Going cross country? Be sure to drop by the best campgrounds in Iowa and experience one of the best camping in the midwest!
Best Campgrounds in Iowa to Visit for Camping Today
Where to Camp in the Hawkeye State
Iowa is what we usually call the “flyover state”. Iowa is not exactly a popular tourist destination and known more for agriculture and meatpacking plants.
But it doesn’t mean there aren’t some great hidden gems here. Iowa’s topography of plains and gentle, rolling hills makes it perfect for stargazing or watching a stunning sunset.
Combine with great fishing in its 13 natural lakes, it’s not hard to see why it’s great to go on camping in Iowa. It’s also a fantastic destination both for locals and for fellow Midwesterners seeking a quick getaway.
Here are our picks for the best campgrounds in Iowa.
1. Maquoketa Caves State Park – Makoqueta[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BXO9pjkBK9B/ hidecaption=true width=625]
Ledges offer 95 campsites; 40 with electrical hookups (1 of which is fully accessible), 42 non-electric (1 of which is fully accessible), and 12 hike-in. Modern restrooms, showers, a trailer dump station, and a playground dots the campground.
You can make advance campsite reservations online through the park reservation system. Half of the campsites are still available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
2. Pikes Peak State Park – McGregor, Iowa[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BpN1MEYgeyU/ hidecaption=true width=625]
Pikes Peak State Park is one of the most photographed places in Iowa. It is rich in natural, cultural and historical resources, and famed for its majestic views of the Mississippi River.
Stand atop the 500-foot bluff (1,130-foot elevation) for a breathtaking view. Then, see the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers.
3. Backbone State Park, Iowa[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BnQueOWFXUN/ hidecaption=true width=625]
Backbone State Park was dedicated in 1920. It was Iowa’s first state park and remains one of the most geographically unique.
The steep and narrow ridge of bedrock cut by a loop of the Maquoketa River forms the highest point in northeast Iowa–the Devil’s Backbone. Thus, the name, too.
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If you enjoy bicycling, boating, camping, climbing, fishing, hiking, picnicking, this is the place for you. It’ll feel just like taking a walk back in time to the days of the Civilian Conservation Corps.
4. Little Wall State Park – Jewell, Iowa
— Kurtis Gertz (@KurtisGertzKCCI) November 27, 2017
Little Wall Lake is termed a “natural lake” by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The lake was formed as a result of glacial movements across the area thousands of years ago.
Because of the small watershed which feeds the lake, it was more of a marsh than an open body of water. Only with artificial efforts, such as dredging, has the area become a lake and not become an eventual marsh.
5. Lake Red Rock Recreation Area – Madrid County
Whether you’re pitching a tent or parking a luxury camper, the Red Rock area has a variety of campsites perfect for your needs. There are federal-, state- and county-operated campgrounds in addition to private campgrounds.
Find the campground which best fits your needs for conveniences and recreational activities. Enjoy your stay under the starry nights of an Iowa sky with family or friends.
6. Riverview Ridge Campgrounds – Cascade, Iowa[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BKHaGEEgsXX/ hidecaption=true width=625]
Riverview Ridge is a full-service campground equipped with RV and tent sites. It’s right along the North Fork of the Maquoketa River in eastern Iowa, the heartland of America.
You’ll find us among the limestone bluffs and lush riverbanks near the cozy town of Cascade, Iowa. They offer tube & kayak rentals, hiking/walking through our additional 80-acre terrain, and more.
7. Saylorville Lake – Des Moines, Iowa[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BwOD_q2lVIb/ hidecaption=true width=625]
For those who are first-time campers, you’ll dig the Saylorville Lake in Des Moines, Iowa. If you also love lake activities, you’re in for a great experience at the lake.
From fishing, boating, and tubing, there is an activity for everyone in the family when camping in Des Moines, Iowa. There is a downside though–the place can get a little bit too crowded during weekends.
8. Coralville Lake – Iowa City[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BnoOfumlayr/ hidecaption=true width=625]
Coralville Lake has three campgrounds with 500 campsites available. There are lots of activities including hunting, mountain bike trails, and hiking trails.
There are also lake activities like sand volleyball, lake swimming, boating, and fishing. The lake has facilities including picnic areas with group shelters.
Also available are boat ramps, accessible fishing pier, river and lake fishing areas.
9. Mill Creek State Park – O’Brien County[instagram url=https://www.instagram.com/p/BjirtadFBZl/ hidecaption=true width=625]
Mill Creek Park is one of the highlights of O’Brien County. The park offers a variety of activities for the whole family throughout the year!
10. Ledges State Park, Iowa[instagram url=https://www.instagram.com/p/Bxnu7-9F0G8/ hidecaption=true width=625]
With its distinctive geological and archeological features, breathtaking views and vibrant history, Ledges State Park is a nature lover’s paradise. One of the very first state parks in Iowa, Ledges has been a must-see Iowa attraction for decades.
In addition to natural beauty, several structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps are a must-see. From an arch stone bridge to a shelter in Oak Woods, stone trail steps and shelter in Lower Ledges.
This video from Gopher Aerial shows one of the best campgrounds in Iowa:
Now you know where to go on camping if you’re anywhere near Iowa or the midwest.
Do you have a favorite camping spot in Iowa not included on this list? Let us know in the comments section below!
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And be sure to check out the rest of our Best Campgrounds in the US series.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on June 8, 2016, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.