Places to Camp in Iowa

Best known for its rich farming history, Iowa is also rich and diverse in nature, with a multitude of destinations to camp and hike. If you’re planning on camping in Iowa, you’re in luck.

Effigy Mounds National Monument is situated on the bank of the Mississippi River at the eastern border of Iowa. Part of the “driftless” region of Iowa that was left untouched by the passing glaciers thousands of years ago, the area’s bluffs, forests, and other habitats host diverse ecosystems to explore and admire.

More than that, Effigy Mounds is notable for its historic settlement by the Native American Effigy Moundbuilders, who build massive sets of mounds that, from a bird’s eye view, form the shape of animals such as bears, cats, and birds. These nature-inspired monuments blend well with the natural scenery, making it an ideal site for camping.

Another excellent site for camping in Iowa is Maquoketa Caves State Park. Located next to the eastern Iowa town of Maquoketa, the 370-acre park contains amazing caves weaving throughout the limestone bedrock of the bluffs. Spelunkers and nature-enthusiasts alike will enjoy exploring the caverns, such as the 800-foot long Dancehall Cave.

Even if you’re not up for venturing into the caverns, there are plenty of other things to do at Maquoketa Caves. Hikers can walk along six miles of trails throughout the park, passing by habitats ranging from bluffs to woodlands to prairies. Unfortunately, the campgrounds are closed until October 2018 for renovations to the camping facilities, but when it is open again you should definitely consider a visit.

Camping in Iowa is diverse and plentiful, there are countless campsites and trails that you may wish to consider. Once you start exploring Iowa’s natural ecosystems, you’ll begin to see the true beauty of the vibrant state.

Best Camping Sites in Iowa (711)

    Camper-submitted photo from Ledges State Park Campground
    Camper-submitted photo from Ledges State Park Campground
    Camper-submitted photo from Ledges State Park Campground
    Camper-submitted photo from Ledges State Park Campground
    Camper-submitted photo from Ledges State Park Campground
    Camper-submitted photo from Ledges State Park Campground

    1.

    Ledges State Park Campground

    39 Reviews
    57 Photos
    190 Saves
    Boone, Iowa

    Millions of years before the plains of Iowa were inhabited by the Sauk, Fox and Sioux peoples, much of the American Midwest was covered by a shallow inland sea. It was at this time that the area’s sandstone deposits began forming. Fast-forward to just 13,000 years ago, with the inland sea now long gone, Ice Age glacial meltwater raced across the dry plains, carving and scouring channels and canyons into the sandstone terrain. One of these canyons can be found in Iowa’s Ledges State Park. This 1,000-acre nature preserve and recreation area is located on a wide bend on the Des Moines River, and is just 40 miles north of the city of Des Moines. The park is subject to frequent flooding when the river breaches its banks, but is otherwise a popular year-round outdoor recreation destination. Visitors to Ledges can enjoy a variety of hiking, fishing and paddling opportunities, as well as explore a prehistoric river canyon that showcases nature’s ability to sculpt the landscape.

    The campground at Ledges State Park features 94 tent and RV sites situated among deciduous woods not far from the Des Moines River. Campers can choose from full-hookup, partial-hookup, or primitive tent sites. Most sites are back-in; only a few are pull-through for larger vehicles. Tent sites are located in both in the main camp area, and in a secluded walk-in area. There is also a youth group site. All sites are equipped with picnic tables, fire pits and cooking grills, and all have access to water faucets, flush restrooms, showers, and trash receptacles; a dump station is located near the campground entrance. The campground also features a kids’ playground, outdoor amphitheater, and is within walking distance of trails and picnic areas. Some roads and/or facilities may not be open or available in the winter. Reservations are accepted, however the park saves about half of the sites for first-come, first-served campers; sites are $11–$19/night.

    • Pets
    • Fires
    • Electric Hookups
    • Phone Service
    • Reservable
    • ADA Access

    $12 - $18 / night

    Camper-submitted photo from Maquoketa Caves State Park Campground
    Camper-submitted photo from Maquoketa Caves State Park Campground
    Camper-submitted photo from Maquoketa Caves State Park Campground
    Camper-submitted photo from Maquoketa Caves State Park Campground
    Camper-submitted photo from Maquoketa Caves State Park Campground
    Camper-submitted photo from Maquoketa Caves State Park Campground

    2.

    Maquoketa Caves State Park Campground

    29 Reviews
    147 Photos
    202 Saves
    Baldwin, Iowa

    This campground offers both electric and non-electric sites as well as modern restroom and shower facility. All campsites are available by reservation only.

