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Everything To Know About Waubonsie State Park

Tucked away in a remote part of southwestern Iowa, Waubonsie State Park is dream for those wanting to enjoy nature away from crowds. Visitors can enjoy shaded woodlands and prairie ridges while at the park. Read on to learn more about this hidden Iowa State Park gem.

Note: This post first appeared on Oh My! Omaha and is republished here with alterations with permission.

1. Where is Waubonsie State Park

Founded in 1926, Waubonsie State Park is located at 2585 Waubonsie Park Road in Hamburg, Iowa. It’s about 60 miles south of Omaha, and not too far off of Interstate 29. 

Spring flowers on the trail at Waubonsie State Park in southwest Iowa

2. You’re in the Loess Hills

If you’re not familiar with the Loess Hills and what makes them so special, don’t skip this section. Loess soil (pronounced “luss”) is a unique landform found only in the Loess Hills along the eastern edge of the Missouri River Valley and China. The hills were formed by winds carrying silt and glacial material and depositing them into massive drives.

What Waubonsie has going for it is its remote location. There were very few people at the park on a beautiful summer day. I’m talking about one of those perfect days when there’s no humidity and it’s not even 90 degrees.

For a more accessible trail system in the Loess Hills, I recommend Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek, Iowa.

3. Most trails are less than a mile

If you’re a true hiking enthusiast, this fact won’t likely sound enticing. But, for the rest of us who are more casual about our hiking experiences, it’s good news.

If you’re a true hiking enthusiast, this fact won’t likely sound enticing. But, for the rest of us who are more casual about our hiking experiences, it’s good news. 

A shaded trail at Waubonsie State Park in southwest Iowa

There aren’t many long trails in Waubonsie, though many connect to each other. I wasn’t too impressed with the signage on the trails indicating which paths to take. We had a map and thought we were on Bridge Trail but we were really on the more moderate level Valley Trail at one point.

Here are the trails at the park:

Overlook Trail – An easy trail that leads to a scenic view of the treetops and the Missouri River Valley. There are some stairs, though. (.1 mile)

Mincer Interpretive Trail – An easy hiking trail near the picnic area. (.3 miles)

Ridge Trail – An easy trail you can take after doing the Overlook Trail. (.4 miles)

Bridge Trail – Like Ridge Trail, it’s near the Overlook Trail, so it’s an easy add-on to extend your trail time. (.6 miles)

Valley Trail – This is a short, but moderate hike through the forest. Expect some inclines. (.7 miles)

Sunset Ridge – This is the longest hiking trail in the park, and at a moderate rating. If you combine it with Mincer Trail, it’s a full loop. (2.1 miles; for 2.4 miles when combined with Mincer Trail). 

There’s also Equestrian Trail that’s 5 miles long, and it’s in another area of the park.

4. About the park’s namesake

Wabaunsie State Park is named for Chief Waubonsie of the Pottawattamie tribe. You may recognize Pottawattamie. Council Bluffs, just across the Missouri River from Omaha, is located in Pottawattamie County.

5. Waubonsie has a Lewis & Clark connection

If you make the short trek to the park’s scenic overlook, you’ll notice some faded signs. One explains how the park is a site on the historic Lewis & Clark Trail. William Clark had written about the area’s “bald-pated hills.”

6. You can find CCC structures in the park

The Civilian Conservation Corps was a voluntary public work relief program in the 1930s and 1940s. Many of the young men in the program built structures around the country.

CCC era structure at Waubonsie State Park

At Waubonsie, you may find the two shelters that were built by CCC workers. They’re pretty odd shelters, shaped like a mushroom.

My son and I found one of the shelters on our way from the Overlook to Valley Trail. 

7. You can camp there

You aren’t going to find an abundance of lodging near Waubonsie State Park, since it’s in a pretty rural area of Iowa. However, the park offers plenty of accommodations if you want to rough it.

There are 42 campsites, 24 that have electrical hookups. There are modern shower and restroom facilities there, as well as a dump station. The equestrian campsite has 36 campsites and non-modern restroom facilities.

I’m more of a cabin kind of camper, and Waubonsie has a few options. There is a two-bedroom and three-bedroom cabin that are open year-round. The larger cabin has a bathroom; the smaller one does not. Both cabins have heating and air conditioning.

There are five camping cabins (a bit more rustic). The cabins have A/C, but no heat.

Reservations for campsites and cabins can be made online here.

Unlike other state parks near Omaha (and located in Nebraska), this park doesn’t convenience store for any supplies you may have forgotten. 

8. You can now boat at Waubonsie State Park

Back in pre-kids life, I went to Waubonsie and it was strictly a hiker’s kind of place. But now, the park has added the Wa-Shawtee Unit, and with it, Lake Virginia. It’s limited to electric motors only.

The 7-acre lake is good for fishing. You’ll find largemouth bass, bluegill and channel catfish. 

Bring your own canoe or kayak if you want to paddle the lake. 

Fun story: I tried to find this lake during our summer visit. Followed the signs and everything. We never found it. But I swear, I know there’s a lake there.

9. The state park is near fun stuff

During regular times, you could plan a visit to time out with the state’s largest outdoor rodeo. It’s held each July in Sidney, Iowa. Sidney is the closest town to Waubonsie State Park; it’s 6 miles north.

Waubonsie State Park is an off-the-beaten-path park in southwest Iowa. Here's everything to know about the secluded park, including its hiking trails.

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