The best HIKE IN camping near
Jacksonville , IOWA

26 Reviews8 Campgrounds

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Most Recent Jacksonville Camping Reviews
Great area, next to middle raccoon river with access.

Quiet town, campground. Canoeing, walleye fishing. Turn of century museum within walking distance. National golf course, par 3 golf course at nearby lake panorama is open to the public.

Surprise find in Iowa!

I stayed here on a long road trip across the country. Had no idea such a scenic place could be found in Iowa! I chose the closest walk-in spot, less than a mile in. It was great! Near a little creek if you need water, and really nicely secluded. Picnic table and fire ring included. Also, there’s a trail up a hill right near by that had great views of the area and a lovely sunset! I would definitely recommend. Just a head’s up: I saw some pics of people car camping here on this site. Not sure how that would work since it’s supposed to be walk-in only and pretty clearly roped off from access with a car.

Cottonwood Marina & RV park is home when in Nebraska

Love this place. Band on the weekends, playground, full level hookups on gravel, free wifi and on the river

Great little hiking park

Been coming to this place on and off for years. They have several hiking trails of different skills inside the preserve. There is a couple look out points of the Loess Hills as well as a educational visitors center. There is a rv camping site, as well as cabins that can be rented. There also 2 types of tenting as well. There is the walk up sites near the cabins, and also a few hike in camp sites.

what a charming name!

but it is right off the highway, with exit sprawl left and right. when i called the gal said $34 a night for an rv site. that’s high for a place this charmless and road-noisy. so i bought a yogurt smoothie across the street and kept driving.

First to Review
Beautiful spot!

A great spot for camping and RVing. Super friendly staff and great amenities. Only downside was there were no bathrooms.

Unique, Must-See Landscape

Continuing our tour of the best Backpacking parks in our great state of Iowa, my comrade and I spent 2 nights at Preparation Canyon State Park. Located directly adjacent to the Preparation Canyon Unit of Loess Hills State Forest; the flora, fauna, and geology of this park are amazing and unique to North America. If you have not visited this area, put it high on your to-do list. The weekend was blistering hot at 95° F and a 9/10 UV index, but we were conditioning for a larger trip this summer, so we welcomed the challenge.

The park boasts 10 backpacking, hike-in campsites. However, you will find maps and literature that reference only 8, for seemingly good reason. Sites 9 and 10 (apparently more recent additions) are the most remote in the park and might tempt those seeking that added level of solitude. We examined both of them and they were both found to be overgrown and the nearby creek tributary was mostly dry. Instead, we spent both of our nights at Site 3, which seems to be the crown jewel. It is a small trek up a hillside and looks out across the general area, with a phenomenal star gazing opportunity. The creek just to the North was still flowing and provided our water source. You will not regret staying here. The other sites are mostly in the woods and line said creek. I'm certain they would be great as well.

A quick drive from the park lands you at the State Forest Lookout, which is partnered with a short 0.91 mile loop trail that is picturesque. Around the "back," (Northwest side) of the park there are shelters, picnic areas, and overlooks. You cannot park at these locations while camping in the park.

The immediate surrounding towns provide very little in the way of amenities, so plan ahead. The cultural history of the park is intriguing, as it was the site of a 19th century Mormon town (from which the park gets its name). The town however is completely gone, there are no abandoned historical structures to explore.

You won't miss them. Hike through the hilled prairie trail which is the first right as you enter from the Eastside Boundary, and you'll know why you came.

In summary, this park is the quintessential example of the diversity that Iowa has to offer, and rivals Yellow River for it's backpacking. It's proximity to the larger State Forest means you could spend weeks exploring if so inclined.

Beautiful Place

We loved this place! It was green, very clean, and in a nice location (just on the outskirts of Des Moines). We were there on a Wednesday, and there was barely anyone there. In fact, we had the bottom half all to ourselves. There are horse shoe pits and even a frisby-golf course.

Great spot

This was a great spot for our overnight stay while traveling I-80. Its about 6 easy miles off the interstate, and well marked. The lower camp zone looks like it floods easily and was pretty muddy, so we opted for a nice level spot in the upper section. 50 amp plug in, fire rings, picnic tables, great park for our 3 year old. Our review would be 5 stars, but all the restrooms were locked for the season, and the only signage was on the doors of the facilities. No signage about the closures at the self registration. We probably should have checked the restrooms prior to setting up. Still, a very nice place and we would definitely visit again.

Hidden Gem

Beautiful place to enjoy the loess hills!