easy to get to those so that was good! Eastern Iowa is very pretty along the Mississippi River! We live in central
Iowa and have more flat land and cornfields!
Really enjoyed the history lesson! I love origin stories. I’ve been to Iowa exactly twice in my life … both before the age of ten. What I remember most about it was how flat it was and the pigs that my great-uncle raised. Not much of a takeaway really!
Well we live in the flat area!!! Lots of corn!!! Eastern Iowa has beautiful rolling hills and of course the river!
Well shaded trails like this one seems to be are appealing? Dubuque has also been a logical stopover point going west from Cleveland or Chicago.
The shades trails felt great as it was a very hot day, but all the vegetation made it a bit muggy. Nice reprieve from the sun. Dubuque is about 3 hours from Chicago, might be a bit out of the way, I’m not sure though.