Camping in Iowa State Parks: Campgrounds and Activities

Updated August 4, 2021
Young family going on a camping trip
Enjoy the Iowa Sunset

No matter where you are in the state, it's likely you aren't far away from one of several state parks located throughout Iowa. There are more than 80 Iowa state parks, many of which offer several camping options. Learn about some of the top camping spots in Iowa for tenting and RVing at state parks.

Best Iowa State Parks

When it comes to camping, it's always great to find the best sports. Just so you aren't combing the internet for hours. You can check out 5 of the best campgrounds in Iowa for both RVing and tenting. Check out a few must-see Iowa state parks.

Pikes Peak State Park in McGregor

Get your cameras ready! Pikes Peak State Park in McGregor, Iowa, offers majestic views of the Mississippi River. You can also find archeological sites, bird watching, mountain biking, and wildlife viewing. Pikes Peak State Park offers 49 standard electric sites and a full hook-up for campers. You can also find 15 standard non-electric sites. Within driving distance of the park, there are places to go antiquing, golfing, boating, and rent canoes.

Family enjoying the view at sunset while camping on Labor Day

Bellevue State Park in Bellevue

Get ready for a ride at Bellevue State Park. In addition to picturesque views, you can check out the DuPont family mansion and the Summer Concert Series in the park's bandshell. Nature lovers can also fish in the pond or take a hike in Bellevue woods. Campers can also venture into the nature park. The campground has tent sites, RV sites, and cabins available. You can find 30 standard electric sites, a full hookup, and 9 primitive walk-in sites. There are modern bathrooms and a dump station.

Summer morning in bridle trails state park, Bellevue, WA

Ledges State Park Near Boone

Beautiful sandstone ledges can be found in Ledges State Park. Campers may also take a stream walk along Peas Creek on Canyon Road. The park has several interesting and unique structures throughout it built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, including an arch stone bridge. This state park has nearly 100 campsites, including standard electric, full hookup, and nonstandard sites. Adventurers can also find 12 primitive sites. Campers have access to modern restrooms, showers, and a dump station.

Rock Formations In Iowa State Park

Pine Lake State Park in Eldora

Campers can find a little bit of everything in the wooded Pine Lake State Park, from rolling farms to deep ravines. Campers venturing into this campground will discover four cabins, along with more than 100 campsites. RVers will love the full hookup campsites. While there aren't primitive sites, adventurers can take advantage of the hiking trails, beach swimming, playground, boat ramp, boating, and a dump station.

Scenic view of Iowa lake by trees in forest against sky

Backbone State Park in Dundee

With 2,001 acres of wooded lands and fun, Backbone State Park is guaranteed to fill your camping dreams. The oldest Iowa state park, Backbone has boating, cycling, rock climbing, hiking, and fishing along with unique dams, rustic cabins, and an auditorium. You can also visit the CCC Museum within the park. In addition to 16 cabins, outdoor enthusiasts enjoy 49 electric campsites and one full hookup. Tent campers can find more than 60 sites to enjoy at Six Pines Campground.

Shot of a father and son enjoying a day outdoors

Best Tent Camping in Iowa

Do you have your backpack and tent ready? When it comes to tent camping, it can be a whole different experience in Iowa. From modern campsites to primitive camping, you can find it all at a few select Iowa state park campsites. Get your gear ready to explore some of the best camping in Iowa for tent lovers.

Preparation Canyon State Park in Moorhead

When you look for a remote camping extravaganza, Preparation Canyon State Park is where it's at. Located on 344 acres in Moorhead, Iowa, this park features hiking, camping, and history. You can learn about Charles B. Thompson at the Loess Hills Visitor Center and the history of Preparation. Wilderness campers will find 10 hike-in campsites.

Man Setting up Tent in Forest Campground

Clear Lake State Park in Clear Lake

Experience North Iowa beauty on more than 3,500 acres of lake, rolling hills, and oak trees in Crystal Lake State Park. In addition to a 3-acre wildlife island for fishing, park-goers can bicycle, bird watch, fish, swim, sunbathe, hike, and even windsurf. Around the area, there is an aquarium display, seasonal festivals, and a boat rental. There are nearly 180 campsites available at the Clear Lake campground, with 161 electric and 8 non-electric sites. This park is also open year-round for campers to enjoy winter fun as well.

Crystal Lake State Park

Maquoketa Caves State Park in Maquoketa

Are you ready for majestic hiking views? Well, you can visit the Maquoketa Caves State Park to enjoy 6 miles of beautiful forests and unique cave structures, including a Natural Bridge and Balanced Rock. Explorers can also check out the Dancehall Cave and Wye Cave, and more than 10 other caves found within the park. You can also visit the nature center to learn all about the park's formations and history. The campground has 24 electric campsites and 6 walk-to sites for extreme campers; a dump station, restrooms, and showers are also available.

Maquoketa Caves State Park, Iowa

Wildcat Den State Park in Muscatine

In addition to quiet woods and meditation, you can find a little history at Wildcat Den State Park. The two historical attractions include the Pine Creek Grist Mill and the Melpine schoolhouse. Both sites have been restored to provide visitors a little piece of history when they visit. You can also take part in interpretive programs, picnicking, playground, kayaking, hiking, and river fishing. The park boasts wildflowers and wildlife viewing. Designed for rugged campers, there are no electrical campsites or showers. However, campgrounds do offer a pit toilet and water hydrants.

