23 of the Best Places To Go Camping In Iowa

Sunset over a group of campers

More than just corn fields, camping in Iowa offers amazing locations throughout the state.

Whether you like to rough it in a tent, enjoy Glamping or bring the modern luxuries of an RV along with you, Iowa has something for everyone.

We’ve rounded up our favorite campgrounds in Iowa to help you find the perfect destination for your next camping trip!

RV Camping in Iowa

Many of the locations listed here offer both tent camping and RV camping. Personally, I love both. Sometimes I love to pack up the tent and enjoy a night really in nature and other times we pull up with our Jayco X23B, both offer loads of enjoyment.

Not everyone owns an RV but that doesn’t mean you still can’t enjoy the fun of a weekend away camping in one? You can rent an RV for the week or weekend through Outdoorsy for your family camping getaway. Make sure to read on everything you need to know about renting an RV first though!

Tent Camping in Iowa

With over 70 state parks alone that offer tent camping, there is no shortage of great places to pitch a tent in Iowa.

Camping in Iowa doesn’t necessarily require and special camping gear. The terrain is relatively easy with basic hiking and backpacking trails found throughout.

If you plan on doing some tent camping, there are always a few must haves, make sure to check out our family camping checklist, tent buyer’s guide, camp cooking guide, and our sleeping bag buyer’s guide to help you get the best gear for your money.

If you don’t want to invest in purchasing your own gear, you can actually rent your camping gear. Check out Outdoors Geek to see their tent camping rental packages.

The Best Places To Go Camping In Iowa

Pikes Peak State Park

Pikes Peak State Park Aerial View

Pikes Peak State Park is one of Iowa’s most loved state parks. The park has over 11.5 miles of hiking and biking trails and beautiful views abound.

While hiking through this state park you’ll see lots of limestone, fossils, and amazing views of the Mississippi River. The highlight of these trails is the Bridal Veil Falls, a beautiful waterfall and refreshing stream, and the Point Ann Overlooks.

For camping, the park offers tent and RV sites with power, modern showers, and a dump station.

Maquoketa Caves State Park

View from inside Maquoketa Caves State Park
Maquoketa Caves State Park

Located in the eastern center of the state, Maquoketa Caves State Park offers visitors a unique look into caves that have been used for thousands of years.

With 6 miles of hiking trails and many caves to explore, you’ll find that this Iowa campground offers some of the most beautiful landscapes in the state.

The campground offers tent camping, RV camping, electric hookups, showers and bathrooms.

Backbone State Park

Rock formations on a trail at Backbone state park in Iowa
Rock formations on a trail at Backbone State Park in Iowa

Names for the limestone ridges in the park, Backbone State Park was actually the very fist state park in Iowa.

There are two different campgrounds in this park offer both electric and non-electric campsites along with showers, toilets and more. The park even offers one bedroom and two bedroom cabins that can be rented year round.

Along with camping, you’ll be able to enjoy over 21 miles of hiking trails, swimming, boating, and fishing.

Coralville Dam Campgrounds

Camping at Coralville Lake in Iowa
Sunset over Coralville Lake near Iowa City

Located in the Iowa River Valley, just North of Iowa City, the Coralville Dam Campgrounds offer a rustic camping experience right on the edges of Iowa City.

Along with camping, at Coralville you can enjoy hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, and lots of wildlife viewing. You can even sit back and simply enjoy an afternoon on the beach.

The campground accomodates both tent camping and RV camping and has amenities like a dump station, playgrounds, electricity, showers and more.

Des Moines KOA

Cabin Camping at KOA
Cabins for rent at the Des Moines KOA

The KOA in Des Moines Iowa is really a great family retreat campground more than anything.

They have tons of activities for the whole family including 2 dog parks, trampoline basketball, paddle boats, peddle cards and more to go along with tons of planed weekend activities every weekend throughout the summer.

You can enjoy any type of camping you’re interested in at this park as well. They offer tent campsites, glamping tent sites, RV camping sites, cabin rentals and even deluxe cabin rentals.

Bellevue State Park

Camping at Bellevue State Park in Iowa
Sunrise on the Mississippi River near Bellevue Iowa

Bellevue State Park is another amazing Iowa camping destination along the Mississippi River just outside of Bellevue, Iowa.

The campground at Bellevue offers both RV and Tent camping, electric hookups, dumping, showers and bathrooms.

Hiking at Bellevue is one of the main attractions. You can hike to scenic views of the Mississippi River, through a restored prairie, a former limestone quarry and even a butterfly garden.

Stone State Park

Trail on the Loess Hills in Iowa
Trail on the Loess Hills in Iowa

Camping at Stone State Park offers visitors lots of different activities to have a great time and learn about the area at the same time.

