ISD Road Trip: Explore Boone for hiking at Ledges, treats at Van Hemert’s bakery

One of the oldest state parks in Iowa, Ledges State Park is known for camping and hiking in Boone. 

Frances Myers

During the summer months, many Iowa State students stay in Ames taking summer classes in an effort to use the summer months to take extra classes and progress in an effort to graduate on time.

With the extra time on their hands, students may be using the summer months to relax and do stuff they usually do not get a chance to do during the regular school year. There are many hidden gems in the towns of Iowa that are ideal for students to explore, whether they are looking for something outdoors or are interested in trying new things.

Boone, Iowa, is a small town of about 12,000 people located about 15 miles west of Ames. Boone offers many attractions including Ledges State Park, Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad, Seven Oaks Recreation, several different golf courses, a variety of restaurants and places of historical interest.

On this particular trip, the Daily visited Ledges, one of the most popular state parks in Iowa, and tasted the food of Van Hemert’s Dutch Oven Bakery.

Ledges is one of the oldest state parks in Iowa. Activities at Ledges include: camping, picnicking, bicycling, boating, fishing, swimming and hiking the 13 miles of trails.

Ledges offers 95 camping spots: 40 with electrical hookups, 42 non-electric and 12 hike-in. According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources state parks website, “Advance campsite reservations can be made online through the park reservation system. Half of the campsites are still available on a first-come, first-serve basis.”

Ledges also offers 13 miles of hiking trails on which people can spend their time enjoying the scenic views as they make their way through the throngs of trees and wade ankle deep through the creeks weaving through the river valleys. For people more interested in biking, the Central State Park Bike Route connects with Ledges; Big Creek State Park in Polk City, Iowa; and Springbrook State Park near Yale, Iowa. This is a 91 mile route, relatively flat for the most part with the exception of a few “challenge” hills across the valleys of the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers.

After hiking a few miles in, the Daily found a trail head, where there was a young couple lying out enjoying the sun and each other’s company.

Jennifer Dobrodowski and Andrew Vaughan, both students at Kirkwood Community College have been camping at Ledges since May 12.

“We’re here on a lover’s retreat,” Dobrodowski laughed.

“She’s right,” Vaughan said.

“No,” Dobrodowski said with a smile. “It’s our summer break before summer classes. … Camping.”

“Hiking,” Vaughan chimed in.



“Playing in dirty water,” Dobrodowski said before giggling.

Vaughan said they had heard about Ledges when they decided to visit Boone for LAZERfest, the rock concert last Sunday. They asked around, asking where a good place to stay and camp would be and people suggested the state park as a great place for a recreational retreat.

Thus far on their retreat, the couple had taken advantage of the activities Ledges has to offer.

“We’ve camped, went to a concert, hiked, rode bikes,” Vaughan said.

Dobrodowski said she liked how it was more of a quiet private place, ideal for their getaway.

“The coming out here because it’s away from people. It’s peaceful; it’s pretty,” she said. “There’s not a lot of people, which I’m sure it gets busier, but right now it’s…”

“Obscure,” Vaughan finished her sentence on cue.

After burning off calories hiking back to the parking lot, we headed into Boone to check out a local bakery, Van Hemert’s Dutch Oven Bakery and Koffie Huis. Established in 1983, this is locally owned by Denny and Terri Van Hemert with the motto, “A Little Dutch in the Heart of Iowa.”

Hannah Wailes, a student at Boone High School, has worked at the bakery for approximately 10 months. She said in her time at the bakery, the most popular selling treats include flat krispies, Dutch letters, cookies and puff pillows, which consist of Holland cream between pastry dough with sugar on top.

The bakery offers a multitude of edible selections, ranging from breakfast to soups and salads to sandwiches to sweet delicacies. It has two locations, one in Boone and the other right here in Ames.

“The most popular times of year are Pufferbilly Days, Christmas and graduation,” Wailes said. “In the summer, people usually get lemonade and smoothies as well as a treat.”

Carissa Brown is also an employee at the bakery.

“Every day is different,” she said. “We get a lot of interesting customers.”