Few people venture all the way out to Hanging Rock, and cell phone service is poor. The solitude makes for a memorable run, but also means you might want to tell someone where you went. If an ankle got twisted (which is easy to do on such a rocky trail), it might be a long time - even overnight - before another passerby could come along to help.
The trail to Hanging Rock begins at the Effigy Mounds Visitor Center, located about 4 miles north of Marquette, Iowa.
The trail climbs steeply from the visitor center, ascending a little over 300' in .75 miles. From there, it leads through wide-open old growth forest past dozens of ancient Native American burial and ceremonial mounds. The trail goes at an even grade past a few different lookout points, including Fire Point, Twin Views Trail
, and Third Scenic View Trail
. After that, the going gets considerably tougher.
The quality of the trail turns from almost-overly maintained to rockier, rootier, often washed out, and certainly more vegetated. A few more climbs stand between you and Hanging Rock, and while none are as long as the initial climb, all are steeper.
There are no junctions or alternate routes between Third Scenic View Trail
and Hanging Rock, so getting lost is difficult. Stick to the trail and you'll get there eventually - though it will likely take longer than you thought.
The view at Hanging Rock is well worth it. A high viewpoint offers terrific views of the Mississippi River, and historic Prairie du Chien Wisconsin. Bald Eagles, Turkey Vultures, and other birds of prey are common sights as they circle on updrafts near the cliffs. Typically these birds are spotted high overhead, but at Hanging Rock you often have the chance to look down on gliding birds. A very cool sight.
Effigy Mounds is home to many rare woodland plants, including Showy Orchis and Lady Slipper. The wildflower display in early summer is fantastic, with Sweet William and Rue Anenome carpeting the forest floor in color. Morels are often spotted, but most not be picked due to the protective legislation of the National Monument.
Hanging Rock is one of the last remaining spots in Iowa where one might find Timber Rattlesnakes. Take care as you scramble up rocky sections, but enjoy the sight when you see one and take a picture for the poor rangers stuck in the visitor center!