While the Red Oak Loop Trail itself is a mere 2.3 miles, both trailheads cannot be accessed by vehicle. The closest access point is 0.3 miles from Fire Tower road.
From Fire Tower Road
, head west along the Fire Tower Trail
until signs point downhill for the "Red Oak Loop." The trail descends gently past several ponds and through dense forest. At 0.8 miles, a short spur connects to Fire Tower Road
, just below the parking area (for those seeking a shorter hike).
Past that spur, the trail travels along a ridgeline until coming to a steeper descent into a valley below.
Coming up the other side of the valley is quite steep, then somewhat less steep, climbing steadily until it connects again with Fire Tower Trail
The tread is wide to accommodate horseback riders, but don't be fooled. It can also be strewn with large and loose rocks, and those same horseback riders mean it's often rather pitted, so footing can still be a challenge.
This trail showcases several small ponds and wetlands in isolation (i.e. not associated with streams) which are something of a rarity in the woodlands of northeast Iowa. In spring and summer, a phenomenal chorus of amphibians can be heard singing on this trail, as the lack of fish in the ponds makes for phenomenal frog and toad habitat.