camping in Iowa

Camping in Iowa | The Ultimate Guide To The Best Iowa Campgrounds

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Potatoes, not camping, is the first image that comes to mind when thinking about camping in Iowa, but that’s the beauty of the state! Known more for its agriculture and meat packing plants, Iowa is not exactly the first state that springs to mind as a popular tourist destination. But wait. Iowa not only has great potatoes, it has some the best, but undiscovered camping in the country! Iowa has: 63 State Parks, 5 State Forests, 2 State Wildlife Areas, 6 State Wildlife Management Areas, 1 National Historic Site and 3 National Wildlife Refuges. There are plenty of opportunities to get out and explore the state, fish, hunt, hike, and camp.

Some of the most popular parks in Iowa center around activities, like fishing, hiking, history, or wildlife. But some are popular because they’re small, well-maintained, secluded, close to popular tourist destinations, or because they’ve been around for so long it’s a family tradition to go there. Whatever reason you have for camping, there’s a park or a public campground to accommodate you and your family or friends.

Camping in Iowa – Top Ten Public Campgrounds

Every travel website and blogger has their own “top ten” campgrounds, and we’re no different. We have ours, based on reviews and personal experience with the campgrounds. Here they are in no particular order:

Makuoketa Caves State Park (Makoqueta) – Camping in Iowa

camping in Iowa

Credit to travelingmom.com

Maquoketa Caves State Park

10970 98th St

Maquoketa   IA  52060

Phone: (563) 652-5833

Maquoketa Caves is probably Iowa’s most unique state park. The park contains more caves than any other state park in Iowa. A beautiful trail system links the caves, formations, and overlooks while providing an exciting hiking experience. Many areas on these trails have seen new construction, making the journey to the caves safer and easier. Trail highlights include the dramatic “Natural Bridge” which stands nearly 50 feet above Raccoon Creek, and the 17-ton “Balanced Rock”. Its caves, limestone formations and rugged bluffs provide visitors a chance to “step back” into geological time thousands of years.

Caves vary from the 1,100′ Dancehall Cave with walkways and lighting system to Dugout Cave. The remaining caves are all different sizes and shapes. Some can be explored by walking while others can best be seen by crawling. In any case, a flashlight and old clothes and shoes are most helpful. The Maquoketa River is within one mile of the park, and there are local vendors who rent inner tubes and canoes to float the river.

The campground contains 29 RV and tent campsites (17 have electricity). All the sites are nestled among mature pine trees, complete with a modern shower facility. The fees vary depending upon the time of year and which facilities are available. Advance campsite reservations can be booked through the park reservation system. Half of the campsites are still available for self-registration on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Amenities Include:

  • Bird Watching
  • Cave Exploring/Spelunking
  • Dump Station
  • Geological Formations
  • Handicap Access
  • Hiking
  • Interpretive Exhibit/Display
  • Modern Restroom
    Picnic Area
  • Playground
  • Registration Building
  • Restrooms
  • Showers
  • Trash Dumpster
  • Visitor Center
  • Water Hydrants
  • Wildflower Viewing
  • Wildlife Viewing

Adventureland Campground – Camping in Iowa

camping in Iowa

Photo by Robert Gerhart

2600 Adventureland Dr

Altoona, Iowa 50009

Phone: (515) 265-7321

Adventureland is an outdoor amusement facility. In addition to the amusement park, there is a 187 room Hotel and a 310 site campground spread over 200 + acres. They are located just east of Des Moines in Altoona, IA right off I-80 exit 142. They provide entertainment for well over 600,000 guests each season. Adventureland Campground is a full-service campground with complete facilities including: electric hookups, modern showers and restrooms, RV facilities, tent camping, a swimming pool and recreational areas.