    Maquoketa Caves State Park is one of the biggest attractions in Jackson County and is a great place for spelunkers and hiking enthusiasts. The caves in the area were formed after millennia of water erosion on limestone bedrock. This park contains more caves than any other state park in Iowa. The park itself covers 370 acres nestled among hardwood trees and high bluffs. With approximately thirteen caves, a great experience awaits you at this interesting and unique state park.

    Bird Watching
    Cave Exploring/Spelunking
    Dump Station
    Geological Formations
    Handicap Access
    Hiking
    Interpretive Exhibit/Display
    Modern Restroom
    Park Office
    Parking
    Picnic Area
    
    Playground
    Registration Building
    Restrooms
    Showers
    Toilet, Pit/Vault
    Trash Dumpster
    Visitor Center
    Water Hydrants
    Wildflower Viewing
    Wildlife Viewing
    • Pets
    • Fires
    • Electric Hookups
    • Phone Service
    • Reservable
    • ADA Access
    Camper-submitted photo from Six Pines Campground — Backbone State Park
    Camper-submitted photo from Six Pines Campground — Backbone State Park
    Camper-submitted photo from Six Pines Campground — Backbone State Park
    Camper-submitted photo from Six Pines Campground — Backbone State Park
    Camper-submitted photo from Six Pines Campground — Backbone State Park
    Camper-submitted photo from Six Pines Campground — Backbone State Park

    3.

    Six Pines Campground — Backbone State Park

    29 Reviews
    114 Photos
    104 Saves
    Dundee, Iowa

    Located about an hour’s drive north of Cedar Rapids, Backbone State Park is Iowa’s oldest state park. Established in 1920, it was named for a narrow limestone ridge—the Devil’s Backbone—along the Maquoketa River. At its founding, it was one of the largest state parks in the U.S. to offer camping, picnicking and hiking opportunities. Since that time, the park has expanded to 2,100 acres—almost double its original size—and offers even more opportunities for locals and visitors to get outdoors and enjoy some time in nature. Whether it’s wandering the woods, fishing on a quiet creek, lounging by the lake, or just napping in shade under a swinging hammock, there’s something for everyone here.

    The two campgrounds at Backbone State Park offers 125 campsites for tent and RV campers. The large South Lake Campground has nearly 100 sites, about half with electrical hookups, with flush toilets and showers. The smaller Six Pines Campground has 27 primitive tent sites with vault toilets. Most sites are open and grassy, but there are plenty of shade trees around. Both locations have drinking water faucets and trash receptacles; a dump station is located at the South Lake Campground. The park also offers a few 1- and 2-bedroom cabins for those visiting sans tent or RV; bedding not provided. Many sites and facilities are ADA accessible. A small store in the park sells bait, firewood and some concessions. Reservations are accepted, but some sites are held open for first-come, first-served campers. Seasonal campsite rates range from $6–$16/night; cabins range from $50–$100/night.

    There are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy at Backbone State Park. The park features several playgrounds, picnic areas, an outdoor auditorium, and a museum. More than 21 miles of multiuse trails explore the woods and waterways within the park. Taking a hike or ride is the best way to see some of the park’s natural rock features, including the Stone Arch, Balance Rock, and the Devil’s Backbone. In winter, many of these trails are open for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. Swimming, paddling and boating can be enjoyed on Backbone Lake, with kayak and canoe rentals available from the park, and angers can fish for trout on the creek out of Richmond Springs. And rock climbers will find several challenging routes on the park’s many limestone cliffs.

    • Pets
    • Fires
    • Electric Hookups
    • Phone Service
    • Reservable
    • ADA Access
    Camper-submitted photo from Hitchcock County Nature Center
    Camper-submitted photo from Hitchcock County Nature Center
    Camper-submitted photo from Hitchcock County Nature Center
    Camper-submitted photo from Hitchcock County Nature Center
    Camper-submitted photo from Hitchcock County Nature Center
    Camper-submitted photo from Hitchcock County Nature Center

    4.

    Hitchcock County Nature Center

    26 Reviews
    105 Photos
    198 Saves
    Honey Creek, Iowa

    Welcome to Hitchcock County Nature Center, nestled near Honey Creek, IA. This campground is a gem, especially if you're into hiking and enjoying nature. Open from April to November, it's a great spot for both short stays and longer getaways.

    The campground offers a mix of tent, RV, and cabin accommodations. If you're bringing an RV, you'll appreciate the electric and sewer hookups. Tent campers will find spacious sites, many shaded by trees, providing a good amount of privacy. There's even firewood available for those cozy campfires.

