Hiking the Southern Half of the Brent Trail | Gleason-Hubel Wildlife Area | April 2021
As we’ve mentioned in our last few posts, we had been training all of March and April for a backpacking trip. Most of our training had just consisted of walking longer distances on flat trails while carrying our heavy backpacks. However, we knew we needed more training with elevation, so we looked to the Loess Hills for trails that would give us more of a work out. We had learned about a longer trail called the Brent Trail last winter, and now that it was clear of snow and mud it seemed like the perfect time to check it out.
We set off early on a Saturday morning, crossing into Iowa and heading North to Little Sioux. We decided to leave Charlotte home today since we knew this trail would be more strenuous. We drove to the start of the Brent Trail, which begins in the Gleason-Hubel Wildlife Area off a gravel road at the base of the hills. The wildlife area has several other trails that loop around, but for today we took the orange trail to where it intersected with the red trail, and then followed the Brent trail up a steep hill and further North into the hills. Fortunately, the entire trail was marked by oak leaf blazes and it was easy to follow.
The Loess Hills may be relatively small elevation wise, but they always make up for that with their steep trails that go straight up the hills. We climbed up one side, then went steeply down another, and then up again to the main ridge we’d be following for the rest of our hike. I had brief flashbacks of Hawaii’s steep ridges while we were climbing, and though the trail wasn’t muddy, the earth was still soft and I knew I’d have to take my time coming back down.
Once on the ridge, we had occasional expansive views to the East and enjoyed seeing wildflowers along the trail and other signs of spring. We saw deer frolicking nearby and birds of prey flying high above us. Eventually, our trail met up with a dirt road, which we followed to the continuation of the trail that began heading downhill. The entire Brent Trail is 8 miles from end to end, going all the way to the Murray Hill Scenic Overlook. We decided we just wanted to do half of the trail for now, and save the North half for another day. Even though our planned backpacking trip would be around 16 miles every day, we didn’t want to hike all day today with Charlotte left alone at home. We agreed that we felt fine and were sure that when all we had to do was hike all day, hiking 16 miles would be no problem.
The middle of the trail is along 128th Trail Road, so we stopped here and ate the lunches we had packed. We wandered up the road to the next trailhead so that whenever we return we could pick up where we had left off and say we section hiked the entire thing. Finally, we began our return hike. If you’re interested, check out our trail recording here. We really enjoyed this trail and can’t wait to continue hiking it! We only saw two other groups of two hiking on a Saturday, so it was ideal for both elevation training and getting out in nature alone together.