Venture Into the Wild – The 10 Best Camping Spots in Iowa

Camping | 0 comments

Prepare to embark on an extraordinary journey as we unveil the top 10 camping spots in the beautiful state of Iowa. From peaceful lakeside retreats to rugged wilderness adventures, Iowa offers a diverse array of outdoor experiences for camping enthusiasts. Whether you’re a seasoned outdoor enthusiast or a first-time camper, these handpicked destinations are guaranteed to provide the perfect setting for your next wilderness escape.

Discover the untouched natural beauty and serenity of these prime camping locations, as we take you on a thrilling exploration of Iowa’s finest outdoor getaways. Grab your gear, pack your bags, and get ready to experience the wonders of nature at these incredible camping spots.


Key Takeaways:

  • Diverse Landscapes: Iowa offers a variety of camping spots with diverse landscapes ranging from rolling hills to scenic river valleys.
  • Outdoor Activities: The camping spots in Iowa provide ample opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, and birdwatching.
  • Family-Friendly Options: Many of the camping spots in Iowa are family-friendly with amenities like playgrounds and picnic areas.
  • Secluded Getaways: Some camping spots offer a secluded and peaceful environment, perfect for those looking to escape the bustling city life.
  • RV Camping: Several camping spots in Iowa are RV-friendly with hook-up options for convenience.
  • Seasonal Attractions: Some camping spots are located near seasonal attractions like fall foliage or spring wildflowers, adding to the overall experience.
  • Reservations Recommended: It is advisable to make reservations for popular camping spots in Iowa, especially during peak seasons, to secure a spot.

Maquoketa Caves State Park

Before you venture into the wild in search of adventure, make sure to add Maquoketa Caves State Park to your list. Located in Jackson County, Iowa, this park is home to an intricate cave system and lush greenery, making it a must-visit for any camping enthusiast.

Natural Caves

To truly experience the beauty of Maquoketa Caves State Park, be sure to explore the natural caves that have formed within the park. These caves, formed millions of years ago, are a testament to the power of nature. Exploring these caves requires caution and preparation, as the terrain can be rugged and challenging. However, the reward of witnessing these natural wonders up close is well worth the effort.

Campground Facilities

For those looking to set up camp, Maquoketa Caves State Park offers a range of campground facilities to make your stay comfortable. The campground features modern restrooms, shower facilities, and electric hookups, providing a convenient and enjoyable camping experience for visitors. Whether you prefer roughing it in a tent or enjoying the comforts of an RV, the park has options to suit every camping style.

A word of caution: due to the popularity of the park, campsites tend to fill up quickly, especially during peak seasons. It’s advisable to make reservations in advance to secure your spot within this scenic wilderness.

Pikes Peak State Park

If you’re looking for a camping spot that offers breathtaking views and plenty of outdoor activities, look no further than Pikes Peak State Park in Iowa. This park is a nature lover’s paradise, with rugged terrain, lush forests, and stunning river views. Whether you’re an avid hiker, a photography enthusiast, or simply seeking a peaceful retreat in the wild, Pikes Peak State Park has something for everyone.

Scenic Overlooks

With its prime location overlooking the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers, Pikes Peak State Park boasts some of the most spectacular scenic overlooks in the region. From these vantage points, visitors can take in panoramic views of the winding rivers, verdant valleys, and towering bluffs. The park is especially popular during the autumn months when the foliage is ablaze with vibrant hues, making it a favorite spot for nature photographers and sightseers alike.

Hiking Trails

To fully immerse yourself in the beauty of Pikes Peak State Park, lace up your hiking boots and hit the trails. The park offers a variety of well-maintained hiking trails that cater to hikers of all skill levels. Whether you’re interested in a leisurely stroll or a more challenging trek, you’ll find scenic pathways that wind through the park’s wooded areas, along the riverbanks, and up to the stunning overlooks. Be sure to keep an eye out for the park’s diverse wildlife, including white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and numerous bird species.

