By Brad Lane
Nothing adds to the excitement of summer quite like a family camping trip. Exploring unique landscapes by day, roasting marshmallows over the fire by night, and creating memories that will never be forgotten. If you happen to be in the state of Iowa, there are plenty of opportunities to partake in these adventures that will be remembered for a lifetime. Whether you want to hop in a canoe, pedal a mountain bike or even explore an active cave system, spread across the state of Iowa are plenty of opportunities for you and your family to bust out the tents and have a good time. While there are plenty scenic spots to choose from in Iowa, if you want to set the bar high for great camping weekends, it would be worth checking out these five great campgrounds in Iowa.
Serving as one of Iowa’s most popular state parks, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that Ledges State Park also boasts an impressive campground area. Featuring a collection of electric and non-electric campsites, as well as 12 hike-in campsites, Ledges has a total of 95 places to pitch a tent or park the RV to stay the night. All the conveniences of a modern campsite can be found at Ledges, including a bathroom and shower area, running water and even a playground. The real excitement for the campground at Ledges State Park isn’t the facilities though, it’s the wondrous natural environment that surrounds it. Featuring four miles of hiking trails, plus road biking options and enough canyons and bluffs to snap a few pictures, staying the night at this celebrated park is only one small part of the whole wonderful experience.
Sugar Bottom sits on the shores of Coralville Lake and offers several different recreation options set amongst beautiful Iowa scenery, with plenty of spots to stay the night. With over 232 single sites available, ranging from hike-in sites to full hook-up, there’s still almost not enough space to hold the big crowds that flock to this recreation destination of the Midwest! Once you secure your camping spot in Sugar Bottom, you have your choice between boating, hiking, mountain biking, swimming, disc golf and much more, with the only limit on the things to do at Sugar Bottom being the time you have to do them in.
For a truly unique camping and exploring vacation, Maquoketa Caves State Park can show you a different look at the world beneath your feet. Serving as some of the most accessible and densely concentrated cave systems in Iowa, Maquoketa Caves can interest everyone in the whole family. For the timid cave explorers, the large Dancehall Cave features electric lights and a walkway to help guide your steps. If you are a feeling a little more adventurous, Maquoketa Caves also features a variety of caves to explore ranging from tight squeezes to sprawling corridors. With so much to see and explore at Maquoketa Caves, it is always wise to use one of their 29 campgrounds situated in a quiet grove of mature pine trees in the western edge of the park.
The city of Decorah is one of Iowa’s biggest adventure destinations, and between the rolling hills of generous scenery and the many paths to explore them on, a great way to experience all the natural splendor is by grabbing a campsite at the Pulpit Rock Campground. With over 130 campsites to choose from, ranging from RV-accessible to tents only, it’s not so much which campsite you pick at Pulpit Rock, it’s what you decide to do from there that will define your experience. Canoeing the Upper Iowa River at Pulpit Rock is easy enough with their dedicated boat landing, and the state-famous Trout Run Trail is accessed nearby, giving the perfect opportunity to see some big fish and explore the scenic surroundings.
The Iowa Great Lakes region in the northwest side of the state is the perfect place for a family adventure away from home. Whether it’s boating on the water, building sand castles on the shore or taking part in any one of the many cultural happenings of this area, it all adds up to a worthy vacation. To add a little camping into the mix for your next Iowa Great Lakes adventure, the Marble Beach State Recreation Area in Spirit Lake not only offers the most campsites out of any other campgrounds in the area (224 campsites to be exact), but because it’s in the heart of all the Great Lake action, you never even have to leave this recreation spot to have a great time.