Effigy Mounds National Monument, Harpers Ferry, IA

parks to visit in a van camper

Effigy Mounds is a sacred site for many Native American tribes.  Here you will find over 200 mounds in the shape of various flora and fauna.

I visited the Harper’s Ferry area on one of the hottest days of the year where it was over 90 degrees.  I suggest you bring water with you, especially if you go all the way to hanging rock.

This is one place where you are going to want to stop at the visitor’s center.  Seeing the diagrams and overhead photos will let you better recognize the mounds when you climb the hill.  Because you cannot stand on or above the mounds, it can be difficult to make out the shapes when you stand next to them.

The first part of the trail is nicely groomed with wood chips.  The air was a bit thick the day I climbed, but if you are able to walk under your own power, you should be able to make the climb.  It’s all cardio, no technical ability needed.

One of the first mounds you will see that actually looks like something is Little Bear Mound.  It looks like one of the blobby animals you drew when you were five, but I’m sure it was much more difficult to make the mounds.

Some of the mounds would probably be more discernable from above.  Unfortunately, that would be disrespectful and so, you are asked to stay off the mounds.

Even without the mounds, the trails have some fantastic views of the Mississippi and the surrounding area.

The trail ends at Hanging Rock.  If you decide to go all the way out there, be warned that it is a LOT farther than the first two lookouts.  I think it’s 3 miles but what they don’t tell you is you will be going up and down again the whole way.  So, lot’s of cardio there.  Just a little bit of scrambling near the end of the trails, but if you are in decent shape, you can make it.  The views are worth it!

It turns out that mounds like these are all over the eastern part of the US.  Strangely, this is the only place I’ve seen them, but then I wasn’t really looking elsewhere.

After getting caught in the rain and a very buggy walk back (the sun went in and the rain washed away my bug repellent) it was time to fire up the 800W inverter and immersion heater, for some hot soup!

Pulling out of the parking area, my 04′ Honda Odyssey turned over 150,000 miles.  No worries, it’s a Honda 😉

If you think Effigy Mounds looks like someplace you’d like to visit, I’d suggest checking out the NPS info located here:


After Effigy Mounds I crossed a few states and found an awesome free camping spot at Badlands National Park.

If you missed our first stop of the trip, check out Things to Do in LeClaire, IA!

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