Macbride Nature Recreation Area – Hiking Trails, Raptor Center – Iowa

Red-Tailed Hawks

The Macbride Nature Recreation Area is 13 miles north of Iowa City, on Mehaffey Bridge Rd, and 0.7 miles east of Sugar Bottom’s mountain biking trails. Hiking, fishing, cross-country skiing, dog walking, and camping are all popular activities in the park but mountain biking, hunting, and horseback riding are not allowed. Parking is free and includes restrooms and a water fountain. My cell phone service was intermittent while on the trails.

We hiked a 2.0 mile loop that started with the Hawk Ravine Nature Trail, spent 20-30 minutes at the Raptor Center, and finished on the Osprey Nature Trail. Our range in elevation was a gently rolling 150 feet.


We hiked 0.4 miles on the Hawk Ravine Nature Trail and found its entrance at the southwest corner of the main parking lot. It was downhill to start.


It was narrow and mostly smooth. It had several fallen trees across it, which our kids had fun climbing under and over.


We saw only one other hiking group so it was a very peaceful experience for us.


After a short climb, this trail ended at a gravel road. We made a left turn onto the road and headed to the Raptor Center.

IMG_0314The Raptor Center is home to permanently disabled birds housed in wood cages that are viewable by the public. Dogs are not allowed near the cages but can be tied to a dog-specific resting area.


Our kids ages 6 and 2 1/2 had a blast seeing all of the birds. We were there when they were being fed dead rats for lunch but didn’t witness them eating. Here are some of the ones we saw:

Long-Eared Owl
Long-Eared Owl
Great Horned Owl
Great Horned Owl
Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle
Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine Falcon
Red-Tailed Hawks
Red-Tailed Hawks
Turkey Vulture
Turkey Vulture

Something we plan to do for our next visit is to have our kids donate money out of their piggy banks to help feed the birds.

IMG_0361 - Version 2

We hiked a short distance past the Raptor Center to the Coralville Lake shore and enjoyed a picnic lunch on the rocks.

After lunch, we double backed on the gravel road, continued past the exit of the Hawk Ravine Nature Trail, and stopped at the parking lot near the Triangle Picnic Area. Our 2 1/2 year old walked to this point and then was carried in our ERGOBaby the rest of the way. From there, we had a little trouble finding the start of the Osprey Nature Trail. The quickest way from this parking lot would have been to turn right onto the road and then look for the trail sign on the left. However, we turned left, walked past the Triangle Picnic Area, then turned right onto a cross-country ski trail before finally finding the start of the Osprey trail. The next picture shows the picnic area on the right and the cross-country ski trail on the left.


The Osprey Nature Trail is a 0.7 mile half loop. The first part of it was covered with leaves so we relied on trail markers to guide us.


The rest of it was easier to follow because it paralleled the Coralville Lake shoreline.


Our 6 year old had fun walking across several narrow wood bridges.


It was very windy, which can be heard on this video.

Near the end was an abundance of Mayapple, which we last saw at Woodpecker Ridge in Virginia.


This trail ended near the Cedar Shelter.


Also near the end of the trail are the group campsites named “Wolf 1-5”, each of which appears to have its own fire pit. The prices per site ranged from $10 to $20.


From there, we walked a short distance on the main road to return to the parking lot from which we started.


In sum, we had a lot of fun exploring this nature area because it was peaceful with only a few other hikers on the trails. In addition, the Raptor Center captivated our kids attention and gave us lots to talk about afterwards. Two other nearby hiking areas that are great for kids are the Cedar Valley Nature Trail and Squire Point.

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