    One of the standout features here is the cleanliness. Visitors consistently rave about the spotless bathrooms and hot showers. Even the pit toilets are kept in good condition, which is a pleasant surprise. If you're planning to stay, remember to bring cash as it's first-come, first-served, though you can also pay by card if the camp store is open.

    Hitchcock County Nature Center is a hiker's paradise. There are numerous trails right at your doorstep, ranging from easy to challenging. Some campers have even mentioned friendly cows along the way, adding a bit of charm to your hike. And if you're into stargazing, the clear skies here offer a great view, especially if you have a Starlink setup.

    For those who like a bit of convenience, there's a market on-site, and pets are welcome, so feel free to bring your furry friends along. The campground also allows alcohol, so you can enjoy a drink by the fire.

    In short, Hitchcock County Nature Center is a fantastic spot to unwind, explore, and enjoy the great outdoors. Whether you're here for a night or a week, you'll find plenty to love.

    • Pets
    • Fires
    • Electric Hookups
    • Phone Service
    • Reservable
    • ADA Access

    $10 - $50 / night

    Camper-submitted photo from Jester County Park
    Camper-submitted photo from Jester County Park
    Camper-submitted photo from Jester County Park
    Camper-submitted photo from Jester County Park
    Camper-submitted photo from Jester County Park
    Camper-submitted photo from Jester County Park

    5.

    Jester County Park

    27 Reviews
    45 Photos
    95 Saves
    Granger, Iowa

    Welcome to Jester County Park, a gem for campers looking for a mix of relaxation and adventure. This place has got it all, from hot showers to electric hookups, making it a comfortable spot for both tent and RV campers. You can even bring your pets along, and yes, you can enjoy a cold beer by the campfire since alcohol is allowed.

    The park is packed with activities to keep everyone entertained. There are hiking trails, a large playground for the kids, and even an equestrian center if you're into horseback riding. For those who love a bit of sport, there's a golf course and an archery range. In the winter, you can try your hand at snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. And if you're into wildlife, the nature center with bison and elk is a must-see.

    Located near Granger, IA, Jester County Park is just a short drive from the city of Ankeny, making it convenient for a quick getaway. The campground itself is nestled on the north end of Saylorville Reservoir, offering some beautiful views and a peaceful atmosphere. Some sites are shaded by numerous trees, providing a cool retreat during the hot summer months.

    Visitors have praised the park for its clean facilities and friendly atmosphere. The sites are spacious, with picnic tables and fire rings, and there's even a market on-site for any last-minute supplies. Whether you're here for a weekend or a couple of weeks, Jester County Park offers a fantastic camping experience with plenty to see and do.

    • Pets
    • Fires
    • Electric Hookups
    • Phone Service
    • Reservable
    • RVs

    $20 - $25 / night

    Camper-submitted photo from Pikes Peak State Park Campground
    Camper-submitted photo from Pikes Peak State Park Campground
    Camper-submitted photo from Pikes Peak State Park Campground
    Camper-submitted photo from Pikes Peak State Park Campground
    Camper-submitted photo from Pikes Peak State Park Campground
    Camper-submitted photo from Pikes Peak State Park Campground

    6.

    Pikes Peak State Park Campground

    25 Reviews
    64 Photos
    167 Saves
    McGregor, Iowa

    Welcome to Pikes Peak State Park Campground, nestled near McGregor, Iowa. This spot is a gem for anyone looking to soak in some stunning river views and enjoy a peaceful camping experience. The campground is open from April 15 to October 15, making it a perfect seasonal retreat.

    One of the standout features here is the breathtaking overlooks of the Mississippi River. Just a short walk from the campground, these views are something you won't want to miss. The park also boasts a variety of hiking trails, some of which lead to a small waterfall and the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers. If you're into birdwatching or just love being surrounded by nature, you'll find plenty of birds and other wildlife around.

    The campground itself is well-equipped for both tent and RV camping. There are electric hookups, drinking water, and a sanitary dump station available. The bathrooms and showers are in good condition, and there's even a market on-site for any last-minute supplies you might need. Pets are welcome, so feel free to bring your furry friends along.

    Visitors have mentioned that the sites are generally level and spacious, though some areas might have limited shade. The newer RV area offers large spaces but lacks trees, so keep that in mind if you're looking for a more shaded spot. Fire rings with grills are provided at each site, making it easy to cook up a meal while enjoying the great outdoors.

    Whether you're here for the hiking, the views, or just a quiet place to relax, Pikes Peak State Park Campground has something to offer. Enjoy your stay and don't forget to take in those incredible river vistas!

