Places to Run

There are three main places Dubuque-area runners go to get their trail running fix - the Mines of Spain, FDR park, and Swiss Valley.

The Mines of Spain State Recreation Area
Nestled between South Grandview Avenue and Highway 52 lies the most popular trail running spot in the Dubuque area.  Just minutes from downtown, the 1,300 acre park offers a fantastic variety of trails ranging from flat groomed paths along Catfish Creek to gently rolling grassy ski trails through the prairies to steep, rocky and technical singletrack.  The view from Horseshoe Bluff is one of Dubuque's finest while a run at the south end along the Eagle Scout trail promises solitude for most of the year.  It's not hard to put together 15 miles of running with minimal re-tracing of your steps. The Mines of Spain Trail Races take place in August with 5k, 10k and half marathon distances.  The half marathon is truly a challenge, with over 2,100 feet of climbing! (Not bad for flat-as-a-pancake Iowa!)  With a little knowledge you can find some unofficial trails that offer intense, leg-burning climbs with incredibly scenic views as a reward.

The Friends of the Mines of Spain is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that helps support the park and its users in many ways.  If you love the trails in the Mines please consider becoming a member.  For more information about the Mines of Spain click here.

Swiss Valley Nature Preserve
Swiss Valley, at just under 500 acres, is smaller than the Mines of Spain, but manages to pack some fantastic trails and plenty of hills into the beautiful park. The 10 miles of trails include some steep, lung-burning switchbacks, open and rolling ski trails through the prairie and some wonderful singletrack through the hardwood forests. Perhaps the highlight, though, is the ability to splash through the headwaters of Catfish Creek many times on the trails.  A race held in the fall of 2013 offered a 4.1 mile looped course that included six creek crossings.  The nature center at the trailhead offers bathrooms and an opportunity to warm up after a cold run as well as displays about the plants, animals and landscapes of the area.  Expect to see people out trout fishing as Catfish Creek is stocked with trout regularly.  A mile down the road is Swiss Valley Park, which offers picnic areas, a playground and campground.

Swiss Valley is located southwest of Dubuque on Swiss Valley Road. Be sure to park at the Nature Center and not at Swiss Valley Park.

FDR Park

FDR, located just off North Cascade Road and accessible via an unmarked dirt road just west of Storybook Hill Children's Zoo, is a little-known gem. Only 200 acres in size, the park is packed full of singletrack trails built and maintained by local mountain bikers.  The trails twist and turn up and down and all around and first time visitors will feel lost so it's best to go with someone familiar with the trails. There is plenty of climbing and very little flat running.  A gated access road runs through the area and offers a way out and back to the small parking area.  The park is littered with old mine shafts and the trails pass within feet of these in places so please be careful!

The closest other substantial trail system is at the Hirsch farm, south of Platteville and 15-20 minutes from Dubuque.  The trails there are fantastic and like FDR they were designed and built for mountain biking.  They are mostly singletrack, hilly and offer a mix of forest and prairie. They are on private property so access is limited, but there are plans for another Blockhouse Trail Run in 2014.  Participants in the inaugural 2013 event were not left wanting for climbing and were treated to a run through an old barn during the race.  Stay tuned for more details...

More Driftless-area trail running opportunities include Governor Dodge, Blue Mound and Wyalusing State Parks in Wisconsin and Yellow River State Forest and the Decorah city trails.

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