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Iowa State Parks

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USA Parks
Southwest Region
Pilot Mound State Forest
Eastern Goldfinch ©
Eastern Goldfinch ©
Eastern Goldfinch
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Pilot Mound State Forest in Iowa is a breathtaking natural haven, encompassing over 700 acres of diverse landscapes and enchanting wilderness. Located near the small town of Pilot Mound, this state forest boasts a mesmerizing blend of towering oak and hickory trees, stunning prairie grasses, and pristine river valleys. Visitors can explore its extensive trail system, which winds through rolling hills, showcasing breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. With its tranquil atmosphere and abundant wildlife, including white-tailed deer, wild turkey, and various bird species, Pilot Mound State Forest offers a serene escape for nature enthusiasts, hikers, and outdoor adventurers alike.
Nature of the Area
Pilot Mound State Forest is a charming natural haven that encompasses a diverse landscape of woodlands, rolling hills, and stunning overlooks. Its sprawling 470-acre expanse offers a serene retreat for outdoor enthusiasts, boasting picturesque trails wind through lush forests, offering glimpses of vibrant wildflowers and abundant wildlife. Visitors can indulge in activities such as hiking, birdwatching, and picnicking, immersing themselves in the tranquil beauty of nature. With its captivating scenery and peaceful ambiance, Pilot Mound State Forest is a must-visit destination for those seeking solace in the heart of Iowa.
History of the Area
Pilot Mound State Forest is a small, yet historically significant forest located near the town of Pilot Mound in Boone County, Iowa. The state forest was established in the 1930s as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) program during the Great Depression.

The CCC was a federal work relief program that employed young, unemployed men to perform various conservation and development projects across the United States. It was created to provide jobs to these men and improve natural resources and infrastructure in the country. Pilot Mound State Forest was one such project initiated by the CCC.

During its establishment, the CCC workers planted thousands of trees, constructed hiking and equestrian trails, built picnic areas, and developed recreational facilities within the state forest. The purpose was to create a sustainable forest ecosystem while also providing recreational opportunities for the public.

Additionally, the workers of the CCC constructed a stone fire tower within the Pilot Mound State Forest. The fire tower was used as an observation point to detect and monitor forest fires in the surrounding areas. Although the tower no longer exists, its historical significance and contribution to fire management in the region are remembered.

Over the years, Pilot Mound State Forest has continued to be managed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and has remained a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The forest features trails for hiking, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing, as well as picnic areas and a small campground.

Today, Pilot Mound State Forest stands as a testament to the important conservation efforts carried out by the CCC during the Great Depression. It serves as a reminder of the past and continues to offer recreational opportunities for visitors to enjoy Iowa's natural beauty.
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Pilot Mound State Forest is located near Ames, Boone

1. Pilot Mound Trail: This is the main trail that runs through the forest, offering a moderate hike with some steep sections and beautiful views of surrounding landscapes.

2. Woodland Loop Trail: A shorter looped path perfect for beginners or those looking for an easy stroll in nature; it winds its way around dense woodland areas filled with diverse flora and fauna.

3. Prairie Pathway: An open-air hiking route showcasing Iowa's native prairie landscape, this pathway offers stunning wildflower displays during springtime and early summer months.

4. River View Walkway: As suggested by its name, this walkway provides hikers scenic vistas overlooking Des Moines River Valley while meandering along riverbanks under shady trees canopying overhead.

5. Wildlife Observation Track: Ideal for birdwatchers or wildlife enthusiasts as it passes through various habitats where different species can be spotted throughout seasons.

6. Ridge Top Route: Known to offer panoramic views from atop ridges within state forest boundaries - particularly breathtaking at sunrise/sunset times when colors paint sky above horizon line beautifully.

7. Wetlands Wanderer's Way: Takes you across marshy wetlands area home to unique aquatic plants/animals - waterproof footwear recommended!

8. Old Growth Forest Lane: Allows exploration into untouched parts of woods preserving ancient tree specimens standing tall since centuries past.

9. Picnic Point Path: Leads directly towards designated picnic spots equipped with tables/benches amidst serene natural surroundings ideal spot lunch break mid-hike.

10. Fern Hollow Footpath: Provides close:up encounters lush fern groves thriving damp hollows scattered across terrain adding greenery overall scenery.

11. Boulder Brook Bridge Crossing: Connects two sides brook via wooden bridge making interesting feature included journey.

12. Snowshoe Spur: Winter only trail designed specifically snowshoers providing fun adventurous alternative regular walking paths snowy conditions.

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1. Start by heading west on Highway 30.
2. Continue on Highway 30 for approximately 4.5 miles until you reach the town of Boone.
3. In Boone, take the exit onto US-30 Business Route and continue for about 2 miles.
4. Turn right onto R18/S Story Street and drive for approximately 3 miles.
5. Take a left onto 290th Street, and continue for another 3 miles.
6. Finally, turn left onto Quill Avenue and continue for 1.5 miles until you reach the entrance of Pilot Mound State Forest.

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Iowa State Parks