Step Outside - Iowa WELCOME TO STEP OUTSIDE! Find the best outdoor fun near you! en-us 30 http://stepoutside.org/ Step Outside - Iowa 144 144 http://stepoutside.org/ https://cdnstep-americantownscom.netdna-ssl.com/img/stepoutside_logo.gif Fri, 21 Sep 2018 19:12:48 -0500 5 Best Fishing Spots in Iowa From the state’s running rivers to its serene lakes to its secret destinations, Iowa is an incredible place to fish. Anglers will find everything from largemouth bass to crappie to catfish. With the right bait and in the right spot, you might snag that big catch. Here are the five best fishing spots in Iowa.  

Pinicon Ridge Park in Linn County is a popular place for many types of outdoor adventures including hiking and camping, but for those anglers out there, the one reason to check out this county park is the fishing. Featuring smallmouth bass, bigmouth buffalo, and northern pike, among many other fish species, fishermen and fisherwomen can cast out their bait into this river anytime of the year with a good chance to catch something. The Iowa DNR recognizes the Wapsipinicon River and the Pinicon Ridge Park access as some of the most premier fishing in the state of Iowa, so it’s no secret spot, but with plenty of fish to catch and plenty of room to cast out a line, you can see for yourself what makes this a great fishing location in Iowa.

Perhaps the only home to the prized Kentucky spotted bass in Iowa, Lake Macbride is an angler’s dream come true when it comes to high-quality fishing. Besides the Kentucky spotted bass, Lake Macbride also is home to walleye, catfish, and musky, and with seven boat ramps available, plus rentals on shore, the possibilities are endless for your next big catch. Lake Macbride is a popular spot not just for the anglers also, and within your fishing visit you can expect to see many other Iowa denizens playing on the shore, hiking the trails or staying at the campgrounds. Whatever activities you decide to add onto your fishing adventure at Lake Macbride State Park, you’ll be sure to catch a great time exploring the waters of this man-made reservoir. 

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Recognized as the first county conservation man-made lake in the state of Iowa, Hannen Lake within Hannen Park is a stocked-full fishing adventure waiting to happen. Featuring 45 acres of water to fish in and boat upon, there is good chance you’ll catch black crappie, bluegills or largemouth bass, making for an exciting moment every time you reel something in. The Iowa DNR also stocks this man-made lake with catfish throughout the year, giving every angler even more variety of what they can catch at Hannen Lake, and with an RV campground not far from the shore, this is one fishing hole in Iowa that can be easily explored for multiple days at a time. 

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The Iowa DNR operates eight different trout hatcheries throughout the state, and while all offer excellent places to cast a line, the Big Spring location in Elkader seems to stand out the most. Perhaps it’s the flow of the Turkey River of which Big Spring flows into, or maybe all the amenities including a trout pond, a kid’s fishing spot and primitive campgrounds, whatever it is, this Elkader fishing spot is one of the best in the state. Anglers need both a fishing permit and trout stamp to catch this magnificent fish, plus some patience and a good eye, but land yourself the big one and you’ll be permanently hooked on the trout fishing found at the Big Spring. 

Comprising the main attraction for Lake Darling State Park, Lake Darling itself is a premier Iowa fishing destination featuring black crappie, bluegill, and largemouth bass. Located four miles west of Brighton, Lake Darling draws many visitors throughout the year, and while you can expect to find a lot of fishing poles on the shore and in the water, with over 300 acres of lake to explore, including a 1.5-mile paved fishing trail, there is plenty of space to play. The Iowa DNR does stock the lake periodically throughout the year, but the lake provides enough habitat for many fish to flourish on their own. While it’s never a guarantee to catch anything on any fishing trip, with the scenic surroundings of Lake Darling, it is a guarantee to have a good time at this great fishing spot in Iowa.  

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http://stepoutside.org/article/5-best-fishing-spots-in-iowa http://stepoutside.org/article/5-best-fishing-spots-in-iowa Thu, 30 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
Camping Done Right: 6 Best Outdoor Stores in Iowa Everyone knows that if you want to do camping right, you need to go with the right gear. From tents to sleeping bags and everything else that makes camping an enjoyable experience, the great outfitters of Iowa will help prepare you for a safe and successful trip. Here are the best outdoor stores in the state. 

Located off highway 6 in Iowa City, Fin & Feather is THE great outdoors store, providing equipment and expertise for hunting, fishing, and overnight camping. Within their camping department, Fin & Feather dedicates plenty of store space to try out some tents, slip into some sleeping bags, and lug around some weight in the many backpacks lining the walls. Featuring top of the name brands like Marmot, the North Face and Sierra Designs, if Fin & Feather doesn’t have what you are looking for, you may be lost in your backpacking endeavors, because they truly have it all. 

Located in West Des Moines, Active Endeavors lives up to its name and provides all the essential equipment you could need for backpacking and camping. Featuring technical clothing from name brands like Patagonia, and top of the line technical equipment from brands like Black Diamond, whether you are looking to climb a distant mountain or try camping for the first time, Active Endeavors of West Des Moines can get you there. 

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Located in proximity to the Iowa State University campus, Jax Outdoor Store is a popular place for students and Ames community members alike. Covering camping and hiking, fishing and hunting, sports and fitness and optical and photography, Jax is a real treasure trove when it comes to adventurous activity. For the backpackers out there, Jax carries trusted equipment from a lot of big-name retailers, including Western Mountaineering, Therm-a-Rest and MSR.

Located in the adventure rich community of Waverly, CrawDaddy Outdoors is your one-stop shop for all outdoor gear. While CrawDaddy is a great place to grab some overnight camping basics, this local specialty shop specializes in kayak trips and touring. Carrying such coveted brands as Jackson Kayak, Werner Paddles and Grizzly Coolers, CrawDaddy Outdoors can get you out on the water AND spending the night comfortably. 