Amenities Include:

  • Pull thru sites
  • Electric 30 & 50 Amp
  • Sewer
  • Water
  • Showers
  • Restrooms with flushing toilets
  • Tent camping
  • Free WiFi
  • Dog run
  • Pool
  • Playground

Lazy Acres RV Park – Camping in Iowa 

camping in Iowa

Credit to lazyacresrv.com

5486 32nd Ave

Center Point, Iowa 52213

Phone: (319) 443-4000

With entertainment such as a miniature golf course, a recreation hall and game room, a splash pad, frisbee golf, various outdoor games, and a fishing pond with a gazebo you’d think you were in a theme park not a campground. Lazy Acres RV Park also has a sand volleyball court, basketball court, horseshoes, paddle boats, turbo bike rentals, and train rides for the kids. There is a wide variety of custom made playground equipment throughout the park. Lazy Acres RV Park is built for family fun and it shows.

The campground is big rig friendly with a total of 76 long spacious sites up to 75 feet wide. All sites have picnic tables, BBQ grills, and fire pits. Groups are welcome to stay and use the facility’s banquet/meeting room and covered pavillion. They have group sites available that will hold 4 RVs parked in a circle with 4 picnic tables and a large fire pit in the center of the site.

This campground is built by RVers for RVers with 65 pull-through sites can accommodate RVs up to 120 feet long, and 6 back-in sites. No rig is too big for us to accommodate. Each site is well graveled and is situated in such a way as to provide maximum privacy and distance from adjoining sites.

All sites also feature new, state of the art hook-ups to power, water, and sewer and have high-speed DSL. All sites also have fire pits and picnic tables. Free WiFi is available throughout the park. Lazy Acres features sparkling clean handicap accessible restrooms with changing tables. Laundry facilities are provided for guests and the park has a convenience store for essentials. The park also offers 3 waterfront cabins on the banks of a gorgeous fishing pond. If you like to tent camp, you’re in luck. There are 3 tent sites with electric.
Lazy Acres is located in Urbana Iowa with Easy I-380 On & Off Access at Exit #41. Urbana is mid-way between Cedar Falls and Cedar Rapids.

Howell Station COE – Camping in Iowa

1081 198th Pl

camping in Iowa

Credit to
Red Rock Lake Association

Pella, Iowa 50219

Phone: (641) 828-7522

Howell Station Campground sits just below the Red Rock Dam and Lake on the north side of the Des Moines River. Lake Red Rock is Iowa’s largest lake, located just 10 minutes from Pella, and 15 minutes from Knoxville, Iowa, the Sprint car capital of the world. Lake Red Rock is known for its boating, fishing, hiking, biking, and wildlife, which is abundant – especially around the lake. The American White Pelican migrates through the area in spring and fall, and Bald eagles can be seen from November through March. White-tailed deer and river otters are commonly viewed along the waterline as well as ducks, geese, and swans.

There are miles of water trails for kayakers and canoeists and these trails are designated along the shoreline. Bring a fishing rod. Anglers will find crappie, walleye, channel and flathead catfish, northern pike and bluegill.
Then there’s the 15 mile paved Volksweg Trail for bikers and runners. The trail stretches west from Pella to the Des Moines River and to the Cordova Recreation Area.

Amenities Include:

  • 143 reservable, shady campsites, all with 50-amp electric hookups.
  • Flush and pit toilets
  • Showers
  • Playground
  • Drinking water
  • Dump station
  • Nearby attractions including the Blank Park Zoo

Morgan Creek Park – Camping in Iowa

7515 Worcester Rd

camping in Iowa

Credit to mycountyparks.com

Palo, Iowa 52324

Phone: (319) 396-2363

Morgan Creek Family Campground is a small, but friendly and quiet campground with modern sites with electricity and water. Campsites are equipped with a firepit and picnic table. There are 36 partial hookup RV and tent camping sites available on a first-come, first-serve basis. There is 20 amp, 30 amp, or 50 amp service available at some, but not all, sites.

In addition to the wonderful wildlife habitat at the park, Morgan Creek Park also has the Morgan Creek Arboretum, a modern campground, a reservable open shelter, a playground, and an extensive trail system – including groomed cross-country ski trails.