To start with, Stone State Park has 6 miles of horse trails, 8 miles of mountain bike trails and 6 miles of hiking trails, so there is a trail for everyone.

Once you’re done hiking the trails, visiting the Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center is a must. Here you can view a “walk under” prairie, a 400-gallon aquarium, and view history dioramas.

At the Stone State Park campground, you’ll find a nicely kept campground with electric campsites, cabins you can rent and basic amenities including showers and baths.

Clear Lake State Park

Camping at Clear Lake Park in Iowa
Large trees in the park at Clear Lake in Iowa

If you’re looking for sandy beaches and a fun time on the water on your next camping trip, then Clear Lake State Park might be perfect.

The beach has over 900 feet of beautiful sand and the park has over 10 acres of picnic grounds with grills and picnic tables.

Clear Lake is actually one of Iowa’s most popular campgrounds. It offers standard campsites for RV camping and tent camping with electric hookups, modern bathrooms and a dump station.

Cherry Glen Campground

Sunset over Saylorville Lake in Iowa
Sunset over Saylorville Lake in Iowa

Cherry Glen Campground is located on the 26,000 acre Saylorville Lake along the Des Moines River Valley.

This campground offers 125 family camping sites with electric hookups, water, showers, bathrooms and a dump station.

For activities, you can enjoy water activities such as fishing, swimming, sailing and windsurfing. The campground even offers a disc golf course for visitors to enjoy.

Arrowhead Park

Camping Cabin in Arrowhead Park Iowa
Camping cabin at Arrowhead Park in Iowa

Arrowhead Park is a simple Iowa campground that offer’s everything a family camping trip requires.

The 150 acre campground offers swimming, fishing, playgrounds, basketball courts, volleyball courts, hiking trails and wildlife viewing.

The campgrounds offer non-electric and electric sites for both tent camping and RV camping. There are even 3 cabins available for rent that sleep up to 6 people.

Palisades-Kepler State Park

Palisades-Kepler State Park
Palisades-Kepler State Park in Iowa

Nestled along the Cedar River, Palisades-Kepler State Park offers simple, yet beautiful camping in Iowa.

Here you can enjoy the 6 miles of hiking trails along the Cedar River and through the thick mature trees. Camping sites offer electricity and modern shower facilities. There are even 4 camping cabins that sleep up to for available for rent.

Lake Macbride State Park

Small waterfall at Lake Macbride State Park.

If you’re a bird watcher, then Lake Macbride is your perfect camping destination. Shorebirds, waterfowl, and ospreys are all known to be in abundance during the spring and fall seasons.

There are two different campgrounds at Lake Macbride, a modern campground with electricity and modern bathrooms and a separate non-electric campground with outhouses.

On the lake, you can enjoy swimming, boating, fishing or just lounging on the beach for the day.

Squaw Creek Park

Brucemore Estate
Brucemore Estate is one of the best attractions in Cedar Rapids Iowa

Want to enjoy some golfing with your camping in Iowa? Then Squaw Creek Park is the perfect campground.

Along with the usual hiking trails, mountain biking, and even cross country skiing trails, Squaw Creek Park borders the Gardner Golf Course, a popular course just outside of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The campground has 69 campsites with full electricity, showers, bathrooms and a dump station. RV and tent camping are both perfect for this campground.

Lewis and Clark State Park

Trail at Lewis and Clark State Park in Iowa
Long trail at Lewis and Clark State Park in Iowa

With a beach for leisurely sun bathing and a lake stocked with panfish, bass, channel catfish, and northern pike, you won’t run out of things to do when camping at Lewis and Clark State Park.

The campsite offers electric and full hookups, dump station, bathrooms and showers for a comfortable camping experience.

For a history lesson, you can view the full size reproduction of Lewis and Clark’s keelboat and all the boats used on their discovery adventure.

Pulpit Rock Campground

Upper Iowa River Sunset
Sunset on the Upper Iowa River

If you want a camping experience with sights, activities and close proximity to small town America, then Pulpit Rock Campground is what you’re looking for.

Located just two miles from downtown Decorah, you can enjoy all the town has to offer simply by walking or biking.

One of the most popular activities is to rent a canoe or kayak and spend an afternoon canoeing down the Upper Iowa River.

Love canoe and kayak camping? Check out our post all about Canoe Camping for more info.

Shadybrook Camping and RV Resort

Camping cabin at Shadybrook Camping and RV resort
Camping cabin at Shadybrook Camping and RV Resort

Located 15 minutes from Des Moines, Shadybrook is a fun family camping resort with a pool, scenic nature, camping cabins and unique camping options.

You can rent a cabin, pitch a tent, roll in on your RV or even rent a Treepod or Stingray suspended tent for a completely unique camping experience in the trees.

