Fire Tower Road connects the north and south ends of the state forest. Technically, the road (not the overlook) is open to vehicles, but don't expect to huff much exhaust on this route. The road is steep, narrow, and quite rocky which dissuades all but the most daring of motorists—a rare breed in Northeast Iowa.
Starting at the south end, from the junction with Brown's Hollow Trail
, Fire Tower Road climbs steadily until the ridgetop where it meets the Fire Tower Trail
, branching off to the right.
Just past this junction, a sign points users toward the Cedar Ridge Overlook
which is without a doubt one of if not the finest views in the considerably vast (for Iowa anyway) state forest.
After a short side trip on the out-and-back trail to Cedar Ridge Overlook
, the trail then descends quite steeply to the valley floor. Hiking along this narrow road, one feels entombed by the dense canopy overhead, a feeling enhanced further by rock outcroppings that contribute to a canyon-like experience.
As long as no cars come through, signs of civilization aside from the gravel underfoot are sparse until the very end. The road connects on the north end with State Forest Road, just east of park headquarters and the sawmill.
From the headquarters, the Forester's Trail
and White Pine Trail are just a hop skip and a jump away, enabling users to make a great loop back to the south side of the park.
Alternatively, hikers can cross the highway and connect with the Paint Creek Trail
, from which one can access the Bluff Trail
the Larkin Valley Trail
for even longer hikes.