This map requires WebGL
Please update your web browser or enable WebGL to view the map.Troubleshooting Info
LIMITED TIME OFFER Try Pro Free for 3 Months
Plan 5-star camping road trips with PRO Trip Planner.
Find free camping on public lands with PRO Map Layers.
Roam freely with PRO Offline Access and PRO Map Downloads.
Save on camping reservations and camping gear with PRO Discounts.
This park may deserve a different rating at a different time of the year. This is Iowa's largest State Forest, and the Woodburn Unit plays host to several Backcountry campsites and 6 miles of trail. There is a picnic table and fire ring at every campsite. The trails are wide and well graded and not too much up and down except for periodic creek crossings which necessitate a steep descent-ascent. The trails are lightly trafficked.
You will find absolute solitude at this park, we didn't see anyone else out there with us. Perhaps for good reason. The defining characteristic of this park is it's insect life. Repellant and an active bat population kept the mosquitoes away, but the ticks were everywhere! My wife and I had more issues than other members of our party, but we were near constantly plucking them off of us. A frightening proposition for any backpacker.
In general the insects were diverse and abundant: ants, spiders, beatles, butterflies, moths, flys, ticks, wasps, you name it. Cobwebs would form overnight across the trail you just traversed and broke them the day before. At Buck Stop, a careless previous occupant made numerous gashes into a living tree with a blade, but we found a small swarm of Tawny Emperor butterflies making use of the opportunity. Amazing! Again, most insects were not an issue with heavy use of repellant, but the constant threat of ticks put a damper on our excursion.
Additionally, when we went in early July the creeks were dry. Making the only water source the spigot at the parking lot. The trail from Black Oak Camp to the Parking Lot is the shortest and easiest for this purpose if you find yourself running low.
We heard plenty of wildlife in early evening and at night: owls, raccoons, deer, coyotes.
We started out Friday evening with our packs and hiked and camped the park until Sunday morning.
We hiked all 6+ miles of trails here. Our first night in we camped at Buck Stop Camp. This site is on top of a ridge and is wonderful, you feel absolutely surrounded by wilderness; however, the site was a bit overgrown and thus undersized in terms of usable tent space. Our second night we stayed at the exact opposite corner at Longbeard. This is a great, bare, mostly flat site that is quite large, could host a large camping party.
Summary: This park may be better during the fall when the ticks have gone dormant, but at that time I believe it starts to get its use as a public hunting grounds. The lack of overland water in the summer and thriving tick population makes it a challenge to be at ease. The trails are easy to moderate, well graded apart from a few steep down-ups to dry creek beds. Good training ground for backpackers, tuck your pants into your boots, and happy trails!
The rules are clear for Union Ridge… you can camp anywhere but backpack camping is prohibited during hunting season… that is a no brainer! Lol. There is a pretty little lake to fish… there are very primitive restrooms, (with only a toilet) so there are a few bathroom amenities.
It is quiet, beautiful, and one of our favorite primitive places to visit! Highly recommend if you truly want to "get away from it all."
Great spot by a small lake in Stephen's State Forest. Didn't have a soul around us for the night we camped here (late September). Temps were around 43 degrees at night. Fire pits have nice swinging grates on them. There was a picnic table at each spot as well. We were in Campsite 007. Would have given 5 stars but you will hear train horns blowing all night at this location.
As a Conservation Area, it has very limited amenities. Only primitive camping is allowed on or immediately adjacent to the parking areas. Having said that, the CA is large consisting of over 8,000 acres. There are hiking trails throughout the CA that connect to the parking areas of which there a quite a number. In addition, two of the parking areas are noteworthy and clearly marked on the materials on the Missouri Department of Conservation web side regarding this CA. One has bathroom facilities and large grassy areas suitable for tent camping along with fire pits. The other has a boat ramp for access to a small lovely lake in addition to bathroom facilities. I'm giving this 3 starts primarily because the camping is limited and the location is somewhat remote. If you're ok with the primitive camping and don't mind the drive to get there, it would be nice.
The Woodburn unit in Stephens State forest has great hiking trails leading to very primitive camping locations. The site did have a nice picnic table and fire pit. A great place to disconnect and go off grid for a little while