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.
Nice sites. Bathrooms clean!
Lakewater often unsafe for swimming. To the extent the beach had weeds growing on it. Campsites are close together w no privacy.
Have camped here twice with large groups (12-25 people) of college age friends. Was a great time with plenty to keep everyone interested.
My favorite memory was definitely swimming in the river. Also enjoyed hiking along the backbone trail, and climbing around some wooded areas.
This campground has many things to do. This place has tent, rv and cabin camping, you can choose modern or non modern camping. Fun activities include fishing, swimming in a lake and also ground fed springs, boat rentals on the lake, hiking also horse trails, rock climbing, caves, playgrounds shelters for events and parties. I am sure there are even more things to do that I didnt have the time for.
Absolutely love Backbone! Beautiful hiking trails and a great place to camp with good bathroom accommodations!
I went with a group of entering sixth grade Girl Scouts on a weekend tent camping trip to this park. The campsites were simple to access and the grounds were easy to navigate. We hiked on the famous Backbone trail - a really fun hike that isn’t too incredibly long. The grounds were well kept and we had a phenomenal time. The girls gathered our firewood in the neighboring tree line, and our evenings were filled with fun and friendly camping neighbors. I highly recommend this park.
lots of things to do and great hikeing park, also swimming and boat rentals
We went camping at Backbone for a friend's wedding that was taking place at the park's lodge. While most of the wedding guests stayed in town, we opted to camp, during October. It was gorgeous! We loved waking up in the morning and going for a walk along the many trails, seeing deer on the trail, and the lake. Great place to camp or host an event like a wedding!
There is a variety of things to do here. You can rent cabins, shelters, tent and RV camp, hike the trails especially the “Backbone”, explore the cave, fish trout streams, visit fish hatchery, swim at the beach, canoe, kayak or just have a picnic. Beautiful park! My sons have even repelled the bluffs.
This has been one of my favorite state parks in Iowa to camp thus far. I've tent camped in April and cabin camped in October. The cabin camping was the better of the two experiences, mainly due to the unusually chilly overnight temperatures in April. During the warmer months you can rent canoes from the concession stand. Climbing/rappelling is also allowed in the park via registration at the park office.
We stayed in a family cabin that sleeps up to 4 people. You have to reserve cabins and there is a 2 night minimum stay, but the price is extremely reasonable. These cabins also offer heat and A/C. Our cabin had a common area with a kitchenette.The bathroom included a toilet and shower. The small, but cozy bedroom included a mattress - you're responsible for bringing your own linens - along with a sink. Additional amenities included stove, frig, microwave, pots and pans, and even a small coffee maker. And, the couch in the common area pulled out into a futon, providing extra sleeping space. Outdoor amenities included a fire pit and picnic bench. Bonus: The back of our cabin area looked out onto Backbone Lake.
We purchased firewood in Strawberry Point, a small town just a short drive from the park. Iowa requires that firewood be obtained within the county you're staying in due to the Emerald Ash Borer epidemic.
We fished for trout and hiked along several trails in the park. The Devil's Backbone was our favorite mainly because of the scenery along the bluff. It was the perfect way to view the changing leaves and watch the Maquoketa River flow by.
While we did have neighbors on either side of us, the noise level was minimal, and everyone was respectful of parking spaces as there is a common parking area in front of the cabins.
This is a beautiful spot to visit especially in autumn.