Iowa's Best Camping Spots: A Guide to the Great Outdoors

July 9, 2024
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Iowa, often celebrated for its rolling plains and rich farmland, offers a surprisingly diverse array of outdoor activities, especially camping. Whether you're a tent enthusiast or an RV adventurer, the state’s camping spots cater to all types of outdoor lovers. Here’s a guide to some of the best places to set up camp in the Hawkeye State.

1. Maquoketa Caves State Park

Location: Maquoketa

Best For: Tent camping, spelunking enthusiasts, and nature lovers

Nestled in eastern Iowa, Maquoketa Caves State Park is perhaps most famous for its stunning system of caves. Beyond just cave exploration, the park offers over 6 miles of trails that wind through beautiful wooded bluffs and valleys. The campgrounds are well-maintained, with options for both tent and RV campers, though the dense nature settings are particularly delightful for those in tents.

Campground Info →

2. Backbone State Park

Location: Dundee

Best For: Fishing, hiking, and family camping

As Iowa’s oldest state park, Backbone State Park offers a rich history along with its abundant natural beauty. It's named for the "Devil's Backbone," one of the highest points in northeast Iowa. This park is a haven for anglers aiming for trout in the richly stocked streams, and its rugged limestone bluffs make for excellent hiking adventures. The camping facilities are versatile, with both modern and non-modern sites, suitable for RVs and tents alike.

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3. Ledges State Park

Location: Boone

Best For: Hiking, picnicking, and scenic views

Ledges State Park, with its dramatic sandstone ledges and stunning views of the Des Moines River Valley, attracts both serious hikers and families looking for a pleasant outdoor weekend. The park's trails go through a variety of terrain, from lush forests to open prairies, and the campgrounds are designed to accommodate both tents and RVs, offering a peaceful retreat after a day of exploration.

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4. Lake Red Rock

Location: Knoxville

Best For: Boating, water sports, and large RVs

Lake Red Rock is Iowa’s largest lake and serves as a prime destination for water enthusiasts. With expansive waters and scenic shores, it offers ample opportunities for boating, fishing, and swimming. The camping options around Lake Red Rock are plentiful, with facilities that can accommodate larger RV setups and provide all the necessary amenities for a comfortable stay.

Recreation & Camping Info →

5. Pikes Peak State Park

Location: McGregor

Best For: Photography, bird watching, and quiet retreats

Not to be confused with Colorado’s famous peak, Iowa’s Pikes Peak State Park offers some of the most breathtaking views of the Mississippi River. High atop the bluffs, campers can enjoy over 11 miles of trails, access to effigy mounds, and excellent bird-watching opportunities, especially during migration seasons. The campgrounds are cozy, perfect for tent campers looking for a quiet escape or small RVs.

Camping Info →

Iowa's camping spots are as diverse as they are plentiful. Whether you're looking for an adventure in the caves, a tranquil fishing spot, or breathtaking views atop ancient bluffs, Iowa’s parks offer all this and more. Pack your gear and prepare for an unforgettable escape into Iowa's great outdoors!

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