It’s worth noting that some of the trails at Pikes Peak State Park can be steep and rocky, so it’s important to wear appropriate footwear and use caution while hiking. Additionally, the park offers interpretive nature programs and guided hikes for those who want to learn more about the park’s natural and cultural history. Whether you’re seeking a peaceful nature walk or an invigorating hike, Pikes Peak State Park has something to offer everyone who ventures into its rugged terrain.

Lake Macbride State Park

Not far from the bustling city of Iowa lies the tranquil and picturesque Lake Macbride State Park. Located in the heart of the Hawkeye state, this beautiful park offers a perfect escape for those looking to venture into the wild and immerse themselves in the natural beauty of Iowa.

Boating Opportunities

Opportunities for boating abound at Lake Macbride State Park. With its 940-acre lake, visitors can enjoy a variety of water activities, including boating, kayaking, and canoeing. The park also offers boat rentals, allowing visitors to explore the vast and serene waters of Lake Macbride. Whether you’re an experienced sailor or a novice paddler, the park’s boating opportunities are sure to leave a lasting impression.

Family Camping

For families looking to experience the great outdoors, Lake Macbride State Park offers an ideal setting for camping. The park features family-friendly campsites equipped with modern amenities, making it convenient for families to enjoy a comfortable and memorable camping experience. With access to hiking trails, fishing spots, and picnic areas, there’s no shortage of activities for families to enjoy during their stay at the park.

Park visitors can also partake in birdwatching, wildlife viewing, and star-gazing opportunities, making it an all-encompassing outdoor experience for nature enthusiasts. Whether you’re seeking adventure or simply looking to unwind in the midst of nature, Lake Macbride State Park has something to offer for everyone.

Backbone State Park

Keep your sense of adventure alive as you venture into the oldest state park in Iowa, Backbone State Park. Located in Delaware County, this picturesque park offers a plethora of outdoor activities for nature enthusiasts and camping aficionados. With its rugged cliffs, dense forests, and crystal-clear waters, Backbone State Park provides the perfect backdrop for an unforgettable camping experience.

Trout Fishing

To satisfy your inner angler, Backbone State Park is home to some of the best trout fishing in Iowa. The cold, swift waters of the Maquoketa River provide the ideal habitat for trout, making it a haven for fishing enthusiasts. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or a beginner, the tranquility of the surroundings and the thrill of the catch are sure to make your fishing experience at Backbone State Park a memorable one.

Rustic Cabins

Trout For a more comfortable camping experience, the park offers rustic cabins nestled in the heart of nature. These cozy cabins provide a welcome retreat after a day of exploring the park’s trails and waterways. Equipped with the essentials for a comfortable stay, these cabins offer the perfect balance of comfort and immersion in the wilderness.

For instance, the cabins are equipped with basic amenities such as beds, cooking facilities, and heating, allowing you to enjoy the simplicity of camping without sacrificing comfort.

Ledges State Park

For nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, Ledges State Park is a must-visit when seeking the best camping spots in Iowa. Located in Madrid, this park offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, recreational activities, and stunning landscapes.

Sandstone Cliffs

State your admiration for the awe-inspiring sandstone cliffs that overlook the Des Moines River. Adventurous hikers can explore the intricate network of trails that wind through rocky terrain and offer breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. The sandstone cliffs also provide a picturesque backdrop for outdoor photography and wildlife observation.

Creekside Camping

An ideal camping experience at Ledges State Park can be found at the creekside camping area. Campers can revel in the peaceful ambiance and tranquil sounds of running water while enjoying the lush surroundings and uninterrupted starlit skies. The campground facilities are well-maintained and offer modern amenities for a comfortable stay in the great outdoors.

With its diverse natural features, Ledges State Park provides an unparalleled camping experience that encompasses scenic trails, breathtaking landscapes, and relaxing creekside camping, making it a top choice for outdoor enthusiasts.

Yellow River State Forest

Your adventure into the wild is not complete without a visit to the Yellow River State Forest. This captivating wilderness area offers some of the best campgrounds in Iowa with wildlife watching. With its diverse ecosystem, you can experience a variety of flora and fauna while camping in this natural paradise.