    • Pets
    • Fires
    • Electric Hookups
    • Phone Service
    • Reservable
    • ADA Access

    $12 - $16 / night

    Camper-submitted photo from Lake Macbride State Park Campground
    Camper-submitted photo from Lake Macbride State Park Campground
    Camper-submitted photo from Lake Macbride State Park Campground
    Camper-submitted photo from Lake Macbride State Park Campground
    Camper-submitted photo from Lake Macbride State Park Campground
    Camper-submitted photo from Lake Macbride State Park Campground

    7.

    Lake Macbride State Park Campground

    25 Reviews
    86 Photos
    78 Saves
    Coralville Lake, Iowa

    Named after Thomas Macbride, the “father” of Iowa conservation, Lake Macbride State Park is a popular lakeside destination with family friendly outdoor activities. Several multi-use trails wind around the lake, featuring the sights and sounds of Iowa’s native birds. In the summer, soak up the sun by kayaking, paddling or swimming in the lake. Whether you’re visiting for an afternoon or a weekend, Lake Macbride features numerous amenities to enjoy year round.

    Camp in one of the two campgrounds at Lake Macbride. A modern campground is located in the northern unit of the park with full and electric hookups, a shower and restroom, and a trailer dump station. One non modern campground can be found in the southern unit of the park with a beautiful shaded setting near the lake. Some campsites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis and advance reservations can be made through the online reservation system for Lake Macbride State Park.

    • Pets
    • Fires
    • Electric Hookups
    • Phone Service
    • Reservable
    • ADA Access

    $9 - $19 / night

    Camper-submitted photo from Sugar Bottom Campground
    Camper-submitted photo from Sugar Bottom Campground
    Camper-submitted photo from Sugar Bottom Campground
    Camper-submitted photo from Sugar Bottom Campground
    Camper-submitted photo from Sugar Bottom Campground
    Camper-submitted photo from Sugar Bottom Campground

    8.

    Sugar Bottom Campground

    23 Reviews
    66 Photos
    84 Saves
    North Liberty, Iowa

    Overview

    The Sugar Bottom Campground is located on the shores of Coralville Lake. The Coralville Lake Project is a multipule use project providing primary benefits in flood control and low flow augmentation, and secondary benefits in recreation, fish and wildlife management and forest management. Coralville Lake provides many recreational opportunities, including boating, camping, hiking, mountain biking, lake and river fishing, swimming, water activities, picnicking, and hunting.

    Recreation

    Visitors enjoy Coralville Lake for boating, fishing, swimming and water activities. Anglers will find large and smallmouth bass, crappie, walleye and catfish. Hiking and mountain biking are popular activities in Sugar Bottom. Several trails are within Sugar Bottom, including the Cedar Valley Nature Trail, Sugar Bottom Mountain Bike Trail, and a barrier-free asphalt trail.The Sugar Bottom Disc Golf Course is located in the Sugar Bottom Day Use Area and offers 18 partially wooded and open holes. The Sugar Bottom Mountain Bike Trail is located in the Sugar Bottom Day Use Area and offers beginner to expert trails.

    Facilities

    Visitors enjoy Coralville Lake for boating, fishing, swimming and water activities. Anglers will find large and smallmouth bass, crappie, walleye and catfish. Hiking and mountain biking are popular activities in Sugar Bottom. Several trails are within Sugar Bottom, including the Cedar Valley Nature Trail, Sugar Bottom Mountain Bike Trail, and a barrier-free asphalt trail.The Sugar Bottom Disc Golf Course is located in the Sugar Bottom Day Use Area and offers 18 partially wooded and open holes. The Sugar Bottom Mountain Bike Trail is located in the Sugar Bottom Day Use Area and offers beginner to expert trails.

    Natural Features

    Coralville Lake is located in the Iowa River Valley, just north of Iowa City. The Sugar Bottom Campground lies among a heavily wooded forest of mixed hardwood species on the east side of the lake. Wildlife is abundant throughout the project. Whitetail deer, turkeys, pheasants, waterfowl, song birds and other species roam the lands around the lake.

    Nearby Attractions

    The Devonian Fossil Gorge is 10 miles away, just below the Coralville Dam. It offers a unique opportunity to explore a 375-million-year-old sea floor and discover fossil remains of sea life that once inhabited this tropical marine environment. Twenty Discovery Points can be found throughout the site. Iowa City/Coralville offers the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, University of Iowa campus, hospital and clinics, numerous restaurants and shops as well as Coral Ridge Mall. Cedar Rapids has wonderful cultural, historic and ethnic attractions such as The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library and is the home of the Kernels Professional Baseball Club. West Branch boasts the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site and Presidential Library/Museum. At Amana Colonies visit seven quaint villages with outstanding restaurants, wineries, historic sites and specialty shops. Kalona is known as the __?______?__?__?__?Quilt Capital of Iowa__?______?__?__?__? and is home to an Old Order Amish and Mennonite Community.