Lake Anita State Park

Yellow coneflowers in an open field at dusk in Lake Anita State Park in Iowa
Yellow coneflowers in an open field at dusk in Lake Anita State Park in Iowa

One of the most popular places to go camping in Southwest Iowa, Lake Anita State Park offers electrical hookups and full hookups for your tent camping, car camping and RV camping needs.

A four mile trail around the entire lake will give hikers plenty to do while the beach, fishing and playgrounds will be fun for the whole family. The park even hosts movie nights on the beach during the summer.

Pilot Knob State Park

Pilot Knob State Park Lookout Tower
Old stone shelter at Pilot Knob State Park

Dedicated in 1923, Pilots Knob State Park is one of the oldest parks in the state of Iowa. It covers 700 acres and provides plenty to do for the entire family.

The campsites offer electric, showers, baths, playground on site, and a dump station.

In the winter the park is a hot spot for ice skating and has a warming house with electricity and heat to keep the visitors warm.

One of Pilot Knob’s main claims to fame is Dead Man’s Lake, which is a hidden four-acre sphagnum bog, the only one of its kind in the entire state.

Lacey Keosauqua State Park

Camping at Lacey Keosauqua State Park
Sandstone along the Des Moines River

Lacey Keosauqua State Park offers beautiful shaded campsites with electricity, water and modern showers. There are even 6 family camping cabins available during the season.

A unique feature of Lacey Keosauqua are the 19 Indian mounds found on site. These were built by the ancient Indians as a burial site for their dead and are considered sacred by today’s native people.

Another feature of the campground in Iowa is the amazing hiking trails go along the valleys and cliffs of the Des Moines River.

To finish off your stay, the 30 acre lake provides beaches, swimming, fishing and fun water activities for a cool summer’s day.

Prairie Rose State Park

Camping at Prairie Rose State Park
Prairie Rose Lake at Prairie Rose State Park

Prairie Rose Lake is the star of this Iowa camping destination. On the lake, you can enjoy beautiful swimming, beaches, boating, canoeing, playgrounds, and even quality fishing for the anglers.

There are two campgrounds to choose from with both electric and non-electric sites. Other amenities include baths, showers, dump stations, and playgrounds. There are also two camping cabins for those of you who don’t have an RV or camping gear (you can always rent an RV or rent your camping gear!).

With over 7 miles of hiking trails, you can get your exercise in and work up a great appetite for a wonderful camping meal.

Sugar Bottom Campground & Recreational Area

Devonian Fossil Gorge
The Devonian Fossil Gorge is located just 10 miles from Sugar Bottom Campground

Located on the shores of Coralville Lake, Sugar Bottom Campground offers 232 campgrounds for RV and tent camping alike.

The campground is located in a heavily wooded area, but the real attraction is Coralville Lake, which boasts clear water and a sandy bottom. Visitors love to swim, boat, sun bathe, fish and more.

Bushy Creek State Recreation Area

Horse Camping in Iowa

If you love horse camping, than Bushy Creek is the perfect campground for you.

The North Equine campground has showers, electricity, hitch rails at every site, a horse wash area, a 100′ arena, and a 200′ arena. This is unmatched anywhere else in the state.

On the lake (Bushy Creek), you can enjoy all the usual water activities such as a large beach, swimming, fishing, boating and more.

Finally, as you would expect with such a horse friendly campground, there are over 45 miles of amazing trails for horse riding, hiking, biking and more.

Lake Ahquabi State Park

Tent on the Lake

Lake Ahquabi is a 115 acre man made lake that is the perfect spot to go camping in Iowa.

Facilities at the lake offer boat rentals of paddle boats, kayaks, canoes, fishing kayaks, stand up paddle boards, and rowboats. The lake also offers huge sandy beaches, playgrounds and fantastic swimming.

Another unique feature of this campground is that the campsites are located right by the lakeshore. There are 114 campsites at the park and 85 have electrical hookups.

Finally, you’ll find over 6.5 miles of hiking trails, 4.5 of which hug the lake, all of which are perfect for hiking, mountain biking and cross country skiing.

Check Out These Other Great Places To Go Camping

1 thought on “23 of the Best Places To Go Camping In Iowa”

  1. I’m heading out tomorrow for some early fall camping in NE Iowa, and I’m planning on touring some of the state parks. You’ve mentioned five of the parks I’ll camp at: Palisades-Kepler (yes, the same last name as me!), Backbone, Pikes Peak, Maquoketa, and Bellevue. I’ve also camped quite a bit at Lacey-Keosauqua. I think you’ve done a good job of locating some of the good parks in the area. Since I have a blog, I’ll be writing about my two-week trip. I’ve already written about Lacey-Keosauqua, and another nice campground, Howell Station at Lake Red Rock, maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers.

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