Amenities Include:

  • Small lake well stocked with fish
  • Camp store
  • Showers
  • Laundry Room

Amana RV Park and Event Center – Camping in Iowa 

camping in Iowa

Credit to Vacations Made Easy

3890 C St

Amana, Iowa 52203

Phone: (319) 622-7616

Amana RV Park and Event Center is located in the heart of Iowa’s historic Amana Colonies, just fifteen minutes North of I-80. This National Historic Landmark hosts over a million visitors each year. Featuring seven historic villages in close proximity, the area is famous for its Old World charm and hospitality. You’ll find excellent restaurants, historic architecture, unique shops, and fascinating museums as well as some of the best camping in the state.

The campground is huge—450 campsites on 60 acres of the Iowa prairie. Of those sites, there are 228 full hook-up sites, 24 full hook-up seasonal sites, 166 water & electric sites, and 48 dry and tent camping sites with optional 20-amp electricity. All of their RV sites are a roomy 75 feet long and 30 feet wide. The tent and dry camping sites are 15 feet long and 30 feet wide.

The park is rally and event friendly with three buildings available for meetings, events, or conferences. The building total over 20,000 square feet of rental space.

Amenities Include:

  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Level sites; paved & gravel roads
  • 4-vehicle dump station
  • Modern, handicap accessible restrooms w/ showers
  • Laundromat
  • Liquid Propane
  • Campground store
  • Picnic tables on most sites
  • Fire rings available
  • Firewood for sale/complimentary scrap wood from the Amana Furniture Shop if available
  • Pets welcome
  • Choice of 20, 30 or 50-amp electricity, sewer, and water

Waterloo / Lost Island Waterpark KOA – Camping in Iowa 

camping in Iowa

Credit to Koa.com

4550 Hess Rd

Waterloo, Iowa 50701

Phone: (319) 233-3485

This KOA has an island-themed campground to make things interesting for kids and families. It’s also located directly behind Lost Island Waterpark and Adventure Golf and Go Karts, so it is perfect for a family getaway. As with many KOA’s you have the option to camp, or to rent in a deluxe cabin, RV or tent. There is on-site disc golf, dog park, paddleboats, and bicycles.

This location even has gasoline, diesel and an LP fill station on-site. When you stay at this KOA, you can get discount vouchers for Lost Island Waterpark! The South Hills Golf Course and Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo are just across the road. Jog or ride the Cedar Valley Nature Trail, wander through the Grout Museum District, explore the Phelps Youth Pavilion/Waterloo Center for the Arts or relax on the sandy beach.

This campground is made for big and luxury rigs with a maximum pull thru of 100 feet. Their deluxe sites offer a level pad and a concrete patio.

Amenities Include:

  • Dog park
  • Paved roads
  • Tent sites

Big Woods Lake Campground – Camping in Iowa 

camping in Iowa

Credit to cedarfalls.com

1501 E Lake St

Cedar Falls, Iowa 50613

Phone: (319) 433-7275

Big Woods Lake Campground is owned by the City of Cedar Falls and managed by the Black Hawk County Conservation Board, ensuring consistent upkeep. The lake itself is 86 acres and 32 feet deep at its deepest point. The lake offers no wake boating and excellent fishing for largemouth bass, panfish, walleye and northern pike.

The campground offers 55 full hookup campsites as well as a non-modern camping area. Each full hookup site includes a level camp pad, electricity (30 and 50 amp), water (seasonal) and sewer. Their non-modern camp area offers campers the option of camping with or without electricity. All campsites include the use of a fire ring and picnic table as well as wireless internet. The campground overlooks Big Woods Lake and is bordered on the south side by the Cedar Valley Trail System.

Amenities Include:

  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Fishing
  • Cabin rental
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Boat ramps

State Park Camping In Iowa 

Staying in state and federal campgrounds is often even less expensive, or even free. If you’re looking for a state park, we’ve got a few favorites. Iowa is divided into four regions for purposes of listing camping opportunities available in the state parks. To find a state park where you’re going, visit the official state parks website.

camping in Iowa

Okoboji Lake from Pikes Point State Park | by DonMiller_ToGo

Camping in Iowa – Northwest Region Parks 

Parks in this region are near the cities of Fort Dodge and Sioux City. 