Located in uptown Ankeny near Des Moines, Pingora Outdoors sells gear for a lifetime. Featuring top-name brands in outdoor equipment like Nalgene, Petzl and Gregory Mountain Products, alongside the fantastic selection of outdoor gear, Pingora’s knowledgeable and helpful staff are there to help find what’s best for you. With Pingora’s online ordering system, you can shop locally from wherever you happen to be. 

With locations in Coralville, Cedar Falls, Sioux City, and Wes Des Moines, SCHEELS is a one-stop shop for a wide variety of outdoor gear and accessories. Ranging from fishing, hunting, paddling, golfing and camping, SCHEELS has everything under one room you’ll need to have a fun and comfortable time outdoors. For their backpacking and camping arsenal, SCHEELS carries celebrated brands including Coleman, Kelty and Big Agnes

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http://stepoutside.org/article/camping-done-right-6-best-outdoor-stores-in-iowa http://stepoutside.org/article/camping-done-right-6-best-outdoor-stores-in-iowa Wed, 15 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Gorgeous Beach Campsites in Iowa The only thing that can make a camping experience even more enjoyable is if your campsite happens to overlook a stunning body of water. If you’re in Iowa, there is plenty of opportunity to get a lakeside campsite, and nearly endless reasons to do so. Whether your style of camping involves an RV or tent, and whether you are looking to take part in some recreational activities or you prefer to sit quietly and watch the sunset, you can’t go wrong while visiting any one of these five gorgeous campsites in Iowa.

With gorgeous lakeside campsites and full plug-in amenities, Cenla RV Park has been dishing out great camping experiences in Iowa for over 40 years. While the facilities are nice and up-to-date, what has leant towards the Cenla RV Park’s popularity all these years is the views obtained from camping there. Overlooking the scenic Center Lake, Cenla RV Park is one of the best camping options found in the Iowa Great Lakes, and is one of the few campgrounds where half the fun is just simply sitting in front of your RV or tent and watching the day go by. 

Sitting on the shores of Saylorville Lake, the Cherry Glen Campground can open the doors to a great camping experience. With over 125 sites available, you can expect everything to be booked up during the summer weekends, so make those reservations ahead of time! Whether you are looking to get a boat out on the water, play a little disc golf, hike on the trails, make some s’mores or simply get out of the house for awhile and enjoy some pristine Iowa nature, the Cherry Glen Campground is the right space for you. 

Serving as one of the most popular campgrounds in the Iowa state park system, Clear Lake goes above and beyond most ordinary camping expectations. Not only are the modern facilities perfect for making your nature time more enjoyable, but with an ideal location near the water, enabling you to go from sleeping bag to swimming in less than a minute, this campsite is worth making reservations for. While you are there, Clear Lake State Park has an abundance of recreation to participate in, including boating, hiking and wildlife watching. However you spend your time outside of the tent at Clear Lake State Park, it will surely be consist of many memorable moments. 

Situated alongside Iowa’s largest lake, Lake Red Rock, Howell Station is the perfect connection between the natural beauty of the area and the culturally rich communities that surround it. With over 140 campsites available, all lending quick access to the water and providing plenty of shade, there are a lot of spots to choose from when visiting Howell Station. What’s most recommended when visiting Howell Station is to spend more than one night camping to ensure you get a taste of all the recreation provided by Lake Red Rock, and also have an opportunity to explore the surrounding towns of Pella and Knoxville while you visit. 

While the illustrious Honey Creek Resort State Park does have some excellent indoor lodging options to indulge on, if you really want to the best views at this state-owned resort, it’s worth staying at the lakeside RV park. Not only do you get the best views of the surrounding Rathbun Lake, and immediate access to the water, but with each stay you also get access to boat rentals and passes to the Buccaneer Bay indoor waterpark. Undoubtedly one of the best camping experiences you’ll find in the state of Iowa, Honey Creek Resort State Park sets a high bar when it comes to lakeside campsites anywhere else in the country. 

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5 Beautiful Backpack Camping Spots in Iowa While traditional campgrounds with running water and electrical outlets will always have their appeal, if you really want a true camping experience, the obvious choice is to strap on a backpack and start your journey. Be aware: There is a lot of privately-owned land in Iowa, making overnight camping restrictive in certain locations. But the stunning state forests of Iowa allow you to set up camp in a multitude of scenic spots. Here are our favorites.  

For perhaps the most famous Iowa backpacking trail, the Yellow River State Forest in Allamakee County boasts an impressive 8,000 acres of wilderness to explore. For the best backpacking and trailside camping within the Yellow River State Forest, visitors are encouraged to check out the Paint Creek unit, which has an impressive 25 miles of marked trails to follow along. While Yellow River State Forest is not the only place to find backpacking campsites in Iowa, it is well regarded as the best.  

Located in the luscious Loess Hills of western Iowa, the Loess Hills State Forest encompasses everything that is remarkable in this landscape—rolling hills, swaying prairie, and a variety of woodland landscapes. To get the most out of your Loess Hills State Forest experience, it’s recommended to check out Preparation Canyon State Park. There, you can explore the unique trail systems that wind their way across the horizon and lead to a small number of backpack campsites where you can sleep amongst the open sky and stars.  

Consisting of over 15,000 acres of forest spread across seven units and five counties, Stephens State Forest, just south of Des Moines, is the largest state forest in Iowa. If you want to find some pack-in backpack campsites, you need to head over to the Woodburn Unit. Utilizing six miles of trails, the Woodburn Unit within Stephens State Forest is home to five different campsites, all of which will leave you with a feeling of solitude amongst the nature. 