Wildcat Den State Park Bridge & Grist Mill

Lewis and Clark State Park in Onawa

Named after the famous adventurers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, the Lewis and Clark State Park provides visitors with a little history. Not only can you take part in the annual June Lewis and Clark Festival, but you can go for a leisurely hike on the trails, swim on the beach, and enjoy the Keelboat Display, which is a full-scale reproduction of the boat/barge the adventurers used. The campground offers 82 shelters in all, including two lodges, two shelters, 62 standard campsites, and 12 full hookups. The campground even offers youth-only sites that accommodate up to 50 people.

Blue Lake at Lewis and Clark State Park, Iowa

Top State Parks for RV Camping

Not everyone is all about that tent life. If you are more about the comfort of an RV and flushable toilet or even that fifth wheel, then Iowa has something special for you. Check out a few state campground parks that RVers are raving about.

Prairie Rose State Park in Harlan

Prairie Rose State Park is all about lake life. The 218-acre lake offers a lot of fishing, swimming, and fun to be had. Visiting Prairie Rose isn't only for the summer; winter fishing can be great too. You have 7 miles of winding trails weaving through the scenic prairie for all your hiking and fitness needs. For RV lovers, Prairie Rose State Park has 69 electric and 8 full hookup sites. You can also find a few cabins.

Mother With Daughter Rowing Boat On Lake

Walnut Woods State Park in West Des Moines

When you are looking for a little bit of quiet that's not too far away from all the state capital has to offer, you might want to take your RV to Walnut Woods State Park. From bird watching to river activities to trails, this park has everything an adventurer could want. It's also known for its vast natural stand of black walnut trees, hence the name Walnut Woods. When you explore the area, you can find putt-putt golf, a mall, and a maintenance shop. The park offers 11 standard electric hookups and 9 full hookup stations. You can also find youth group sites, as well.

Walnut Woods State Park

Lacey Keosauqua State Park in Keosauqua

The second oldest state park in Iowa, Lacey Keosauqua State Park has a lot of history and nature to offer. You can explore the ample bluffs and valleys of the park or take a boat ride on the 30-acre lake. If hiking is more your game, a winding 13-mile trail takes you past Native American burial mounds that can be viewed from the overlook. Overnight RVers will find beautifully shaded campsites with full hookups and standard electric. In fact, there are 13 full hookup sites available.

Lacey-Keosauqua State Park

Lake Macbride State Park in Solon

Named for the "father of conservation in Iowa" Thomas Macbride, Lake Macbride State Park is a wonderland of all Mother Nature has to offer. From a crushed limestone trail for hikers and bikers to beach life, you can enjoy a little bit of everything. If you didn't bring your own boat, don't worry. Lake Macbride has boat rentals and designated fishing areas. Within a few miles of the park, you can also find exciting archery, hunting, and geological formations. About half of the over 100 sites are available to RV campers, with 11 full hookup sites.

Summer at Lake Macbride State Park

Beed's Lake State Park in Hampton

Fishermen and photographers, grab your gear. Beed's Lake State Park sits on a 99-acre reservoir with ample fish, a limestone face dam, and beautiful Civilian Conservation Corps buildings. The hiking trail follows the water, and the lake offers fun in the sun activities such as swimming, sunbathing, boating, and jet-skiing. While the campground only has 2 full-hookup sites, it offers 91 standard electric sites on the campground.

Dam in Hampton

Activities and Costs for Camping in Iowa

Summer is the peak camping season in Iowa. During the peak season, camping rates range from $9 to $24 per night, depending on the type of campsite and amenities selected. Off-season rates apply from October through April and range from $6 to $21 per night. You can save some money by purchasing a camping coupon book that includes certificates that may be used for seven nights if camping in the system. However, campers can enjoy a number of different activities when spending time in an Iowa State Park.

  • Boating - Many visitors to Iowa's State Parks enjoy boating. Boaters must observe the park system's specific regulations regarding motor speed and wake.

  • Ice Fishing - Campers are allowed to erect ice fishing shelters over state-owned waters or land in Iowa.

  • Fishing - There are many excellent opportunities for fishing throughout the state parks. A number of locations are designated for after-hours fishing only and are open to anglers from 10:30 p.m. to 4 a.m. daily. It's important to know that boats are not allowed after 10:30 p.m., so all after-hours fishing must be done from shore.

  • Horseback Riding - Horses are allowed in designated areas, provided that owners follow state park rules regarding animals and pets. Equine animals are allowed on designated trails and roadways and must be stabled inside trailers or in provided corrals or stalls, where available. There are even several equestrian campgrounds in the system.

  • Rappelling - Adventurous campers can enjoy rock climbing or rappelling in several of Iowa's state parks. To participate in these climbing activities, individuals must register with the park's manager.

Making Reservations in Iowa State Parks

The Iowa State Park system allows half of the campsites to be reserved in advance, and the other half are made available to campers on a first-come, first-served basis. You can make reservations via the Iowa State Parks online reservation system any time of the day or night. You can also reserve your campsite by calling 1-877-IAPARKS Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. central standard time. You can view maps of campsites available at each park so you can make an informed decision when selecting a camping spot to reserve.

Camping in Iowa

From picturesque ledges to rolling hills to caves, you can find a little bit of everything in Iowa. Now it's time to grab your backpack and pack up the RV; camping is in your very near future.

Camping in Iowa State Parks: Campgrounds and Activities