    • Pets
    • Fires
    • Electric Hookups
    • Phone Service
    • RVs
    • Tents

    $24 / night

    Camper-submitted photo from Des Moines West KOA Holiday
    Camper-submitted photo from Des Moines West KOA Holiday
    Camper-submitted photo from Des Moines West KOA Holiday
    Camper-submitted photo from Des Moines West KOA Holiday
    Camper-submitted photo from Des Moines West KOA Holiday
    Camper-submitted photo from Des Moines West KOA Holiday

    9.

    Des Moines West KOA Holiday

    22 Reviews
    33 Photos
    41 Saves
    Earlham, Iowa

    We are very excited to provide you and your family a memorable Iowa camping experience at the best rated Des Moines RV Park & Campground. If it's been years since you've camped at Des Moines West KOA, make it a point to stop back in to see all the new and exciting improvements, including 2 Dog Parks, Huge Jumping Pillow, Jump Shot (Trampoline Basketball), Water Wars, Paddle Boats, Organized Weekend Activities, Ladder Ball, Horseshoes, & Hunt Brother's Pizza & Wings. We promise you'll be pleasantly surprised. The park is nestled 1.5 miles north of I-80, off exit 106, amongst beautiful Iowa farm fields, in a peaceful rural setting, where the only thing you'll hear are the songbirds singing!

    • Pets
    • Fires
    • Electric Hookups
    • Phone Service
    • Reservable
    • ADA Access
    Camper-submitted photo from Lake Anita State Park Campground
    Camper-submitted photo from Lake Anita State Park Campground
    Camper-submitted photo from Lake Anita State Park Campground
    Camper-submitted photo from Lake Anita State Park Campground
    Camper-submitted photo from Lake Anita State Park Campground
    Camper-submitted photo from Lake Anita State Park Campground

    10.

    Lake Anita State Park Campground

    23 Reviews
    82 Photos
    98 Saves
    Anita, Iowa

    Welcome to Lake Anita State Park Campground, a gem nestled near Anita, Iowa. This spot is perfect for those who love a mix of relaxation and outdoor activities. The campground operates from April 1 to December 31, giving you plenty of time to enjoy its offerings.

    One of the standout features here is the beautiful lake, which is a hub for boating, kayaking, and fishing. There's a four-mile paved trail that circles the 171-acre lake, ideal for walking, running, or biking. If you're into scenic views, you'll love the sunsets over the water—absolutely breathtaking.

    The campground itself offers a variety of accommodations, including tent sites, RV spots, and even some glamping options. Many sites come with electric hookups, and there are full hookup options as well. The facilities are top-notch, with clean showers, flush toilets, and drinking water readily available. Pets are welcome, so feel free to bring your furry friends along.

    Visitors have mentioned that the campground is spacious with plenty of shade and soft grass in the tent areas. The staff is friendly, and the atmosphere is generally quiet and peaceful, making it a great place to unwind. There's also firewood available for purchase, so you can enjoy a cozy campfire in the evening.

    For families, there's a playground that kids will love, and several picnic shelters scattered throughout the park. Wildlife is abundant, so keep an eye out for some timid critters during your stay.

    In summary, Lake Anita State Park Campground offers a fantastic blend of natural beauty and modern amenities, making it a great choice for your next camping trip. Whether you're here for a weekend getaway or a longer stay, you're bound to have a memorable experience.

    • Pets
    • Fires
    • Electric Hookups
    • Phone Service
    • Reservable
    • ADA Access
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Frequently Asked Questions

What camping is available in Iowa?

According to TheDyrt.com, Iowa offers a wide range of camping options, with 711 campgrounds and RV parks in Iowa and 10 free dispersed camping spots.

Which is the most popular campground in Iowa?

According to TheDyrt.com, the most popular campground in Iowa is Ledges State Park Campground with a 5-star rating from 39 reviews.

Where can I find free dispersed camping in Iowa?

According to TheDyrt.com, there are 10 free dispersed camping spots in Iowa.

What are the best parks in Iowa?

According to TheDyrt.com, there are 4 parks in Iowa that allow camping, notably Lake Red Rock and Coralville Lake.