To escape away from some of the other tourists, it’s recommended to pack your boat and head over to the Hickory Ridge Wilderness Camp on the south side of the lake. Functioning as a paddle-in, hike-in primitive camp, Hickory Ridge has eight campsites available, each on a first-come/first-serve basis, and each delivering on a solitary Lake Red Rock experience. 

For those that don’t mind the idea of “roughing it” a bit more in their camping experience, the backcountry campsites found at the Hitchcock Nature Center are right for you. While it’s true that these campsites are lacking in amenities compared to your traditional campground, what they bring extra to the table is a closer experience with nature, ensuring for an outdoor experience worth remembering. The Hitchcock Nature Center only offers three backcountry camping spots, so be sure to arrive at the trailhead with an early start to the day. 

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http://stepoutside.org/article/5-beautiful-backpack-camping-spots-in-iowa http://stepoutside.org/article/5-beautiful-backpack-camping-spots-in-iowa Tue, 14 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Awesome Campgrounds for Families in Iowa 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.

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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.

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Youproduction/Shutterstock.com http://stepoutside.org/article/5-awesome-campgrounds-for-families-in-iowa http://stepoutside.org/article/5-awesome-campgrounds-for-families-in-iowa Mon, 13 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Awesome RV Campsites in Iowa Whether you’re looking for a spot to park a while or you’re searching for a weekend getaway, RV parks in Iowa offer beautiful spaces to escape. Spanning from the water-lined bluffs of northeast to the great lakes on the western side of the state, there are an abundance of excellent spots to park your rig. With clean showers, playgrounds, and other amenities, you can escape to nature without removing yourself from the modern world too much. Here are five awesome RV campsites in the state.  

The Deer Run Resort in Elkader is one of the premier spots for RV camping in the state of Iowa, and it’s not just the 80 different sites to choose from that makes it such a popular place. Featuring first-class showers and picnic tables, Deer Run Resort really tops the charts with immediate access to the great surrounding attractions. The adjacent five-acre Three Sisters lake is a great place to cast a line. Plenty of hiking trails can be found not far away, plus the nearby Elkader downtown district looks like it was ripped right from a postcard image. With plenty of places to stay, Deer Run Resort should be your first option when it comes to RV camping in Iowa. 

Miners Creek of Guttenberg covers all the camping needs. There are two cabins available to rent and plenty of tent and primitive camping spaces to choose from, but the most popular way to spend the night here is by parking your RV and plugging in. From the campsite, campers can enjoy the spring-fed, cold water stream that dissects the area, and with the many hiking options springing from the Miners Creek Hideaway, it’s easy to lose yourself in the nature of the area. 

Head on down to the Harvest Farm Campground to have yourself more than a few good nights of fun. Featuring 32 sites of full electric and water hook-up, what really draws the crowds to Harvest Farm Campgrounds is all the recreation options found all around. Whether you like billiards or lawn darts, hiking or biking, volleyball or canoeing, even day spa options, Harvest Farm Campground has it all. Fun for the whole family and capable of keeping anyone’s interest for weeks at a time, if you are looking for a full-service RV resort, look no further than Harvest Farm Campground in Cresco.

For fast access to the waters of Lake Okoboji, the Ranch RV Park doesn’t get any closer. This isn’t any ordinary RV park that caters towards the occasional customers though, and to spend any time parked at this acclaimed RV destination, a year-long lease is needed. That means whether the Ranch RV Park serves as your permanent home away from home, or your full-time residence, with a year-long lease you’ll have guaranteed access to Lake Okoboji and the many recreation opportunities that surround it. 

Located in the southwest corner of Linn County, Morgan Creek Park paints a pretty picture of the hilly woodlands defined by the moving water of Morgan Creek. To really get the most out of the scenic surroundings of Morgan Creek, it’s worth staying a few nights, and thanks to the adjacent and accommodating RV park that’s part of the park, it’s easy to do so. Featuring plenty of RV spots with full electrical hook-up, all RV sites at Morgan Park are obtained on a first-come, first-serve basis. With all that there is to do, see and experience at this first-class RV resort, Morgan Creek is a very inviting place that encourages you to park and stay awhile.  

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iStock.com/Moma7 http://stepoutside.org/article/5-awesome-rv-campsites-in-iowa http://stepoutside.org/article/5-awesome-rv-campsites-in-iowa Mon, 13 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Awesome Trail Running Spots in Iowa While running is a great exercise, as you circle the block for the umpteenth time, the monotony of the sport may get to you. To spice things up a bit in your running routine, and to get those legs moving towards beautiful landscapes, a good dose of trail running can do the spirit right. If you happen to be in Iowa, there is no lack of options for great trail running spots. Whether you want to stride alongside some lakes or through a forest, these five awesome trail running spots in Iowa will really get you moving.

Located adjacent to the Coralville Lake in eastern Iowa, Lake Macbride State Park provides plenty of trails to explore and see the water. Trail runners at Lake Macbride can opt for beach to dam runs, jogs along the osprey trail or exploring the most-recommended route, the north shore trail which parallels the large lake for nearly five miles. Visitors to Lake Macbride can stay for the day, or utilize the two campgrounds located within the park boundaries to get a multi-day trail running adventure in. 

The lush Loess Hills of western Iowa are one of the state’s most precious landscapes. Comprised of beautiful rolling hills and winding trails, the Loess Hills State Forest provides plenty of recreational activities throughout the bountiful environment. Trail runners and backpackers will want to head over to Preparation Canyon State Park within the Loess Hills State Forest, where miles of trails and backpack sites are theirs to explore. 

