Backbone Lake Loop
ElevationAscent: 490' 149 m
Descent: -496' -151 m
High: 1,209' 369 m
Low: 991' 302 m
GradeAvg Grade: 3% (2°)
Max Grade: 15% (8°)
Current trail conditions
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“A sampling of some of the best scenery and terrain in Northeast Iowa.”— Kenny Slocum
The trail generally follows the lake northwest for almost 3 miles before hitting the Six Pines campground. At the campground turn right (north) and head along the paved loop for a few hundred feet, where you'll find the Six Pines Trail. The Six Pines Trail travels steeply downhill towards a climbing area and some picnic areas. At the end of the Six Pines Trail, turn right (east) onto the road, and follow some steep switchbacks up the hill.
On the road at the top of the hill you'll go past the Backbone Trail, an incredibly fun albeit short lollipop route atop the jagged limestone "backbone" for which the park is named. Step carefully, footing is rugged and the trail traverses a narrow ridge with large drops on both sides.
After passing the Backbone Trail, you'll find on the right side of the road the trailhead sign for the East Lake Trail. The East Lake Trail meanders past some staggeringly beautiful cliffs, along the lake, with moderately technical and eminently pleasurable running. About two miles into the East Lake Trail, there is a junction with the Bluebird Trail heading to the left. It is a worthwhile loop for those looking to pad their trail miles a bit.
Past the Bluebird Trail junction, the trail ends at the "beach," a picnic area with some cabins and interesting stone structures constructed by the CCC in the 1930's. Follow the road around the lake (right turns) a short distance to arrive back at your car.
Land Manager: Iowa DNR