Struggling to find that perfect something for a certain someone? Perhaps this holiday season don’t just think outside of the box, get rid of the box all together and give the gift of an experience instead. Iowa City might not be the first place you think of when it comes to adventure (all though it could be), but thanks to our strategic geographic location, we’re not far from an assortment of adventures under 10 hours away. To help you narrow your search, as well as fully equip yourself for your next adventure, Fin & Feather is here to help with 10 adventures less than 10 hours away from Iowa City:

Adventure Map

  1. Ice Climb a Corn Silo
Ice Climbing 9
Photo by Brad Lane

The Ice Silo of Cedar Falls is quite the sight to see, and even more the feat to accomplish. This perfect pitch of ice climbing is no accident though, and is the brainchild of Don Briggs, associate professor at UNI, who alongside friends and volunteers hoses down the silo each winter as an outlet for some hearty winter recreation. Warming hut fees apply, and are well worth the rentals, instruction, and hot tang that are included in the day pass.

Distance from Iowa City: 1½  Hours

Best Time of Year: Winter (only)


  1. Mountain Bike in Illinois

Iowa City denizens don’t need to travel far for amazing mountain bike rides thanks to the Sugar Bottom Trail System, but sometimes those tires just need new ground to explore. Luckily, decent mountain biking can be found in most directions, including a few spots just east of the Mississippi River. Farmdale Reservoir is just a hop, skip, and a jump away in Champagne, and if you’re ever making the trip out towards Peoria, be sure to stop by and check out Kickapoo for top-notch bike riding.

Distance from Iowa City: 3-4 Hours

Best Time of Year: Spring, Summer, Fall



  1. Rock Climb at Devils Lake
Courtesy of Skillet Creek Media - Devil's Lake State Park Guide
Photo Credit: Skillet Creek Media – Devil’s Lake State Park Guide

Grab your harness and belay devices and head over to Devils Lake State Park to see what the sport of rock climbing is all about. There is no protection at Devil’s Lake for rock climbing, which means you have to rely on your anchor building skills to stay safe, and if you’re not quite up to that speed, it helps to have someone there who knows what they are doing. If you are a student at the University, the Touch the Earth Program offers an Advanced Rock Climbing Course through their Lifetime Leisure Skills Course Offerings.

 Distance from Iowa City: 3 ½ Hours

Best Time of Year: Spring, Summer, Fall  


  1. Fish at the Lake of the Ozarks

Whether you go to catch fish or catch a sunset at the Lake of the Ozarks, you’ll be sure to have a good time. This man-made geological tourist attraction has over 1,000 miles of shoreline that serpentines throughout the Missouri landscape. Lake of the Ozarks State Park is always a good place to start your adventure, and if you’re looking for a little guidance in where to fish, there are a number of Available Charters to choose from.

Distance From Iowa City: 5 Hours

Best Time of Year: Summer


  1. Paddle the Apostle Islands

Whether you break it up or make a straight 8-hour shot with the boat on top of your car, a paddling trip to Apostle Islands National Lakeshore will be well worth the gas money. As one of the newer additions to the NPS community, Apostle Islands is proving to shine literally and figuratively with the Lighthouses of the Apostles and miles of shoreline and open water for you to explore.

Distance from Iowa City: 8 Hours

Best Time of Year: Summer


  1. Spelunk in Mammoth Caves National Park

    passage along the Historic Tour route, Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky USA
    Photo Taken by Clint Farlinger, Alamy for National Geographic

No matter the weather or time of year, the climate inside Mammoth Caves National Park, located in central Kentucky, is always welcome for adventure. That’s because once you dig deep enough into the ground, the temperature tends to remain constant. And don’t think Mammoth Caves got its name out of a bad twist of irony: these massive systems support many guided Cave Tours that range from wild to lantern-lit, and all will make you appreciate the sunshine just a little bit more.

Distance from Iowa City: 8½ Hours

Best Time of Year: Year-Round


  1. Hike the Superior Hiking Trail
Superior - Copyright Tri Tran 2010 - Superior Hiking Trail Association
Copyright Tri Tran 2010 – Superior Hiking Trail Association

If you at all enjoy a long walk in the woods or camping overnight, then the Superior Hiking Trail has probably crossed your radar already, as it should. As it should though–coming in at over 300 miles long, this continuous straight shot of a trail follows the north shore of Lake Superior, including all the splendor and beauty that is northern Minnesota. Check out the Superior Hiking Trail Associations page on Maps and Trail Information for more insight on what makes this hike so special.

Distance from Iowa City: 8½ Hours

Best Time of Year: Spring, Summer, Fall


  1. Get Lost in Voyageurs

Accessible only by boat, Voyageurs National Park, located in the heart of the North American Continent (northern Minnesota), is one of the best places in the United States to get away from it all no matter the time of year. During the summer, you can check out a wide variety of Hiking Trails and beautiful campsites, while in the winter you can get lost for days amongst fresh snow and unbroken ski tracks.

Distance from Iowa City: 9 Hours

Best Time of Year: Year-Round


  1. Yurt to Yurt Ski in Northern Minnesota

If you are looking for some true winter adventure, look no further than Boundary Country Trekking in the Superior National Forest of Minnesota. With yurts and secluded cabins available to rent alongside classic cross country ski trails like the Banadad Trail, your winter getaway is only a few hours away.

Distance from Iowa City: 9½ Hours

Best Time of Year: January – February



  1. Visit the Presidents at Mt. Rushmore National Memorial

    Photo by Brad Lane

Mount Rushmore National Memorial might be slightly out of the 10 hour marker, but if you catch all the green lights you can still make it to the western border of South Dakota with time to spare. On your way there, and under 10 hours from Iowa City, be sure to check out Badlands National Park, which is not so cleverly named regarding its barren and rolling landscape. Top off your stay in South Dakota by pitching a tent at Custer State Park, one of the country’s largest State Parks at  71,000 acres.

Distance from Iowa City: 10-11 Hours

Best Time of Year: Spring, Summer, Fall