Located just south of Des Moines, the city-owned Ewing Park provides many adventures to enjoy. Beyond the professional-level 18-hole disc golf course, and coinciding with the single track mountain biking trails, Ewing hosts some fun and challenging trail running circuits. There are a number of trails that runners can follow when visiting Ewing Park, and they all wind through the dense forest that comprises this municipal space. Truly ambitious runners can connect them all and figure out in no time that Ewing Park provides some trails worth coming back to.  

Just six miles south of Des Moines, Banner Lakes at Summerset State Park provides a tranquil setting to lose yourself not far from the city. Surrounding the lakes, trail runners can find over five miles of pathways to follow. While all provide a good track and better scenery, a recommended route to check out is the Coal Miner’s Daughter Trail. Whichever way you head at Banner Lakes, you’ll be pleasantly inspired by the Iowa landscape. 

Named after Iowa’s state rock, Geode State Park is one of the most popular natural spaces in the southeastern part of the state. In the middle of all the action at Geode State Park, including finding an elusive geode or two, is the Geode Lake which features great beaches to swim at, plenty of fish to catch, and a scenic trail that encircles the entire thing. For those trail runners out there looking for a great spot to stretch the legs, the 6.5-mile lake trail at Geode State Park should be on the top of your list. 

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http://stepoutside.org/article/5-awesome-trail-running-spots-in-iowa http://stepoutside.org/article/5-awesome-trail-running-spots-in-iowa Fri, 10 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Energizing Hikes in Iowa Nature’s best endorphins come from great hikes, and if you are looking for a little pick-me-up activity in Iowa, you don’t have to look very far for a great hiking trail to navigate. Spread out across the state, from the luscious Loess Hills in the west to the rocky outcroppings over the Mississippi River in the East, an energizing hike in Iowa is easy to find. To get those legs moving in the right direction, a great place to start for an exciting time are these five energizing hikes in Iowa.

Located in the stunning northeast region of Iowa, and with over 20 miles of trail to explore, Backbone State Park is an Iowa hiker’s dream come true. There are a lot of energizing hikes when it comes to Backbone State Park, and for the best bang for your buck, the West and East Lake Trails really delivers on it all. Stretching out for three and 2.42-miles respectively, the West and East Lake Trails follow the shore of Backbone Lake, navigating through a dense Iowa ecosystem and some of the most beautiful landscapes in the Iowa State Park system. The East Lake Trail also connects to the state-famous Backbone Trail, which will get your heart pumping based on the view alone. 

Located in the luscious Loess Hills of western Iowa, if you really want to get the full dose of this unbelievably beautiful Iowa environment, the Sylvan-Runkel State Preserve takes you far and along this magnificent landscape. If you want to complete this 12.4-mile out-and-back trail however, you can only spend so much time smelling the wildflowers. This scenic state preserve trail will have you convinced that Iowa might be the most beautiful state in the country. 

While there are plenty of hiking options when it comes to the Mines of Spain Recreation Area, if you want to find the one that will get your quads burning most, the Calcite Trail is right for you. Coming in at just over two miles, the Calcite Trail exposes the native rock that defines much of the recreation area. The steepest section of the Calcite Trail comes right out of the parking lot, which then leads to great views of the nearby Mississippi River. To continue the adventure from the Calcite Trail, users can connect to the Mesquakie or Horseshoe Bluff Trail, which can lead to many full days of adventure.  

There are a few trails in Iowa containing so much scenic beauty that it’s easy to forget what state you’re exploring in. A great example of that can be found with the Squire Point and Woodpecker Trail Systems near the Coralville Lake. While navigating around the rocky banks of the Coralville Lake, trail users experience slight elevation changes, scenic stopping points, and a full dose of the natural Iowa scene. Whether you run them, walk them, or search for some abundant geocaches surrounding them, the Squire Point and Woodpecker Trail Systems will get you ready to tackle the rest of the week. 

Situated in one of Iowa’s most popular state parks, the Crow’s Nest Trail in Ledges State Park will get those legs moving and blood pumping. The entire state park gives glimpse towards the rocky bluffs and deep pockets of forest that define Ledges, and many of the trails lend towards steep steps and fantastic overlooks, including most notably, the Crow’s Nest Trail. Make it to the top of this short, steep trail however, and not only will you feel a sense of accomplishment, but you’ll get a great view alongside it. While you are there, be sure to take advantage of all the trails and views offered by Ledges, and you’ll leave feeling refreshed and renewed. 

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http://stepoutside.org/article/5-energizing-hikes-in-iowa http://stepoutside.org/article/5-energizing-hikes-in-iowa Thu, 09 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
Start Your Trek: 7 Unbeatable Hiking Retailers in Iowa All four seasons in the state of Iowa provide excellent hiking opportunities. Whether you like the hot summer sun or the stillness of winter, perhaps even the preferable shoulder seasons in between, hiking trails are waiting to be explored throughout Iowa. To start your trek right, spread across the state from Davenport to Sioux City, there are some excellent hiking retailers happy to set you up for an adventure. Split between local shops and big box stores, to get your hiking career headed in the right direction, it’s recommended to check out these seven unbeatable hiking retailers in Iowa.   

Featured as the great outdoors store of Iowa, Fin & Feather of Iowa City can supply you with all your hunting, camping, and hiking attire. Featuring top hiking brands including Leki, Merrell and Osprey, Fin & Feather can cover you head to toe for your next hiking adventure. Alongside the big selection of hiking materials, Fin & Feather also has a friendly and knowledgeable staff that can ensure you are outfitted right for whatever hiking adventure you’re about to trek.  

