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Pilot Knob State Park Trail

8 Best Places To Go Hiking And Camping In Iowa (2024)

Iowa is a beautiful Midwestern State housing some of the best Hiking and Camping adventures in America. The Hawkeye State is popular for the different landscapes its geography has. The uniqueness here knows no bounds, from flatlands (majorly) to bluffs, rolling hills, and cliffs. And for exploring this outdoor spread, there isn’t a better way than hiking and camping. Fortunately, the Hawkeye State offers several splendid hiking trails and campgrounds within its boundaries. So whether you prefer a good old tent, a cozy cabin, or the comfort of your own RV, the abundance of options here makes it for all.

For any outdoorsy person, hiking at one of Iowa’s trails and getting that perfect tan is like getting a warm mug of coffee during a snowy summer day. Ok, we know the resemblance of these two is pole apart, but you can’t disagree that the internal feeling for both resonates quite much. Ok, with that said, without dragging much, here are some of the most popular places for Hiking and Camping in Iowa. So, if you are planning for a few days at Iowa’s outdoor spread, do check for some options from the list below. Have a look:

8 Best Places To Go Hiking and Camping In Iowa

Most Popular Hiking Trails in Iowa

1. Two-Mile Trail

The Two-Mile Trail is a popular hiking trail in the Beeds Lake State Park. This easy and small Trail wraps around the beautiful Beeds Lake and is quite popular amongst families and novice hikers. Every participant must hike to the base of the dam to observe the unique limestone face. Upon standing there, one can feel a cool refreshing mist all across as water rolls down the limestone. Two-Mile Trail isn’t just a hikers’ wonderland but is also popular amongst cyclists, joggers, and cross-country skiers (during the season). Hiking here also provides an opportunity for accessing the lake. On its south side lies a beach that calls up for fun activities, including fishing, boating, and swimming. One of the best times to explore the Two-Mile Trail is near the sunset hours since the views then appear extremely mesmerizing.

2. Pilot Knob Trail

The Pilot Knob Trail is a beautiful trail to the Pilot Knob tower near Forest City. Meandering through a quarter-mile, the Trail has a slight elevation with an upward slope to the tower. The route is further followed by some wooden stairs that make for some great picture opportunities. Once you reach the top, the views in front of you are truly rewarding and mesmerizing. Though hiking here is an all-season affair, falls are more popular due to the fall foliage of the surrounding forested setting. The similar pathway and nearby trails also offer Snowmobiling and cross-country skiing opportunities during winters. There’s even a warming house with heat and electricity for comforting the hikers during winters.

Pilot Knob State Park Trail

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3. Dancehall Cave Trail

The Trail to Dancehall Cave is one of the six hiking trails located in Maquoketa Caves State Park. The Dancehall Cave Trail, of course, is the most popular amongst them all, offering visitors the opportunity to see the unique geology of the park. The State Park has a 6-mile trail system that meanders through multiple accessible caves and other scenic features. While weaving through rich landscapes, this Trail will allow visitors to walk or crawl inside the caves. The major amongst them is the 1,100-foot’ Dancehall Cave’, the longest in the park and Iowa as well. Dancehall cave is easy to walk and explore, but rain boots are recommended since it has water and slush. The cave is lit; however, hikers might need a headlamp to explore it nicely. Also, avoid the monsoon season as it might land you up into knee or waist-high water.

4. Bur Oak Nature Trail

Definitely one of the best places to go hiking in Iowa, the Bur Oak Nature Trail is known for its easy introduction to nature. The said Trail is a part of Viking Lake State Park and wraps around the namesake lake. It stretches nearly one mile long and is considered an easy route for hikers of all skill levels. The Trail operates year-round and turns up for cross-country skiing during the snow season. The Bur Oak Nature trail joins the Whitetail Trail going almost 6 miles long for hikers who want to go a little further. Though it still stays easy, welcoming one and all. Hikers can also enjoy swimming and fishing at Viking Lake on any given day. For extended fun, there are picnic tables and campgrounds nearby.

Most Popular Campgrounds in Iowa

5. Des Moines West KOA Holiday

One of the best-rated campgrounds in Iowa, the Des Moines West KOA Holiday offers modern-style camping opportunities. It is basically a family retreat campground with multiple camping sites, RVing sites, hookup sites, and different types of camping cabins. The West KOA Holiday has a lot of recreational opportunities for visitors of all age groups. Some of the opportunities include a Huge Jumping Pillow, Jump Shot (Trampoline Basketball), Ladder Ball, Horseshoes, 2 Dog Parks, Water Wars, Paddle Boats, Hunt Brother’s Pizza & Wings. They even organize weekend activities, ensuring fun and engagement for one and all. The Des Moines West KOA Holiday boosts a lot of country charm and thus is often jam-packed with camping enthusiasts.

6. Coralville Dam Complex Campgrounds

For a rustic camping experience in Iowa, there an any better option than the Coralville Dam Complex Campgrounds. The camping ground is located on the shores of Coralville Lake and is known for its excellent outdoor recreational opportunities. Enthusiasts can choose from over a hundred camping sites. The options range from primitive tenting to full hookup RVing. The booking charges for the same are from $14 to $26. Though in case every single camping site at Dam Complex is occupied, campers can move towards the West Overlook Campground. Along with camping, Coralville allows for activities like hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, and excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. Some of the common amenities here include potable water, a dump station, modern showers, a Vault restroom, and flush toilets.

7. Big Woods Lake Campground

Big Woods Lake Campground, though, is located within an urban settlement; despite that, it has a real rural feel to it. The campground consists of 55 full hookup campsites, 2 rustic cabins, 1 modern cabin, and a non-modern camping area. Enthusiasts can pick from modern and non-modern camping options depending upon their comfort. While some campsites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, others are reservable (3 days in advance). All the campsites and cabins are well placed overlooking Big Woods Lake and its scenic beauty. The lake is also great for fishing opportunities, and some of the popular catches here include northern pike, walleye, panfish, and largemouth bass. The Cedar Valley Trail System is on the south side of the campground, which offers some great hiking opportunities.

8. Sugar Bottom Campground

Sugar Bottom Campground is one of the three campgrounds on the shores of Coralville Lake and the largest amongst them all. The campground is home to over 200 camping sites, including primitive walk-in tent sites and full hookup campsites. Each of them is available in a different price range, from $14 to $200 per night. Some of the common amenities here include playgrounds, a swimming beach, horseshoe pits, an 18-hole Disc golf course, 10 miles of mountain bike trails, a swimming beach and boat ramp for registered campers, a flush restroom, modern showers with cold and hot water, and an amphitheater. Campers who often prefer camping in groups can access the group camping area with four loops for a total of 29 sites. Recreational adventure opportunities at Sugar Bottom Campground include picnicking, water activities, mountain biking, hiking, disc golfing, swimming, boating, and hunting. Though above them, the most popular and magnetic activity here is fishing.

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