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Maquoketa Cave State Park , Maquoketo, Iowa
We stopped here for two days on our “Westward Ho” road trip in mid August 2020. Temperatures 80’s in the day to 60’s overnight.
I am not highly familiar with Iowa, I will admit however I AM extremely amazed at this little unique Park in the middle of farmland Iowa. Most of the trip here was driving between fields of corn as far as the eye could see (we came through Illinois).
The town of the same first name is small but the necessities can be had. Found a small shop with local meat, honey and yummies. The drive to the park was pretty straight forward with signage along the way.
This is a very basic park, no lake, no added attractions just trails , picnicking and a small , quiet (well…. I had a family directly across with very talkative, argumentative, sometimes loud children, …luck of the draw ;) and well shaded, electric sites. I like the spacing, privacy and shade. There are several water hydrants throughout the campground to use. A shower house that I will be visiting soon. Firewood on site, with donation box.
You probably don’t want sites 1 or 2, they are directly across from the dump site. The plus is they are directly across from the playground , picnic area and trail access.
Trail access is a short walk across the shelter/ picnic area. As of right now Officially the caves are closed. I saw several hikers not being official though.
The trails have sign posts and the map in a VERY general way gives you some idea as to where you are at BUT there are trails criss crossing everywhere so make sure you have your map tracker on. The trails/scenery are AMAZING! LOVED IT! Needs some maintenance (ie, downed trees) but they may have limited staffing right now. I would suggest a visit even if you only have a few hours. Once they reopen the caves I will absolutely be back.
Cabins were nice - not luxury or glamping but clean and in good condition. The gentleman that takes care of the campground takes great pride in his work and it shows - kudos to him! There is a nice hiking trail around the lake, about 8 miles complete loop. there is a bit of elevation change and not many opportunities to "bail out" so take water and pace yourself.
Driving cross country, this was my favorite campground. I had a large, private site that had a mowed path leading to the lake. The large lake is beautifully landscaped with walking bridges made from recycled iron and memorial trees of many varieties. There is about a two mile trail circumventing the entire lake. I was there in early October so the weather was too chilly to use the nice beach. Great shower house.
The campground is great for RVs and anybody who has a setup that doesn't rely on shaded areas. They hosts had a super efficient hygiene protocol to get you to your spot. Campground is a nice bike ride away from the Amana villages and overall a great base camp
Really enjoyed our stay, sites are large and staggered so you aren’t staring at your neighbors and can enjoy the views. The road leading in was very rutted so take it slow , also due to COVID reservations are required , you can drive up but a sign asks you to make one online or call . Cell service was poor for T Mobile and the wait time for a call was 45 min, we tracked down a camp host who was able to get us registered and was very friendly. As stated water is shared by 4 sites and was 30 ft away . $10 with senior pass otherwise $20 Train only went by once!
This park has two campgrounds. The modern side on the north end of the park with full hookups, and the primitive side on the south side of the park with no electricity or water hookups. Both campgrounds have flushing toilets but only the modern side has showers. All restroom facilities are very well kept. Beautiful park with lots to do! Only thing keeping me from giving it 5 stars is how busy both campgrounds get on weekends and holidays giving you little to no privacy since sites are pretty close together.
The campground here was quiet during the week and small in general which we like! There are a few walk-in sites that are accessible by walking down a path about 150-200 ft. Wish it had been a little farther back away from the parking lot and other sites but i think we always wish that. Decent privacy with only a few other campsites back in that same area of wood so that was nice.
The caves were unexpectedly super cool! Neither my husband nor I had ever gone. We weren’t expecting much but wow! Lots to see in a small area. The hike didn’t take too long around and many of the caves were closed (probably due to COVID) but we kindve stuck our heads halfway in and WOw. We want to come back when they’re are more opened. I bet it’s super busy on weekends. Probably would avoid that. There was other hiking to do away from the caves but we didn’t venture too far as it was quite hot and we were running low on water. There’s a little stream that runs kindve out into the prairie lands on one side and we stopped to stick our feet in. Highly recommend that.
Over all, lovely few days out in the woods. We would visit again!
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.