Had a great time with @ospreypacks tonight!!! 📷: @cbarb5

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Located on the east side of the state, Active Endeavors is the hub for the best hiking gear around. Featuring top technical gear and apparel including Patagonia for hiking ware, Keen for the perfect boots and Smartwool for some ever-lasting socks, Active Endeavors can help you tackle any adventure. While you are in the area, Active Endeavors of Iowa is situated in a prime adventure part of the state and the perfect place to test out all your new gear. 

Serving as a central spot for most of the nation when it comes to outdoor gear, REI is mainstay outdoor retailer in the country, and within the last three years REI has provided Iowa with a West Des Moines location. Featuring facets of every outdoor sport, REI provides everything you need and more for a great hiking experience. Featuring their own brand of excellent gear and clothing items, REI also features top brands including Outdoor Research, Salomon and Adventure Medical Kits.

Smoky Mountains in 9 days, people. This is not a drill. #fromwhereimstanding

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Featuring outdoor gear and athletic apparel, DICK's Sporting Goods is a national brand dedicated to providing everything you need to enjoy sports and the outdoors. When it comes to hiking, DICK's Sporting Goods can serve you right with brands like Columbia, the North Face and Garmin. While you are there, DICK's also supplies all the athletic gear you’d need ranging from cheerleading to hockey, making it a one-stop shop for all fun activities outside. 

When packing for #coachsummit2016 stepping up your athleisure game is a must! 💪🏻👟😍 @underarmour @dickssportinggoods

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Eddie Bauer is one of the original outdoor stores in the nation, and it’s their high-quality outdoor apparel that has built them a loyal fan base over all these years. Featuring technical outerwear including long underwear, thermal shirts, and down jackets, Eddie Bauer doesn’t just provide the right gear for a specific adventure, it provides a lifetime of accessibility to the great outdoors. For a wide selection and outlet prices, the Eddie Bauer Outlet Store in Williamsburg provides even more reasons to invest in Eddie Bauer. 

Featuring big brand names at low prices, Dunham’s Sports is a national chain that delivers on all your favorite outdoor and athletic apparel. Featuring brands like Timberland, Yeti and their in-house Aeroline, Dunham’s can get you the right boots, base layers and hydration methods for a great hike. Visit Dunham’s Sports, and you can expect to leave with everything you need to enjoy the great outdoors.

With a few different locations across Iowa, Scheels is a common spot for the outdoor lovers of the state. Whether you need to hike somewhere to hunt, spend the night or just enjoy nature, Scheels has you covered for the entire experience. Featuring top-name brands like Kelty, Carhartt and Itasca, Scheel’s can get you set up at the right price for many classic hikes in a lifetime. Whichever location you choose, whether it’s Coralville, West Des Moines, or Waterloo, you’ll be sure to find exactly what you are looking for and probably more. 

Decisions. Decisions. Whats your choice????? 👢 #sorel

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http://stepoutside.org/article/start-your-trek-7-unbeatable-hiking-retailers-in-iowa http://stepoutside.org/article/start-your-trek-7-unbeatable-hiking-retailers-in-iowa Thu, 09 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
SPOTLIGHT: Things to Do in and Around Stone State Park Featuring a wide variety of trails, dense woodland, and scenic options for overnight adventures, Stone State Park is a western Iowa jewel of a natural space. Located just north of Sioux City, Stone State Park offers adventure throughout the year with hiking trails in the summer and cross-country ski tracks throughout the winter. Stone State Park also offers quick access to the many amenities offered by Sioux City. 

From art museums to historic homesteads, here’s how to make the most of your time in and around Stone State Park.

Situated in the magnificent bluffs and ravines near the Big Sioux River, Stone State Park spans 1,069 acres and boasts lush forested spaces. With many miles of hiking trails, camping areas (including cabins), and prime wildlife viewing opportunities, Stone State Park is a sight to see. 

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Lined with a long row of late-19th-century buildings, all with a distinct Romanesque Revival flare, the Historic Fourth Street of downtown Sioux City could be a great accompaniment for your Stone State Park adventure. Filled with restaurants, nightlife and a handful of boutiques, half of the fun of visiting Historic Fourth Street is just catching the vibe of this preserved and pretty part of town. 

Celebrating the time spent in Sioux City by the Corps of Discovery, the Sioux City Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center adds a little contextual history to enhance your visit to Stone State Park. See for yourself the trials and tribulations faced by the team led by Lewis and Clark, and specifically the time in 1804 when Sergeant Charles Floyd, the first U.S. soldier to die west of the Mississippi, perished near this side of town. Full of interesting and hands-on exhibits, the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center can add a little education to your visit.  

Because you are inevitably going to build up an appetite while exploring Stone State Park, a great place to top of your adventure with a delicious meal is Main + Abbey in Sioux City. Situated at the Hard Rock Casino, Main + Abbey is a gastropub with a London flair, and offers plenty of food and libations to find your fill. With a plethora of first-class American inspired entrees, and over 30 craft beers on tap, if you end your adventure at Stone State Park with dinner at Main + Abbey, you’ll be ending your day on a high note. 

Let us take care of dinner tonight. Your table is waiting. 🍽

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To find some extra educational value with your time spent at Stone State Park, it’s worth checking out the Sioux City Public Museum in downtown Sioux City. Featuring a rotating selection of local and regional artworks, spanning all sorts of forms and traditions, with every visit you can find something new at the Sioux City Public Museum. Also featuring hands-on and interactive displays, the Sioux City Public Museum is a great way to round out the day for all members of the family. 

Operated by the National Park Service and located on the National Register of Historic Places, the Sergeant Floyd Monument in Sioux City commemorates the passing of the first U.S. soldier to die west of the Mississippi in 1804, and the only soldier in the Corps of Discovery who died along the journey. Upon your visit to this towering obelisk, you can learn more about the conditions of Sergeant Floyd’s passing, and further understand your knowledge of the Lewis and Clark expedition and the role the surrounding Sioux City environment played in it.  

