If you don’t associate Iowa with an adventurous lifestyle, than you probably haven’t visited one of Iowa’s 60+ State Parks. From the Mississippi to the Missouri, Iowa is blessed with a picturesque Midwest landscape waiting for to explore. To get you thinking a little bit more locally for your next adventure trip, and to help you find some Iowa adventure action, here for you toady are 10 Iowa State Parks to check out in this upcoming year.
Dolliver Memorial State Park – Lehigh
Locate adjacent to the Des Moines River, Dolliver Memorial State Park offers overnight visitors the choice between family-style cabins that sleep four, group camp amenities complete with 10 separate sleeping cabins, and 23 campsites that overlook the river. Within your visit to Dolliver Memorial State Park, be sure to check out the unique landscape consisting of “Copperas beds”, which are large mineral deposits in the form of towering 100-foot bluffs and sandstone cliffs.
Backbone State Park – Delaware County
Backbone State Park is the epitome of adventure in Iowa featuring opportunities to bike, hike, ski, swim, paddle, climb, and enjoy the rustic splendor of a night under the stars. With 21 miles of hiking and multi-use trails, take the time to climb to the top of the geographical namesake, “Devil’s Backbone” and stand tall at one of Iowa’s highest elevations. As part of the larger 130-mile northeast State Park Bike Route, you can peddle to and from Wapsipinicon & Pike Peaks State Park after your done exploring this majestic Iowa gemstone of a State Park.
Ledges State Park – Madrid
To see a unique shade of the Iowa landscape, a trip to Ledges State Park in central Iowa should be on your itinerary. As one of Iowa’s most popular State Parks, Ledges has attracted millions of visitors towards its 13 miles of trail, 95 campsites, and innumerable fascinating geological features. Comprised of towering sandstone ledges, Ledges State Park offers just what it is named for, a completely different look to the ordinarily flattened Iowa landscape.
Maquoketa Caves State Park – Maquoketa
Get underground at Maquoketa Caves State Park just 75 miles northeast of Iowa City. Comprised of a tunneling cave system, visitors to Maquoketa Caves can walk through the lighted, spacious “Dance Hall” section of the park, or for the more adventurous explorer, get on your hands and knees, embrace the mud, and explore the small cave openings listed and numbered throughout the park. Sure to be a good time, and an adventure you’ll never forget, just don’t neglect to bring a change of clothes for your next visit to Maquoketa Caves State Park.
Lake Darling State Park – Brighton
Not surprisingly, a big attraction for Lake Darling State Park is the 302-acre Lake Darling with over 18 miles of shoreline. But if you’re not much of a swimmer, or don’t own a boat (which are available to rent), there are miles of trails and an additional 1,000+ acres of wooded valleys and enchanting forests to explore, and with over 100 campsites, the fun doesn’t have to end when the sun goes down at Lake Darling State Park.
Pikes Peak State Park – McGregor
Get those legs pumping at Pikes Peak State Park in McGregor and see the Midwest from a higher point of view. Featuring some of the tallest scenery in the Midwest, Pikes Peak State Park is located in the Paleozoic Plateau, also known as the “Driftless” region because it was missed by the ancient glaciers that flattened the rest of the area. Atop the 500-foot bluff that makes up the pinnacle of this park you can enjoy breathtaking views of the Missouri and Wisconsin River Confluence, as well as the dramatic landscape that time has carved out of the stone.
Preparation Canyon State Park – Pisgah
For the more remote-seeking adventurers, Preparation Canyon State Park offers over 300 acres consisting of walk-in campsites and relatively untouched landscapes. Trails are plenty in Preparation Canyon, and the only thing that matches the beauty of the views sprouting from each dirt path are the campsites which are not your typical State Park RV pull-ins. Preparation Canyon also has quite the history in Iowa, spawned from a broken community of Mormon travelers, and your visit will be worth the history lesson of Preparation Canyon State Park.
Wildcat Den State Park – Muscatine
Another popular Iowa State Park, Wildcat Den receives big numbers of visitors for a reason. With a healthy combination of facilities, trails, historical structures, bluffs, outcroppings & remote wilderness, Wildcat Den quite literally has it all. Whether you bring the bike to hop on the trails, forgo the BBQ and cook over the campfire instead, or just want some subject matter to take great pictures, Wildcat Den State Park is a must-see if you haven’t already.
Lake of Three Fires State Park – Bedford
Whether you’re there to hunt, camp, fish, or even play some disc golf; one thing can be sure about your next visit to Lake of Three Fires State Park – you’re going to have a good view while doing it. Featuring as its namesake the nearly 1½ mile-wide Lake of Three Fires, the rest of the park consists of 600+ acres of untamed wilderness ready for you to explore in whichever way you choose.
Effigy Mounds National Monument – Harpers Ferry
So Effigy Mounds isn’t a State Park, but it is a National Monument, and also serves as one of the few National Park Service units found in Iowa. With over 14 miles of scenic hiking trails that wind their way through the scenic Upper Missouri River Valley, the true reason to visit Effigy Mounds is the 200+ American Indian mounds that are serve as a remembrance and monument for the people that inhabited this land well before we did.