Siouxland Families Explore Five Ridge State Prairie

One of my family's favorite things to do together on a fall day in Siouxland is go hiking. We recently visited Five Ridge State Prairie for the first time and had a great time. I definitely recommend it to Sioux City area families who like hiking! Here's what you need to know if you want to go hiking at Five Ridge Prairie too:
Sign reading Five Ridge Prairie managed by The Plymouth County Conservation Board

Where it is: 15561 260th StWestfield, Iowa
How big it is: 964 acres
Amenities: There is a cabin available to rent at Five Ridge State Prairie, but otherwise no amenities. There are no restrooms other than the cabin, so be sure to use the bathroom before you come, and be prepared with whatever you'd need to handle kids' bathroom needs during the hike. There are no water fountains at Five Ridge Prairie.
Stroller accessibility: Other than the first five minutes or so of the trail, Five Ridge Prairie is not stroller accessible.
How far it is from downtown Sioux City: 16.1 miles/ 27 minutes
How to get there from Sioux City: Take Stone Park Blvd to Broken Kettle Rd. Then take Broken Kettle Rd. to K-18. Turn right onto C-12 North (K-18 and C-12 are the same road there for just a minute) and then right again to take K-18 North to 260th and turn left. When you turn on 260th, you'll be on a dirt road that is somewhat narrow and seems to be heading nowhere. You're still on the right track. Eventually you get to the sign you see above. Down to your right is a nice little grassy parking area:
picture of entrance to Five Ridge Prairie in Westfield, Iowa
Sign up ahead, parking area down to the right

picture leading to parking area at five ridge prairie, the northern end of the Loess Hills
Little road to parking area
parking area at Five Ridge Rrairie in Westfield, Iowa
Lots of parking! Room to bring your friends!

So now that you're parked, walk back up the little hill to the main sign. It looks like it's all closed off at first glance:
entrance to hiking trail at Five Ridge Prairie in Westfield, Iowa
but you actually can get in to the right, by going around this nifty thing:
barrier at entrance to hiking trail at Five Ridge Prairie in Westfield, Iowa

And then you hike! Five Ridge Prairie has nice wide trails most of the way and is pretty well marked. There is a loop you can take that is about 5 miles total, or you can turn around at any point. We hiked between 3 and 4 miles, which was doable but tiring for our 8 year old. For preschoolers and under I recommend a baby carrier, even if they are going to be on their own feet part of the time. We had our 4 year old in a Kinderpack and our 5 month old in a woven wrap. After a little while just following the trail, you will come to a marker. This is V1, meaning the first valley checkpoint past the front entrance. I'm a nerd and appreciated the logical, non arbitrary marker naming! Next to it is a map box. When we went, there were several clean, dry maps inside.

trail marker and map box at Five Ridge State Prairie in Westfield, Iowa

We hiked to R2 and R3B. One thing to be aware of is firebreaks (marked on the map by two lines while the trail is just a solid black line). They kinda look like trails but are actually built to stop controlled fires from going where they shouldn't--the Plymouth County Conservation people occasionally burn the prairie to prevent invasive trees from taking hold instead of grasses!
Anyway, as you hike, you will see prairie grasses and flowers, wooded areas, and sandy loess hills!
five ridge state prairie features prairie grasses and wooded areas
plant at five ridge prairie plymouth county iowa
five ridge prairie loess hills

Safety concerns:

  • Hunting is allowed at Five Ridge Prairie from the third Saturday in September through Jan 31st, plus "spring turkey hunting" according to their website. If you hike during that time, please wear bright colors and make plenty of noise so hunters know you are there. They don't want to shoot you any more than you want to be shot!
  • When we went, it was pretty buggy. I recommend bug spray. 
  • My 8 year old wants to also add "watch out for poop!" which is a wise warning, especially for the smallest hikers. While there are no horses allowed at Five Ridge Prairie, there is plenty of local wildlife like turkeys and deer, and we did occasionally have to dodge their droppings. 
  • Coyotes, bears, and mountain lions? Coyotes are likely but bears and mountain lions very unlikely, however all three species have been found in Iowa this year (mountain lion about an hour east, bear a bit southeast of Des Moines), so anytime you hike anywhere remote, be noisy, stick together, and stay alert. For the most part predators are looking for easy prey, and large noisy groups of humans don't fit the bill. We saw no sign of any large predators during our hike and felt very safe.

Wildlife: Five Ridge Prairie is home to a wide variety of Loess Hills creatures. Our favorites we saw this trip were a tiny little gray frog, beautiful black and white butterflies, and a funky orange and black beetle (we think! we are still trying to conclusively identify its species). Keep your eyes peeled for bugs, turtles, snakes, frogs, birds, turkey, deer, and other small woodland and prairie creatures. We also saw this and have no idea whose home it is:
boy looking at animal created hole at five ridge prairie westfield iowa
8 year old investigating a large hole...who lives there?

Five Ridge Prairie is a picturesque place to hike, with wooded areas, open prairie, and sandy loess hills, one of the most unique geological features in the country (the only other loess hills this deep and extensive in the world are in China!) Our family had a great time there and will definitely hike there again. I love that there is somewhere so close to home that still feels so wild and free, where we can just enjoy nature and each other's company, without the temptations of screens and the other trappings of a busy 2017 life. A few hours at Five Ridge left our family feeling refreshed and closer together.

For more information you can visit the Five Ridge Prairie website or Facebook page, or the Plymouth County Conservation website or Facebook page.

Siouxland Families love to Explore, and the Sioux City area is full of great places to do so, from downtown museums to neighborhood parks to rural prairies. To find more great places to explore, visit the Siouxland Families Explore page!