Hike the McFarland Park Loop

McFarland Park - Search Nearby - Added by Brett Kelly

Enjoy a beautiful afternoon stroll through McFarland Park in story county Iowa, where you can expect to see rolling native grassland prairie, woodlands, and the South Skunk River!

After parking in the main lot by the Story County Conservation building, you can choose between two starting points. I recommend starting on the left side of the parking lot at the gravel road and closed yellow gate, as this is a better point for the end of your loop. Hike about 200 yards along this primary road through tall native grasses and beautiful wildflowers. Be sure to look for plentiful wildlife like birds and deer. 

Once you reach the first fork in the trail, take the trail to the right to walk towards McFarland lake, a small yet scenic 6.5 acre pond where local DNR stocks with bluegills, bass, and catfish. Fishing is allowed, just be sure to check local regulations. Walk along the left side of the lake on the paved path until you arrive back in prairie landscape. The trail transitions to low-cut grass at this point, and will take you through the larger portion of grassland this park has to offer. After looping back around around the field, you will finally dive into the forest. 

Follow the hard-packed dirt trail through alongside an intermittent stream. At this point the trails vary depending on user-type, and any trails with stairs are meant for hikers only. The trail has many forks, but all trails will lead back to the main road from where you started. Once you arrive back at the beginning point, head left to view the South Skunk River. This trail follows on the right bank of the river, traveling in the upstream direction. The trail only follows the stream about .5 miles, as it turns into privately owned land, and terminated in a loop, so that you can navigate back to your car. 

This trail system can be hiked or biked, and depending on how much time you have, can be as simple as a light 20 minute jog, to a 2 hour hunt for rare warblers and wildflowers.  


5 Miles RT

Elevation Gain

300 ft Gain




Cycling, Fishing, Photography, Running, Hiking

Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Handicap Accessible
Picnic Area

Nearby Lodging

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


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