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Trout streams well fed, campsites spread out well, amenities good for primitive use area. Horses welcome, firewood and ice available. Historical Fire Tower hike/visit is a must. Primitive pack-in sites, 1 cabin available. Modern Cabin is well maintained, electricity, microwave, a full sized refrigerator, and two porches, where one of them is screened in. Sleeps 6.
There are two campgrounds at this park (the first state park in Iowa): a primitive one and a “modern” one. The primitive one (Six Pine) only has a pit toilet and each site has a fire grate and a picnic table. The modern campground (South Lake) has 30 amp, 50 amp, and tent sites. The electric sites are very close together (too close for our liking) so we opted for a tent site. We were in a loop with about six sites, and while the site size was generous and spaced a decent distance apart, there was no delineation between sites and no specific place to park your vehicle (and you cannot park on the road). These sites were also decidedly bumpy and not level; it took us about 15 minutes of maneuvering our van around to find a reasonably level spot.
The restrooms were six separate rooms, each complete with toilet, sink, and shower; they were clean.
We drove around the park and saw the balanced rock (meh) and I walked the short distance to the mouth of the cave. There was good signage to find the cave but once there, no information about the cave and its safety (or not) was available so I opted not to explore its dark and wet interior! There are seven trails in the park; the East Lake trail was a treat to hike. It hugs the lake for about two miles and while you can veer off onto the Bluebird Trail, I enjoyed hiking out and back for a different view. You can also hike from the South Lake campground to the beach– about a mile but the trail does start and stop, and you have to walk on the road for a bit. You can rent kayaks, canoes, and paddleboats but we did not take advantage of this. We also did not swim so I cannot speak to the quality of the lake (other reviewers took issue with this). There is also a CCC museum, but it was not open while we were there.
We stayed one night which was sufficient for us. It might have been nice to stay longer if we decided to rent kayaks or hike different trails.
This park is perfect for families or anyone looking for plenty of activities. They have boat rentals, amazing trails, a camp store onsite, a swimming beach and super clean bathrooms. Stayed at tent site #24 in the Southlake Campground, and it was fairly quiet even on a busy holiday weekend.
I tent camped at Six Pines Campground for 3 nights in August. The park has two campgrounds and this one is non electric with pit toilets and water. Each site has a picnic table and fire ring with a really nice grill. The sites are large and flat and the ones on the outside of the loop are well shaded. Two trails can be accessed from the tent campground - Six Pines trail and West Lake trail. There are two shower houses that you can use at the RV campground but it takes about 15-20 minutes to drive across the park to that campground. The park is very large with about 20 miles of trails. There is a spring fed creek and, if you stay away from the trout fishing area, you can play and wade in the creek. It has a sandy/rocky bottom and sandy banks. It felt wonderful on a hot day. There is a swim beach on the lake but it was closed due to E. coli in the water. There’s a small camp store too. At night in this campground there are no lights except in the registration kiosk so it’s perfect for star gazing. The Field of Dreams movie site is just 45 minutes away and makes for a fun side trip. There is a town about 10 minutes away with a couple restaurants and coffee shops. The Six Pines trail can be taken from the campground to the Backbone trail. The Backbone trail is along a rocky ridge. There are side trails down to the base of the cliffs and lots of rock climbing to do. Very fun to explore the side paths and climb up the rock walls.
We stayed here two nights. That was plenty, although it's not really the park's fault. The lake was super gross, with excessive floating moss (probably a weather issue) and EXCESSIVE goose poop everywhere. The beach was basically unusable, with goose bombs everywhere. It was better when we kayaked, but still gross.
So why the five stars? 1. The bathrooms were fantastic. 2. The camp site was really nice and plenty of room. 3. The hiking was superb. Felt like we were not in Iowa. 4. The driving through the park was also really great and I will go back this fall to look at leaves. 5. There is a cave you can explore on your own. We did. It's awesome. It's muddy. It's super cool. 6. There are some decent bouldering spots. 7. Cheap, huge bundles of firewood at park entrance. 8. Really friendly at the camp store. 9. Close to Strawberry Point. Go to town to Clayton's Pharmacy and get an old fashioned soda. Fantastic. 10. Close to Edgewood and the Edgewood Locker. Go visit and stock up on meat on the way home.
My friend and I were eager to test out some new backpacking gear for the first time in advance of a larger trip this summer.
We have stayed several times at the Big Paint Campground which is a wonderful drive-up campground that seems to have mostly tent campers. Only two sites at that campground have direct creek access, 55 and 53.
For our most recent trip, we hiked from Paint Creek area headquarters along Brown's Hollow Trail to Brown's Hollow Campground. It's a low spot in the area, and became a bit soft as we were met with a brief downpour just as we arrived. But what can you expect being down in a 'hollar'?
This park is LUSH. Tons of wildlife and we thoroughly enjoyed hunting for wild oyster mushrooms which we gave a quick sautee before including in our rehydrated meals.
This was a quick trip, only one night. However we took it slow the next morning and we're greeted by HUNDREDS of butterflies! They were everywhere! Using the Koffman's Field Guide to the Midwest I identified them as Hackberry Emperors. Magical morning indeed.
The park has several backcountry camping spots and I will likely use them all as I continue to train for a larger trip later this summer. The park has a great feeling of isolation and wilderness that can be absent from other places.
Been coming to yellow river for years but have always wanted to go backpacking. Finally, convinced one of my friends to come with, we ended up getting scared around midnight from the noises. Took our hammocks down and ran all the way back 😂 still a fun time beautiful hike and nice area to set up camp, also had service!
Gravel parking spots, fairly level, most without shade unless you get on the "back loop" where you can find 4 with good shade. All manner of amenities (electric only, water & electric, and a few with full hookups). Bathrooms are clean and well stocked. 4 private showers available…clean. Weekends are typically busier than weekdays.