Connect to the Natural Areas

Land stewardship interns, Kimberly Stocks and Max Molzahn take a walk with Professors Jensen, Baack, and Lynch

Self-guided trail hikes

View trail maps and a Google map for your hand held device. Printed maps are located in the Union and the first floor lounge of Sampson Hoffland Laboratories.

Approximately eight miles of trails are open to students and community members for recreational and nature walk use, throughout a variety of different habitats. Grab a group of friends for a study break, clear your mind, observe your surroundings, and reconnect with nature. New benches are added along the trail each year, made by land stewardship interns. Sit with a friend to enjoy the view, bring a good book to read, or compose a few verses if you are inspired. A few common activities include:

  • Spring: Spring wildflowers create a patchwork carpet in many of our woodlands and forests.  Each week of spring sees another wildflower at its peak. Migratory birds arrive from warmer winter climates or use the natural areas as stopover to their summer breeding grounds. Forested trails along the river provide prime viewing and birds are easiest to see before trees leaf-out from their winter dormancy.
  • Summer: Stand on the banks of the Upper Iowa River to enjoy fishing or get in the water in a canoe and kayaks rented a from student outdoor recreational services. Our 90 acres of restored tallgrass prairies are cheerful with showy wildflowers in the mid and late summer, along with butterflies and other insect pollinators.
  • Fall: The topography of the Driftless Area offers a good vantage point to see the variety of native deciduous trees put on a show of fall colors. In the prairies, warm season grasses, including little bluestem and yellow Indian grass, end the growing season with their flowery plumes.
  • Winter: During winter months, snow shoes can be rented from student outdoor recreational services. If you have your own skis, ski trails are groomed when conditions permit. After sunset, listen for great horned and barred owls, or look up to the night sky for constellations.
  • An avid photographer? Submit your photos of Luther’s natural areas from any season to our photo contest.
  • Organized trail walks: Some of our yearly trail walks include family/parents weekend, spring wildflower identification, migratory bird watching, fall colors, and star gazing. Wellness hosts an adventure race in that in some years takes place on Luther’s trails and waterways. Have an idea for an organized walk?  Contact the natural areas land manager.
  • Participate in ecological restoration events

Species lists: Identifying what you see

  • Identification of common trees in our woods. Use the attached pdf guide and list to learn many of the common trees in the natural areas.
  • Historical habitat descriptions and species lists. In 1905 Bohumil Shimek published the Plants of Winneshiek County (attached pdf) which is a helpful resource for ecological restoration in northeast Iowa. We have converted most of Shimek's plant list into a file with updated scientific names (as of 2015) (attached pdf). 
  • Students: Field guides for plants and animals can be borrowed from the library or downloaded from the Book Shop. Visit the library to check out field guides on birds, insects, mammals, trees, wildflowers, animal tracks, and stars of the night sky.