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.
Just my husband and I this time. We hadn't been to Dundee in about 9 years so we decided to head up and check out the trout streams. The camp ground that we stayed at was family friendly. Hammocks were ok to put up. The only not so great experience was that 2 out of the 3 showers on the women's side were out of order. And the only working shower didn't have warm water. It was a quick shower but I got clean after walking through streams and hiking trails. Spoke to Ed the previous years campground host. Super nice and friendly. Didn't profile our VW bus as a hippie bus and us as pot smokers. Which happens more than people think. A very enjoyable experience.
I have visited a lot of Iowa parks and campgrounds. Backbone is one on my favorites. Backbone is the oldest state park in Iowa. You can take your canoe out on the lake or hit some of the hiking trails. There are cabins for rent if you don't want to sleep in a tent.
Click on the following link to download the trail maps: www.iowadnr.gov/portals/idnr/uploads/parks/trailmaps/trails_backbone.pdf
This is a great place to stay but make sure you get your reservations in early if you plan on staying on the weekend. If you want it to be quiet and prefer less crowds but you still want to enjoy the park, I highly suggest taking some time off of work during the week and avoiding the weekend.
This is a special place, the facilities, the showers, the campsites, the trails, and the lake are top quality.
Iowa tends to get a bad wrap but this particular park should be love by many. I have family in Iowa and visit often. I decided on one trip to get out exploring a bit and stumbled upon this gem. Now, while there might not be mountains and alpine lakes and such, this is a beautiful park. We decided to picnic and quick day hike, but there are opportunities to do much more. There are designated trails for mountain biking and if kayaking, canoeing, or boating is your thing this place has you covered. Fishing is available for those so inclined. While we didn't stay the night, we did spy the campsites and checked out what they have to offer. They sell bait, firewood, rent boats, have concessions, a real bathroom (and some pit toilets!) and places for your trash. There is the opportunity to go rock climbing and even swimming in the lake. There are standard campsites as well as cabins to rent. While this place is not as primitive as I generally like, and was really busy, it is one heck of a park.
Backbone offers 2 different campgrounds, a beach, trout and regular fishing a playground anso electric and water hookups. This park books up fast but offers walk ins so don't give up if booked online. Also offers cabins, beautiful trails, paddle boats, and a snack shack during the day. A little bit for everyone.
We were driving home from Colorado and decided to go out of our way to get to a state park. We got in around 7 so there was a little day light. The next morning we left at 6 in the morning and no one was up yet. It rained as we came in but nothing the park could have dome to fix that. It was good for a nights rest and no commotion, but nothing more than an average night in the rain.
Overall a nice, clean park! Will go back.