  • State Wildlife Management Areas
  • 1 State Fish Hatchery
  • 25 State Parks
  • 1 National Wildlife Refuge
  • 1 State Wildlife Area

Camping in Iowa – Northeast Region Parks  

camping in Iowa

George Wyth State Park
Credit to ReserveAmerica.com

Parks in this region are near Dubuque, Cedar Falls, Waterloo, and Mason City.

  • 17 State Parks
  • 1 State Wildlife Management Area
  • 1 Cemetery
  • 2 State Forests
  • 6 State Wildlife Areas

Camping in Iowa – Southwest Region Parks

camping in Iowa

Big Creek State Park
Credit to romtec.com

Parks in this region are near the cities of: Council Bluff, Des Moines, West Des Moines, Urbandale, Ames, Ankeny, Indianola, Johnston, Boone, Altoona, Waukee, and Clive.

  • 1 State Fish Hatchery
  • 9 State Wildlife Management Areas
  • 1 National Wildlife Refuge
  • 2 State Forests
  • 10 State Wildlife Areas
  • 1 State Wildlife Refuge
  • 21 State Parks

Camping in Iowa – Southeast Region Parks

camping in Iowa

Bellevue State Park
Credit to Stanford InfoLab

Parks in this region are near the cities of: Cedar Rapids, Marion, Bettendorf, Iowa City, Marshall Town, Muscatine, Ottumwa, Burlington, Clinton, Davenport, Newton, Coralville, Oskaloosa,

  • 2 State Forests
  • 1 National Wildlife Refuge
  • 6 State Wildlife Management Areas
  • 1 National Historic Site
  • 1 State Wildlife Refuge
  • 20 State Parks
  • 7 State Wildlife Areas

Lake Red Rock Recreational Area, Marion County 

Lake Red Rock is Iowa’s largest lake, so if you’re in the area for a fishing or beach trip, camping is the perfect option for staying overnight. The area is about 10 minutes away from Pella, and there are many campgrounds in the area including: 

Elk Rock State Park Campground – Camping in Iowa 

camping in Iowa

Credit to reserveamerica.com

Elk Rock State Park is located on Iowa’s largest water body, Lake Red Rock. With more than 50,000 acres of public land to use, the Red Rock area boasts a wide array of recreational opportunities. Elk Rock State Park, with some of its unique amenities, is especially attractive to horse enthusiasts.

Elk Rock has two campgrounds for campers. The nonequestrian campground has both electric and non-electric sites. A modern shower building and trailer dumping station are available, as well as a self-dispensing firewood machine located next to the shower building.

The equestrian campground features both electric and non-electric sites also. A modern shower building, horse stalls, hitching rails and a 100 foot by 200 foot riding arena are available.

Hickory Ridge Wilderness Camp – Camping in Iowa

Learn More

Hickory Ridge Wilderness Camp is just that—a wilderness camp. The campground is a 200-acre paddle-in, hike-in primitive campground located on the south side of Lake Red Rock. The area includes eight campsites (all first-come, first-served as of January 2015).  There is no charge to camp in this area.

Camping in Iowa – Southwest Region Parks

Council Bluff, Des Moines, West Des Moines, Urbandale, Ames, Ankeny, Indianola, Johnston, Boone, Altoona, Waukee, and Clive.

camping in Iowa

Credit to suntex.com

Saylorville Lake – Camping in Iowa

Learn More

Another gorgeous lake area in Iowa, Saylorville Lake is a favorite spot for campers around the Des Moines area. With 4 different campgrounds to choose from Saylorville Lake is sure to provide a camping experience tailored to you.  Their campgrounds are host to a variety of scenery ranging from upland hardwoods in Acorn Valley and Cherry Glen campgrounds, to planted prairie in Prairie Flower campground, to riverside views and bottomland timber in Bob Shetler campground.

