Kilen Woods State Park

 Kilen Woods State Park Hiking Club Trail runs through both prairie and oak forests. You see a lot of diversity in the two short miles. 

Kilen Woods State Park Hiking Club Trail runs through both prairie and oak forests. You see a lot of diversity in the two short miles. 

The Drive: The drive from Blue Mounds State Park to Kilen Woods is almost entirely on I-90. If you've ever driven on the big interstates (and of course you have) you know, with some exceptions, they are pretty mundane. However, I did take a detour on my way in Worthington, MN to experience some of the Turkey Day festivities with my cousins. Worthington is a fairly large town, but they still do crazy small town stuff like racing turkeys through the street and running 10k's. But I couldn't stay long if I wanted to get all my hikes in, so I missed the actual turkey races. There is always next year.

 Can't escape corn fields even in Kilen Woods. 

Can't escape corn fields even in Kilen Woods. 

The Park: Kilen Woods is in the Des Moines river valley and is known for its spring wildflowers (I was there in the fall). The valley, where the river cuts though a giant glacial drift, it covered in a dense oak forest, while the heights are prairie/farmland like everything else around it. The website lists "peaceful/quiet park" as a highlight and indeed, the park was deserted when I got there. Despite apparently being a popular camping park, I didn't see another person the entire time I was there - which isn't that unusual for remote parks.

 A storm rolling in over Kilen Woods State Park 

A storm rolling in over Kilen Woods State Park 

The Hike: The 2-mile hike starts near the bottom of the valley, passing through huge canopies of oak, the ground strewn with acorns (remind me to tell you sometime how to whistle with an acorn cap). It winds through the forest until you hit its lowest point where there is a sign pointing toward "Dinosaur Ridge." Now I don't know why its called Dinosaur Ridge, but if I had to guess, it would be because it is a long, dreary, prehistoric climb to the top. The hike to the top of the ridge felt like two miles in and off itself. I thought the view would be worth it. It wasn't. At the top of the ridge, the trail breaks from the woods and enters the prairie. It wraps around the back of the park, following corn fields for much of the time, before reentering the woods and mazing its way back to the parking lot. Despite Dinosaur Ridge, I would rank this park third of the six parks on this leg of the trip - mostly because it really was peaceful.

Cumulative Miles Hikes: 37

Cumulative Miles Driven: 1003

Arbitrary Rating: 4/5