Nothing pairs better with the nature you’ll find at Stone State Park than the art you’ll find at the Sioux City Art Center. Featuring a rotating collection of regional, local, national and international art, ranging from water colors to immense lawn sculptures, there is something to catch everyone’s eye at the Sioux City Art Center. Best yet, much like Stone State Park, admission is free to enjoy the Sioux City Art Center, making for an affordable day full of adventure. 

If you are looking for some overnight accommodations that aren’t the campgrounds at Stone State Park, one of the most luxurious options you can opt for in Sioux City is the Stoney Creek Hotel. Standing proudly as one of the nicest overnight stays in Sioux City, Stoney Creek Hotel offers comfortable rooms, a friendly staff and a beautiful courtyard that lends easy access to the sights and things to do in downtown Sioux City. 

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http://stepoutside.org/article/spotlight-things-to-do-in-and-around-stone-state-park http://stepoutside.org/article/spotlight-things-to-do-in-and-around-stone-state-park Thu, 09 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Best Birdwatching Hikes in Iowa An essential aspect of any nature hike is the familiar chirp of birds nearby, coupled with the sight of these incredible creatures soaring by. It’s a fun element of any outdoor outing, and if you want to spot some birds specifically, the state of Iowa has many opportunities to allow you to do so. From Dewey’s Pasture Complex to a variety of National Wildlife Refuges, if anything avian gives you some awe, check out these five wonderful birdwatching hikes in Iowa. 

Consisting of over 5,000 acres to explore, Dewey’s Pasture Complex of northwest Iowa is a Bird Conservation Area recognized by the National Park Service as a Registered Natural Landmark. Highly representative of the avian wildlife found in this prairie pothole region of the state, Dewey’s Pasture Complex contains a dense collection of bird species ranging from green herons to swamp sparrows and kingfisher swans. With a few different trails to explore, and campsites nearby, Dewey’s Pasture is the perfect place for new and experienced birdwatchers. 

Split between the states of Iowa and Nebraska, the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge not only protects native and migratory bird species, but it sets out to preserve an entire ecosystem that is fun to explore. Throughout the year, the different seasons of DeSoto paint a unique natural picture, and for those interested in the birds, the spring and fall attracts mallards, blue and green winged teal, American wigeon and wood ducks. 

#wildlife #desotobend #iowa #nebraska #goodtimes

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Located just north of Des Moines in Polk City, Big Creek State Park is a popular place for many outdoor lovers to visit. At the center of all the attention is the Big Creek State Lake, which besides water activities, provides a great backdrop for hiking and biking trails, as well as a prime habitat for local bird populations. Whether you spot them incidentally from the shore, or you travel the 26-mile trail around the lake looking for one certain species, any trip to Big Creek State Park will be good for birdwatching. 

Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow. -Henry David Thoreau

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Formerly known as Walnut Creek, the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge of south central Iowa aims to protect the tallgrass prairies of the area that once defined nearly the entire state. Alongside its protection of the tallgrass prairie habitat, as well as a reintroduced bison population, the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge is home to a healthy avian community. What type of birds you’ll encounter at Neal Smith depends on the season, and no matter the time of year, this national wildlife refuge always has something amazing to see.

Dedicated to preserving the unique landscape of the Loess Hills of western Iowa, the Hitchcock Nature Center displays over 1,000 acres of preserved beauty and plenty of wildlife. For the birdwatchers out there, the supple habitat of the wind-strewn prairie remnants at the Hitchcock Nature Center lend to plenty of bird species to spot. From late September to December, the Hitchcock Nature Center hosts a HawkWatch, where you can help count the number of migratory visitors the park receives in a season. 

Pure gold.

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http://stepoutside.org/article/5-best-birdwatching-hikes-in-iowa http://stepoutside.org/article/5-best-birdwatching-hikes-in-iowa Thu, 09 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Great Hiking Trails in Iowa No matter the time of year, Iowa has many great hiking trails waiting to be explored. Traverse through the woods or follow a route along a scenic trout stream. Iowa’s natural beauty is best experienced on foot, and these five great hiking trails will help you do just that. 

A popular place for Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty residents to rekindle with natural surroundings, the Woodpecker Trail system that explores the shores of the Coralville Lake is a scenic destination. At times, surrounded by jagged rocks of the shoreline, it’s easy to forget you’re exploring an Iowa landscape that is often associated with cornfields and agriculture, and with the 3.5 miles of the Woodpecker Trail to explore, plus other trail systems that connect and wind through the Coralville Reservoir area, you can spend many days seeing all that this scenic Iowa trail system has to offer. 

Located in the southeastern corner of the state of Iowa, Lacey-Keosauqua State Park is situated along the Des Moines river and features not only a numerous amount of quality trails, but a plethora of flora and fauna found alongside them. For your first visit to Lacey-Keosauqua, the 2.1-mile Lake Trail is a good place to start exploring this celebrated state park. From there you can branch off to numerous other trails that explore the rich diversity of this usually quiet state park. With camping options available, it would be easy to spend a whole weekend getting lost in the woods at Lacey-Keosauqua. 

Standing at 1,670 feet above sea level, Hawkeye Point is the highest piece of land in the entire state of Iowa. In proximity to the Minnesota border, Hawkeye Point is easy to access and the short trail leading up to this highpoint is easily manageable by every member of the family. While the hike up to the commemorative Hawkeye Point won’t test your physical strength too much, it’s worth your time at the top to appreciate that you are currently the tallest person in the state, and the views from that vantage point aren’t half-bad either! 

