If you have been following us on our adventures, then you know that we enjoy hiking as a family. We are fortunate to live near Wildcat Den State Park. The great thing about Wildcat Den is that you can spend an hour or less hiking or you can make a whole day of it. Here are our tips for a short adventure at Wildcat Den.
I’m not going to bore you again with all the details on how we prepare to hike with young kids. If you are interested in how we roll, check out this post.
Parking: A very wise friend casually mentioned to me one day that they always park at the “bottom” of Wildcat Den so that the hike back to the car is downhill. Genius! The lower parking area is located near the intersection of 181st Street and Verde Ave.
Plan for a creek stop: If you do park at the “bottom”, you will soon see the creek to your left off the trail. There are a couple well worn trails that lead to the creek. We usually throw a few old towels in the car, just in case someone gets in a little too deep (last summer that someone was me). We love to hang out around the creek to skip rocks, search for animals, and on hot days cool off. On our most recent visit we saw minnows, fish, and frogs.
Our favorite loop: If you can pull yourself away from the creek, keep following the trail. Avoid the impulse to ascend the large staircase on your left (if you have kids with you, trust me on this). Keep following the trail until you see a wooden sign indicating that left is the Pine Creek Grist Mill (more on mill later), go right. There are many cool rock formations along the path. One specific area of eroded rock is the “Devil’s Punch Bowl”. Eventually you will see another set of stairs to your right. Take those up (or take a break and eat lunch like we did) and follow the trail past a small parking area. The trail will lead you back to the first set of stairs you saw near the creek. Take the stairs down, turn left and you will walk down the path back to your car. This is a little over a mile hike.
The Pine Creek Grist Mill: When we make a stop at the Pine Creek Grist Mill, we park at the lot on Wild Cat Den Road. There is a swing set and restroom facility next to the parking lot. The mill is the oldest working grist mill between the Mississippi and the Rockies. The Friends of the Pine Creek Grist Mill work to keep the mill maintained, operating and open for educational purposes. Check their website for community events when they will have the mill running. Even when the mill isn’t open, its still something to see.
Know Before You Go:
Wildcat Den State Park
1884 Wildcat Den Road
Muscatine, IA 52761
Trail map and more can be found on their website
Kim is the founder of Kids and Carry-Ons. She works as a director at a nonprofit organization. She lives in Iowa with her husband and two children. Kim and her husband have always loved to travel and share their advice with anyone who will listen. Having kids didn’t stop their love of travel, it just meant they had to adapt. Follow along on their adventures.