Awhile back, I came into possession of a large quantity of back-issues of Backpacker magazine. I have been slowly whittling them down, cutting out and filing any articles I think I would refer back to in the future. One thing I have noticed is that any time there is a 'best of' by region or a voters choice by region or anything by region, it seems that Yellow River State Forest in Iowa takes top billing. Now, I know this is Iowa we are talking about, so the bar is low, but what is the big deal about this place?
Algific slopes in several areas, with unusual flora. Thus year-round ice caves. Karst topography. If no longer considered strictly 'driftless,' nonetheless not so much glacially sculpted as the rest of the state.
Nearby Effigy Mounds National Monument--fine bear mounds and a bird mound, among others.
Not so good for climbing except when the ice is in here and there in the area.
Beautiful timber and fine views, with what for Iowa are very substantial elevation changes.
Very good fishing on the Mississippi, and some native trout streams.
Just saw this thread buried from 2010, I went to the Yellow River State Forest this spring as part of a trip exploring the driftless area. I liked the topography, but I was disappointed in the YRSF itself in that the hiking trails looked like logging roads, complete with tire tracks. There was evidence of recent cutting everywhere I went.
A little bit farther south in Iowa's White Pine Hollow SF, however, I really enjoyed myself. Everything there seemed like it was less affected by people and left in its natural state. Hiking along the creek between the relatively high ridges above was nice and peaceful, and its a pretty sharp climb on steep angles from the bottom of the hollow. I thought this was a place worthy of return visits next time I am in eastern Iowa.