Equestrian Trails

One of the main attractions at Yellow River State Forest is its extensive equestrian trails. Horseback riding enthusiasts will be treated to breathtaking views as they explore the forest on horseback. The trails cater to riders of all skill levels, making it a perfect experience for both beginners and experienced equestrians.

Remote Campsites

Equestrian enthusiasts and nature lovers seeking seclusion and tranquility will appreciate the remote campsites offered at Yellow River State Forest. These secluded spots provide an opportunity to truly connect with nature, offering a peaceful retreat away from the hustle and bustle of city life. With stunning views and a sense of solitude, these remote campsites are ideal for those looking for a true wilderness experience.

River access, hiking trails, and opportunities for wildlife watching are just a few of the experiences you can enjoy while camping at Yellow River State Forest. Whether you’re seeking adventure or simply looking to unwind in nature, this forest has something for every outdoor enthusiast.

Walnut Woods State Park

After exploring the top 5 camping spots in Iowa, it’s time to take a closer look at Walnut Woods State Park. Located just southwest of Des Moines, this beautiful park offers a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. With its lush woodlands and picturesque picnic areas, Walnut Woods State Park is a popular destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. For more camping spots in Iowa, check out this blog post about The 5 Best Places To Camp In Iowa This Summer.

Bird Watching

One of the main attractions of Walnut Woods State Park is its vibrant bird population. The park is home to a diverse range of bird species, making it a haven for birdwatchers. Visitors can venture into the wooded areas and open spaces to catch a glimpse of colorful songbirds, elusive owls, and majestic raptors in their natural habitat.

Modern Amenities

For campers looking for modern amenities, Walnut Woods State Park has you covered. The campground features spacious RV sites, clean restrooms, and hot showers to ensure a comfortable stay. Additionally, the park offers convenient access to hiking trails, fishing spots, and a well-equipped picnic area, making it an ideal destination for families and outdoor enthusiasts.

Woods State Park is a great choice for those seeking a blend of serene natural surroundings and convenient facilities. Whether you’re a seasoned camper or a first-time explorer, Walnut Woods State Park has everything you need for an unforgettable outdoor adventure in Iowa.

Preparation Canyon State Park

To truly experience the beauty of Iowa’s natural landscapes, venture into the serene wilderness of Preparation Canyon State Park. Nestled in the Loess Hills, this picturesque park offers a variety of outdoor activities for nature enthusiasts, making it an ideal camping spot for those seeking an adventure in the heart of the Midwest.

Secluded Wilderness

Secluded within the rugged terrain of the Loess Hills, Preparation Canyon State Park provides a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The park’s remote location allows visitors to immerse themselves in the pristine wilderness and experience the serenity of nature. With its diverse flora and fauna, the park offers a unique opportunity for camping in a truly secluded environment.

Hiking Haven

Park visitors can explore a network of scenic trails that wind through the park’s rolling hills and lush woodlands, making it a haven for hiking enthusiasts. The well-maintained trails offer opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, and wildlife observation, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in the beauty of the natural surroundings.

Preparation Canyon State Park is home to the renowned Loess Hills Hiking Trail, which provides a challenging yet rewarding experience for adventurers seeking to explore the park’s rugged terrain and soak in breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

Palisades-Kepler State Park

Unlike other camping spots in Iowa, Palisades-Kepler State Park offers a unique blend of natural beauty and historical significance. Situated along the Cedar River, this park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs alike.

River Access

Palisades-Kepler State Park provides excellent opportunities for river access, making it ideal for activities such as fishing, kayaking, and canoeing. The scenic Cedar River offers a tranquil setting for water-based adventures, allowing visitors to explore the park from a different perspective. Whether you’re an experienced angler or a novice paddler, the river access at Palisades-Kepler State Park is sure to captivate outdoor enthusiasts of all skill levels.