The defining attraction of Rock Creek State Park in eastern Iowa is the massive Rock Creek Lake, of which can easily be explored via the multi-use, 7.8-mile Rock Creek Lake Trail. Circumnavigating the southern portion of the lake, the Rock Creek Lake Trail exposes users to the many ecosystems crafted by the surrounding water and forest. Because it’s a multi-use trail, hikers can expect to see mountain bikers and horse riders on the trail besides them, but with enough trail to explore, plus a few more branching from this main thoroughfare, there is plenty of explorable area to share. 

Though most of the hiking trails featured in Iowa are comprised of dirt and many footsteps, the 11-mile, paved and looped Trout Run Trail in Decorah is worth putting on the list. Not only does it provide a great way to walk or ride throughout the stunning Decorah landscape, but as implied by the name, the Trout Run Trail also parallels the Decorah Trout Hatchery, Iowa’s second largest trout hatchery. The Trout Run Trail crosses the active trout stream numerous times, giving hikers and bikers the chance to check out all the trout action and scenic surroundings the entire way. Since the Trout Run Trail was constructed as a loop to return you back to your starting point, this celebrated Decorah pathway is the perfect spot in Iowa for a nice, long hike in some of Iowa’s most scenic surroundings.  

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GROGL/Shutterstock.com http://stepoutside.org/article/5-great-hiking-trails-in-iowa http://stepoutside.org/article/5-great-hiking-trails-in-iowa Wed, 08 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Beautiful Scenic Hikes in Iowa Every season in Iowa caters towards a scenic hike or two. During the summer months, the blazing sun overhead provides bountiful landscapes of green. Throughout the winter, the rolling environments provide the perfect quiet place to explore. Some of the most scenic moments for any hike in Iowa occur in the spring and fall however, where the displays of color are always vibrant. While there are plenty of great hikes to check out through the different seasons of Iowa, a few stand out above the rest. Whether it’s the views that can be seen at places like Backbone State Park, or it’s the many shades of nature exposed along the Cedar River, by taking these 5 beautiful scenic hikes in Iowa, you’ll be sure to fall in love with the state! 

While all seven miles of trails found throughout Waubonsie State Park are worth visiting, the Sunset Ridge Interpretive Trail provides perhaps one of the best viewing opportunities in Iowa. Overlooking the Loess Hills of eastern Iowa, as you may have guessed, the best time to see this rolling landscape occurs as the sun smolders off into the horizon. Covering 2.1 miles, the Sunset Ridge Interpretive Trail is the longest trail in Waubonsie, and if it’s still not enough, this popular trail is a great launching point to explore the rest of what Waubonsie has to offer.

Open to cross-country skiing and snowmobiling in the winter, the summer hiking trails at Wapsipinicon can really take you places. Featuring over six named trails, popular attractions to check out while hiking at Wapsipinicon include the Horse Thief and Ice Cave, as well as the many rocky bluffs that comprise the area. For a tamer adventure, sticking to the 2.2-mile prairie trails exposes wide landscapes that are easy to lose yourself in. For a little more excitement, the Pine Trail plunges into the woods where you can find the Wapsipinicon caves among many other things. 

Stretching for 50 miles and connecting the Linn County Metro to Waterloo, the Cedar Valley Nature Trail is a paved, multi-purpose path that is popular with bikers, runners and even hikers. While not all paved trails can be classified as hiking routes, with the scenery exposed by the Cedar Valley Nature Trail and adjacent Cedar River, it serves as excellent outlet to get into nature. Weaving throughout the floodplain, the Cedar Valley Nature Trail darts in and out of thick forests, teeming wetlands, and plenty of rolling acreage devoted to farmland. A great kaleidoscope of Iowa’s natural spaces, the Cedar Valley Nature Trail is an excellent place to take a hike. 

Representing the largest state forest in Iowa, Stephens State Forest provides many acres to explore and lose yourself in nature. Following along one of the few overnight trails in Iowa, the Stephens backpack trail cuts through the heart of the state forest, exposing intrepid hikers to dense woodland surroundings and rolling prairie landscapes. There are plenty of scenic backpacking sites to choose from when trekking along the Stephens State Forest backpack trail, making this one scenic hike that could last multiple days.

Not nearly as menacing as it sounds, although including a steep incline, the Devil’s Backbone isn’t just the quintessential hike in Backbone, it’s a must-do scenic hike in all of Iowa. Featuring rocky terrain and a well-worn path, Devil’s Backbone takes you to the top of the state park and exposes a view that spans for miles. Overlooking Backbone Lake, the view from the top of Devil’s Backbone also includes the rolling hillsides of northeast Iowa, which are particularly picture worthy during the fall.

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Suzanne Tucker/Shutterstock.com http://stepoutside.org/article/5-beautiful-scenic-hikes-in-iowa http://stepoutside.org/article/5-beautiful-scenic-hikes-in-iowa Wed, 08 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Great Paddleboarding Spots in Iowa There are few better ways to explore a body of water than on top of a paddleboard. Perhaps it’s the vantage point, perched atop the water affording the most stunning views. Maybe it’s the excellent core workout. The combination of the two makes for an easy and fun adventure everyone can enjoy. In Iowa, you’ll find enormous lakes and man-made parks to practice your skills. Here are five great paddleboarding spots in the state. 

Located south of the University of Iowa Campus, Terry Trueblood Recreation Area and Sand Lake provide a slice of natural respite not far from the academic community. Recreation can be found within and around Terry Trueblood Recreation Area throughout the year, including cross-country skiing and ice skating in the winter, but the summer is the perfect time to explore the water. Thanks to the adjacent H20 Center provided by the local outdoor retailer Fin & Feather, Sand Lake offers the perfect place to stand-up paddleboard, including affordable rentals to get you on the water for the first time. 