All campgrounds are open to both RV and tent camping; however, Acorn Valley hosts some tent-only campsites and also has a youth group site that is available for use by organized youth groups such as the boy scouts. Prairie Flower campground is also host to group loops, which allows a large group to camp together in a wagon-wheel formation.

Acorn Valley – Camping in Iowa

camping in Iowa

Credit to usbr.gov

Learn More

9719 Corydon Dr

Johnston, IA 50131

Phone: (515) 276-0429

Acorn Valley Campground is located on the 26,000-acre Saylorville Lake Project, which stretches over 50 miles up the Des Moines River Valley. The lake provides a wide variety of recreational activities, including boating, swimming, fishing, hiking, and hunting.

Amenities Include:

  • Dump Station
  • Flush Toilets
  • Showers
  • Playgrounds
  • Paved H/C Site
  • Drinking Water
  • Small Pond
  • No Alcohol Allowed

Cherry Glen Campground – Camping in Iowa

camping in Iowa

Credit to RoverPass

Learn More

Cherry Glen, the oldest and most popular campground on the lake, is nestled on a compact 13-acre wooded ridge, part of the 26,000-acre Saylorville Lake Project. The Lake stretches more than 50 miles up the Des Moines River Valley and provides a wide variety of recreational activities, including boating, swimming, fishing, hiking, and hunting.

Amenities Include:

  • Accessible Flush Toilets
  • Dump Station
  • Accessible Showers
  • Biking
  • Accessible Pit Toilets
  • Boat Ramp
  • Accessible Playground
  • Drinking Water
  • Educational Programs
  • Electric Hookups
  • Entrance Station
  • Fishing
  • Grills
  • Hiking
  • Picnic Area
  • Picnic Shelters
  • Recycling
  • Sailing
  • Trash Collection
  • Vending Machines
  • Water Skiing
  • Waterfront Sites

Prairie Flower Recreation Area – Camping in Iowa

camping in Iowa

Credit to The Dyrt

Learn More

5600 NW 78th Ave
Johnston, Iowa 50131
Phone:
(515) 984-6925

Prairie Flower Recreation Area is located on the 26,000-acre Saylorville Lake Project, which stretches more than 50 miles up the Des Moines River Valley. Visitors enjoy Saylorville Lake for its excellent boating, sailing, water skiing, windsurfing and swimming opportunities. Anglers will find walleye, wiper, largemouth bass, catfish, crappie and northern pike.

The paved Neal Smith Trail winds 24 miles from Des Moines to Big Creek State Park and connects the campgrounds on the east side of the lake. It is designated as a National Recreation Trail and is used for biking, hiking, jogging, walking and in-line skating. 

Amenities Include:

  • 168 Campsites
  • 158 Standard electric sites
  • 10 Group Standard electric sites

Bob Shetler Campground – Camping in Iowa

camping in Iowa

Credit to RVParking.com

Learn More

5600 NW 78th Ave

Johnston, Iowa 50131

Phone: (515) 276-0873

Bob Shetler Recreation Area is located in the tailwater area below the 26,000-acre Saylorville Lake Project, which stretches more than 50 miles up the Des Moines River Valley.

The lake provides a wide variety of recreational activities, including boating, swimming, fishing, hiking, and hunting. Large shade trees dot the open grassy areas of the campground, which offers excellent views of the Des Moines River. Most campsites are within an easy walking distance of the shore. The campground offers 67 family sites, all with electric hookups. Amenities include flush and pit toilets, showers, drinking water and a dump station. The campground also provides educational programs, group shelters, and playgrounds.

Amenities Include:

  • Accessible Showers
  • Large lake Cabin for rent
  • Biking
  • Electric Hookups
  • Entrance Station
  • Fish Cleaning Stations
  • Fishing
  • Flush Toilets
  • Grills
  • Hiking
  • Picnic Area
  • Picnic Shelters
  • Playground
  • Recycling
  • Trash Collection
  • Vending Machines