Most everyone has heard of Pikes Peak in Colorado, but did you know there’s one in the Midwest? It’s Pikes Peak State Park in McGregor, Iowa, about an hour-and-a-half drive north of Dubuque. The Colorado and Iowa places both have a connection with Zebulon Pike, a U.S. army officer and explorer.
The United States acquired millions of acres through the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, and several expeditions were carried out under the authority of President Thomas Jefferson. In 1805, Pike was ordered to find the source of the Mississippi River. Pike’s expedition took him through the present-day park in McGregor. A year later, his second expedition was to Colorado where he sighted Pikes Peak. He tried to do a fourteener, but had to give up – it was November and Pike and his men were waist-deep in snow. Nonetheless, the peak was eventually named for him.
Back in Iowa, Pikes Peak State Park covers nearly a thousand acres. It’s well known for a high point at the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers. An observation platform offers visitors a splendid view from the 500-foot bluff.
One of the recommended hikes took Mike and I to Bridal Veil Falls. It was lovely. The delicate flow of water cascaded down the hillside, much like a bride’s veil, and the little canyon was beautiful.
Be prepared for a descent to get down to the falls, and a steep climb back up the boardwalk staircase, but the scenery and falls itself are worth the effort.
Our journey took on some international flair before we got to Pikes Peak. We stopped to look at the glorious St. Boniface church in New Vienna. Though not as grand as St Stephen’s in Vienna, Austria, I wasn’t expecting to see such a large church in this rural Iowa town of 407 residents.
Just down the road a few miles was Luxemburg with another mighty church, Holy Trinity. As you would guess, the community was settled by immigrants from Luxembourg, in addition to persons from Germany and Ireland.
The town of Guttenberg came next, and that’s where we took a break for lunch. It’s an historic river town with storefronts built by German immigrants in the mid 1800s.
We chose the Picket Fence Café for a sandwich. The restaurant is located in a charming 1846 rock warehouse building. The staff is friendly there, and the food is excellent. They are well-known for their homemade pie which did not disappoint.
We didn’t take time to visit the town library, but learned that they have a facsimile of the Gutenberg Bible on display. It was printed in Mainz, Germany in 1913 and brought to the United States in the 1950s. Some of the pages show fire damage from the Allied bombing of Mainz during World War II. The bible was purchased by Charles Millham, publisher of The Guttenberg Press.
Bonus stop: Galena, Illinois
After visiting the Pikes Peak area, we spent some time in Galena, one of my favorite Midwest towns. (see November 2016 post) The shops and homes were decorated for Fall and their upcoming Halloween parade.
As we left town we stopped at an overlook to enjoy a few last views of the area.
I’m always ready for a trip to Galena, and this time we also traveled north to see more of the country. Peaks Peak State Park in McGregor, Iowa is a beautiful, well-kept park and definitely worth a visit.