Serving as Iowa’s number one lake getaway, Lake Okoboji provides an endless amount of entertainment in the form or shopping, dining, and plenty of recreation opportunities. Among the many things to do at Lake Okoboji, paddleboarding is fast becoming the most popular, and thanks to the local SUP IOWA located in Arnold’s Park, anyone can get out on the water. SUP IOWA offers paddleboard sales, rentals, classes, clinics, and outings throughout the summer months, leaving behind little excuses not to give paddleboarding a try. 

Once a working gravel and sand excavation location, Gray’s Lake now stands as a centerpiece of Des Moines, providing a relaxing and well-used waterfront trail and landscape. Outside of hiking around Gray’s Lake and into the adjoining Waterworks Park, a popular water activity in this city space is stand-up paddleboarding. While anyone is encouraged to bring their own vessel, for those just getting into the sport, the local paddleboard shop, No Coast Stand Up, has everything you need to enjoy paddleboarding at Gray’s Lake. Featuring rentals, classes, and special outings like yoga on the water, No Coast Stand Up in conjunction with the scenic Gray’s Lake combine to make a key community outlet in Des Moines. 

The man-made waves on the Cedar River at the Charles City Whitewater Park attract many different types of paddlers. On any given day, and especially on the weekends, the Charles City Whitewater Park is filled with kayaks, tubes, and especially stand-up paddleboards. The water isn’t quite as calm as some of the lakes in Iowa that are popular to paddle in, but that’s the point when visiting the Charles City Whitewater Park. After an afternoon of navigating the rapids on a paddleboard at this urban whitewater park, you’ll never want to go back to still water again.

Serving as the largest lake in Iowa, Lake Red Rock near Pella caters towards all type of adventurous outings. Camping, biking, bird watching, you name it, if it’s an outdoor attraction in Iowa you are looking for, then Lake Red Rock has it. For perhaps the most relaxing time on the water, Lake Red Rock is primed for paddleboarding. With plenty of piers and sandy shores to launch off, you can keep your paddleboard experience at Lake Red unique with each visit. While anytime is a great time to put the paddleboard out on Lake Red Rock, the sunrises and sunsets provide a magical light to memorialize your experience. 

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sergua/Shutterstock.com http://stepoutside.org/article/5-great-paddleboarding-spots-in-iowa http://stepoutside.org/article/5-great-paddleboarding-spots-in-iowa Mon, 06 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Exhilarating Jet Skiing Spots in Iowa Some say happiness comes from the simple things in life, and those that have ridden on a jet ski can understand that statement. Rippling along the water, jet skis enable a sense of freedom as the water sprays out around the vessel, letting all your stresses and worries disappear into the wake behind you. If you happen to be in the state of Iowa, this sense of freedom is not hard to find. Stretching from the Great Lakes near the western border to the impressive Rathbun Lake in southern Iowa, there are enough opportunities to hop on a jet ski in Iowa to really make the most out of the summer season. Check out these five great jet skiing spots in the state.  

With over 90 years of providing Lake Okoboji excitement, the multi-generational Fillenwarth Beach Resort has long since perfected the Okoboji vacation. At this exciting beach resort, you can find everything you need to enjoy yourself, including spacious accommodations, perfect sunsets, and multiple docks and beaches to moor your jet ski. Lending access to all the waters of Lake Okoboji, the Fillenwarth Beach Resort is a perfect accompaniment to your jet ski outing. Once you are done making waves, this long-standing resort can provide supreme relaxation. 

Serving as the premier gathering location on Saylorville Lake, the Saylorville Lake Marina provides plenty of places to moor your jet ski, a floating restaurant and even an opportunity to rent your own waverunner. Despite all these great amenities of the Saylorville Lake Marina, the lake is still the top attraction, and you’ll see why as you rev your jet ski across this beautiful, scenic lake. 

While no overnight or all-day mooring is available at City Beach Park, it serves as the perfect place to either drop your jet ski into Clear Lake, or park it for a short while to grab lunch or stroll the shopping opportunities of the Clear Lake community. The waters of Clear Lake are perfect to explore and can fill the entire day with excitement. Whether it’s for a quick ride after work, or an entire day on the water, the water access from City Beach Park makes it an ideal place to bring your jet ski throughout the summer. 

With over 15,000 acres of water, Lake Red Rock isn’t only Iowa’s biggest lake, it’s one of the top recreation destinations in the state. On any given weekend in the summer, you can find all sorts of activity happening inside and out of the water, including jet skis zipping, canoes paddling, and hikers exploring the trails. Suntex Watersports offers rentals at Red Rock Marina, in case you don’t have your own jet ski. If you want a lot of room to create some waves, Lake Red Rock is for you, and if you want to see some of the most stunning sunsets in the state of Iowa, you’ll be sure to find that there too. 

State owned and operated, Honey Creek Resort State Park is situated alongside the shores of Rathbun Lake, providing the perfect opportunity to hop on your jet ski among the many other attractions of this first-class lake resort. Even if you don’t have your own, Honey Creek Resort has seasonal jet ski rentals, and even if you don’t want to ride, there is still plenty to check out on the lake and around. Water trampolines and paddle boats are all included with a stay at Honey Creek Resort, as is access to miles and miles of biking and hiking trails, making Honey Creek Resort the perfect spot for any recreationist in your family. 

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Wollertz/Shutterstock.com http://stepoutside.org/article/5-exhilarating-jet-skiing-spots-in-iowa http://stepoutside.org/article/5-exhilarating-jet-skiing-spots-in-iowa Mon, 06 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500