Historical Site

To history enthusiasts, the park’s historical site is a must-see attraction. The remains of an 1800s grist mill and a Civilian Conservation Corps lodge provide a glimpse into the area’s rich heritage. Visitors can take a step back in time and imagine life in the past while exploring these well-preserved historical landmarks. The historical site at Palisades-Kepler State Park offers a unique opportunity to connect with the region’s past and appreciate the efforts of those who came before us.

With its stunning natural landscapes and significant historical features, Palisades-Kepler State Park is a destination filled with opportunities for exploration and discovery. Whether you’re interested in outdoor activities or historical sightseeing, this park has something for everyone. Experience the beauty of the Cedar River, delve into the area’s history, and create unforgettable memories in this remarkable setting.

Dolliver Memorial State Park

Despite being one of the smaller state parks in Iowa, Dolliver Memorial State Park offers a unique and picturesque camping experience. Situated along the Des Moines River, this park is known for its rugged terrain, picturesque cliffs, and dense woodlands. It is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers looking to immerse themselves in the great outdoors.

Indian Mounds

Dolliver Memorial State Park is home to ancient Native American burial mounds, adding a historical and cultural significance to the area. Visitors can explore these intriguing mounds, gaining a deeper understanding of the rich history and heritage of the region. The park’s trail system takes hikers through the Indian Mounds area, providing an educational and enlightening experience.

Riverfront Camping

Riverfront camping at Dolliver Memorial State Park offers campers stunning views of the Des Moines River and access to various recreational activities such as fishing, kayaking, and canoeing. The serene ambiance and the sound of the flowing river create a tranquil atmosphere, making it an ideal location for relaxation and unwinding in nature.

Plus, the riverfront camping sites are equipped with essential amenities, such as picnic tables, fire rings, and access to restroom facilities, ensuring a comfortable camping experience for visitors. Whether you are a seasoned camper or a first-time adventurer, the riverfront camping area at Dolliver Memorial State Park provides an unforgettable outdoor retreat.


Drawing together the natural beauty, diverse landscapes, and numerous outdoor activities available in Iowa, it’s clear that the state offers some incredible camping spots for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you’re looking for a serene lakeside retreat, a challenging backpacking experience, or a family-friendly campground, there are options to suit every kind of camper. From the scenic bluffs at Pikes Peak State Park to the peaceful waters of Lake Macbride State Park, there’s no shortage of stunning places to pitch a tent and experience the great outdoors in Iowa.

With our list of the top 10 camping spots in Iowa, outdoor enthusiasts can discover some of the best destinations to immerse themselves in nature and create lasting memories. Whether you’re a seasoned camper or new to the experience, these camping spots offer something for everyone. From the picturesque trails and campgrounds of Backbone State Park to the tranquil surroundings of Waubonsie State Park, there are countless opportunities to venture into the wild and embrace the beauty of Iowa’s natural landscapes.


Q: What are the best camping spots in Iowa?

A: Some of the best camping spots in Iowa include Maquoketa Caves State Park, Backbone State Park, and Lake Macbride State Park.

Q: What amenities can I expect at these camping spots?

A: Most camping spots in Iowa offer amenities such as picnic areas, restrooms, shower facilities, and designated fire pits.

Q: Are there any activities to enjoy at these camping spots?

A: Yes, you can enjoy activities such as hiking, fishing, boating, bird watching, and wildlife viewing at these camping spots.

Q: Can I bring my pet to these camping spots?

A: Many of these camping spots are pet-friendly, but it’s always best to check the specific park’s rules and regulations regarding pets.

Q: How can I make a reservation at these camping spots?

A: You can check the Iowa Department of Natural Resources website or call the specific park directly to make a reservation for camping spots.

Q: What should I pack for a camping trip in Iowa?

A: You should pack essentials such as a tent, sleeping bag, flashlight, cooking utensils, and proper clothing for the weather. It’s also important to bring insect repellent and sunscreen.

Q: Are there any restrictions or rules I should be aware of when camping in Iowa?

A: It’s important to follow the rules and regulations of each park, including quiet hours, fire safety guidelines, and waste disposal policies. Additionally, some parks may have restrictions on alcohol and campfire usage.


Related Gear

No Gear Found


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *