Try this 8 stop nature road trip of Iowa

Try this 8 stop nature road trip of Iowa

In round trip order, find your nearest stop and continue along the list:

1) Lacey Keosauqua State Park

Dedicated in 1920 as Iowa’s second state park, Lacey-Keosauqua State Park spans 1,653 acres and offers ample opportunity for fishing, hiking, camping and swimming. Oak-hickory bluffs and valleys characterize the park, including a three mile trail along the bluffs of the Des Moines River. Lacey-Keosauqua is a historic river crossing site along the Mormon western trek in the mid-19th century. Many of the park’s structures were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s and are available for day-use.



2) Springbrook State Park

Springbrook State Park is a quiet retreat in Guthrie County, encompassing 930 acres of rolling hills and mature timber. Many of the park’s structures were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s, creating a nostalgic setting for park visitors. A multifamily cabin called the Sherburne House is perfect for large families or groups, and the lake is a popular destination for swimming and kayaking.


3) Ledges State Park

Ledges State Park is one of Iowa’s most historic and unique nature destinations, especially for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. A four-mile trail system winds through steep slopes and scenic overviews, with sandstone ledges towering 100 feet above the Des Moines River. Numerous 1930s CCC structures can be viewed throughout the park including an iconic stone bridge spanning Peas Creek. An ideal destination for the seasoned hiker, daytime picnickers and campers, Ledges State Park takes visitors on a breathtaking excursion amongst Iowa’s natural beauty.


4) Clear Lake State Park

Clear Lake State Park offers diverse activities on one of Iowa’s most popular lakes. The 3,000-acre lake is a draw for boating, fishing and windsurfing. The park features 50 acres of open spaces and mature oak trees along with a highly popular campground. Several acres of picnic grounds with tables and grilles are available for day-use. The nearby town of Clear Lake is a summer tourist destination with numerous stores and restaurants. 


5) Backbone State Park

Dedicated in 1920 as Iowa’s first state park, Backbone State Park is one of the most geographically unique locations in Iowa. The steep and narrow ridge of bedrock from the Maquoketa River forms the highest point in northeast Iowa - The Devil’s Backbone - giving the park its legendary name. Take a walk through history by checking out the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) museum, explore the rugged 21-mile multi-use trail system or fish in some of Iowa’s best trout streams. Whether you’re an adrenaline seeker or just wanting to get outdoors for the day, Backbone State Park has something for everyone.


6) Palisades-Kepler State Park

Palisades-Kepler State Park is a beautiful outdoor destination on the banks of the Cedar River outside Cedar Rapids. Dramatic river bluffs, deep ravines, majestic hardwood trees and an abundance of wildlife characterize the area, and Native American Indian mounds mark the early history of the park. Established in 1922, Louis H. Kepler donated his estate to the park in 1928, nearly doubling its size. Much of the park’s rustic character can be found in park structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.


7) Maquoketa Caves State Park

With more caves than any state park, Maquoketa Caves is one of Iowa’s most unique outdoor attractions. Enormous bluffs tower throughout the park, and a six-mile trail system winds through geologic formations and forests brimming with natural beauty. As one of the state’s earliest state parks, Maquoketa Caves has been a popular destination for picnickers and hikers since the 1860s. Grab your hiking shoes and a flashlight before traveling to Maquoketa Caves, because this state park is nothing short of adventure.


8) Wildcat Den State Park

One of the most photographed Iowa state parks, at Wildcat Den State Park, visitors will find both historical and natural treasures to explore. Trails wind through a variety of terrain, leading to geological formations along the trail’s sandstone bluffs. Visit the Pine Creek Grist Mill, the oldest working grist mill between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains, for a glimpse into Iowa’s past. Whether you’re looking to explore history or enjoy the peace and quiet of the outdoors, Wildcat Den State Park is the ideal destination.

Visit to rent a car or find a hotel near a state park.
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