2020 brought many challenges to the traveling and tourism communities. Covid-19 shut down most places, and put restrictions on anything far and between. The year of road-tripping took off and became a popular idea and many felt safer in their cars than mixing with larger crowds. Camping, hiking, and outdoor living also became more popular in 2020 – and with 2021 looming on the horizon for us here in the Midwest, I wanted to extend our outdoor activities deep into the winter season. So, I purchased snowshoes! I thought about purchasing cross-country skis as well, but felt snowshoeing was a great entry-level winter activity to start. It’s not too difficult, offers great exercise, and is a wonderful way to extend your summer and fall hiking season!
We quickly realized as we researched “where” to snowshoe, that there are many places across the Midwest to do this great activity. Basically, anywhere there are trails that you can hike during the offseason – you can snowshoe (as long as they are unpaved paths). A great starting place to search for trails is with your county, state parks, and outdoor recreational areas. Below we highlight 3 areas in Northwest Iowa that offer winter wonderland snowshoe trails.
#1- Oneota Recreational Area – Clay County Iowa
- Oneota County Recreational Area and Park
It’s located right inside the town of Spencer- Iowa, and offers miles of trails, and diverse habitats for deer and other wildlife. As you walk along the trails you can often see the evidence and tracks left behind by the wildlife. There are two separate trails, one for snowshoe, and along the outside, there is a cross-country ski trail. Both trails follow back along a prairie area and run along the Little Sioux River. It offers beautiful scenery of rural Midwest while giving access to great outdoor winter activities.
Below is a short video on our first time snowshoeing in Oneota – Check it out.
(Make sure you dress warm – the best times to snowshoe is when it’s a little colder and allows the snow not to be as sticky. Some of the areas at Oneota were in the side open away from the tree line and being caught in the wind dropped the temperature from 20 degrees to a “feels like” temperature of fewer than 10 degrees!)
#2 Praire Heritage Center – O’Brien County Iowa
2. Prairie Heritage Center – Off of Highway 10 Between Peterson and Sutherland, Iowa.
This area offers miles and miles of trails. It’s unique in that it runs along the banks of the Little Sioux River and shows off the natural habitat carved out by the Wisconsin Glacier 14,000 years ago. The bluffs and some of the unique rock or boulder formations can be found around the area, left behind by the massive glacier.
It also runs along with one of the scenic byways in the state – The Glacial Trail Scenic Byway. Mixing a snowshoeing activity with the visitor center and the unique experience of discovering and viewing Prairie Bison are just a few of the fun and unique activities that this area offers! It’s certainly worth a winter trip to Northwest Iowa – not to mention just a short 2-hour driving distance from Sioux Falls, Sioux City, and about 3 hours from Des Moines.
The rolling hills around the area make it a breathtaking scenic experience – again just make sure you dress warm for the occasion as it’s a fairly good hike back to the parking area.
#3 Horseshoe Bend – Dickinson County Iowa
3. Horseshoe Bend Wildlife Area sits between Milford, Iowa and Spencer, Iowa – just off of Highway 71. It’s more known in the area for the sledding hill (which has been closed for some of the season due to Covid-19). However, the area surrounding the sledding hill offers wide-open spaces and great areas for hiking, snowshoeing, and horse riding. The area gets its name for the “bend” in the Little Sioux River and winds its way through Dickinson County and south nearly 250-plus miles to the Missouri River. The river supplies the area with a beautiful wooded habitat for deer, beaver, and other wildlife.
Plus – for snowshoeing it’s perfect! Miles of trails leading near and around the river creates a scenic winter hike. Just make sure to bring plenty of warm clothing and gear, as the warming lodge used for sledding and other activities may not be open – be sure to watch for closures on Horseshoe Bend Winter Sports Area Site.
More Snowshoe Options Coming…
The fun part of researching the area for hiking and snowshoeing is learning the number of different options! I love to not only write about what I’ve discovered but shoot some video footage as well! Just in the Tri-State area alone between Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota, there are dozens of options to choose from and hundreds to choose from within the Midwest! I would LOVE to hear any suggestions from you and gather the footage! Let me know and I look forward to a few more Midwest snowshoeing posts ahead!