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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 and had a great time. I definitely recommend it to Sioux City area families who like hiking! Here's what you should 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 is Five Ridge Prairie?

Five Ridge Prairie's official address is 15561 260th StWestfield, Iowa. It's about 16 miles or 27 minutes from downtown Sioux City to Five Ridge Prairie's eastern parking area via Stone Park Blvd, Broken Kettle Rd. K-18, and 260th Street. You can park on the eastern side of Five Ridge Prairie to access trails, or on the western side to access the cabin and trails.

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

parking area at Five Ridge Rrairie in Westfield, Iowa
Lots of parking! Room to bring your friends!

picture leading to parking area at five ridge prairie, the northern end of the Loess Hills
Little road to parking area

How big is Five Ridge Prairie?

Five Ridge Prairie State Preserve is 964 acres of wooded and prairie land at the northern tip of the Loess Hills.

Amenities at Five Ridge Prairie

There is a cabin available to rent at Five Ridge State Prairie, but there are no other amenities available at the park, including no public restrooms. 

Hiking the trails at Five Ridge Prairie 

Here's a video from one of our hikes at Five Ridge in 2019:

Isn't it pretty? So to get to the first three ridges, where we hiked in this video, you start in the east parking lot. From the east parking area, 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. Our first time there, 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 kind of 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 and flowers!

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 at Five Ridge Prairie

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!

Wildlife at Five Ridge Prairie

Five Ridge Prairie is home to a wide variety of Loess Hills creatures. Our favorites we saw on our hikes to Five Ridge Prairie so far included several tiny little gray frogs, beautiful black and white butterflies, and a funky orange and black beetle (we think! we are still trying to conclusively identify its species) and some bounding deer! Keep your eyes peeled for bugs, turtles, snakes, frogs, birds, turkey, deer, and other small woodland and prairie creatures. We saw no sign of any large predators during our hike and felt very safe, but coyotes, mountain lions, and bears have all been spotted in Iowa in recent years, so exercise usual caution. 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?

What to bring to Five Ridge Prairie with Kids

To visit Five Ridge Prairie with kids, I recommend standard hiking gear including:
  • Sturdy hiking boots, trail running shoes, or sneakers with great traction
  • Bug spray--deep woods strength recommended
  • Pants, not shorts, as some parts of the trail grow faster than they're mowed
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats
  • Diaper changing supplies if needed
  • Water-those hills make for a thirsty hike!
  • Snacks you can eat while walking--there are no benches or tables along the trail.

My thoughts on hiking at Five Ridge Prairie

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 2010's life. A few hours at Five Ridge left our family feeling refreshed and closer together!

For more information about Five Ridge Prairie

To find out more about Five Ridge Prairie State Preserve, you can visit the Five Ridge Prairie website or Facebook page, or the Plymouth County Conservation website or Facebook page.

I also love this post about Five Ridge Prairie from the Walking Tourists, who stayed in the cabin on the west side of the park, where I've never been!

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!


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