If you and your furry friend are looking for a challenging backpacking hike, you’ll certainly find one on the Independence Trail! Located in the Couer d'Alene River Area of Iowa’s stunning Panhandle National Forest, the 19-mile out-and-back trail should take you and your pooch at least a couple of days to complete. Never fear -- you and your buddy can pitch your tent at the campsite at Goose Creek. Dispersed camping is also permitted along the route. Independence Trail is nowhere near as paw-pular as it should be, so this is an ideal option for pups and people seeking a little solitude. Parking is available at several trailheads along the route, though since spaces are limited, it’s best to get there early.
The route meanders through coniferous wooded wonderland and features several creek crossings. Water-loving puppers should have a whale of a time splashing about in the stream, but humans should be sure to bring waders or wellingtons! If casting a line is your idea of a good time, you’ll be glad to know that Independence Creek provides some angling opportunities. There’s also a fabulous diversion along a ridge that features panoramic views of the forest and rivers, as well as a couple of side trails to sniff and explore if you two would like to extend the hike a bit. The Panhandle National Forests are home to a whole bunch of small mammals, so you might want to keep a tight leash on your doggo if they have a tendency to tear after squirrels!
Independence Creek features some sharp inclines and rocky stretches, so this trail is certainly not for the unfit or heart or unsure of foot! There aren’t any restrooms along the route, so you and your pooch will have to bring a trowel and make like a bear. Speaking of which, the forest is home to a small population of black bears, but grizzlies have also been spotted in the area, so keep your wits about you, bring spray, and take the necessary food precautions. Remember to bring plenty of water, and have a furrific time on the trail!