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Iowa is a great place to explore the outdoors. With plenty of state parks, forests, and recreation areas, Iowa offers ample opportunities for outdoor adventures. Whether you’re looking for a challenging hike, great fishing, or a relaxing day on the river, Iowa has something to offer everyone who enjoys spending time in nature. Whether you’re here for RAGBRAI (the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa), are a native Iowan, or just passing through, we’ve got a lot to offer here. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at some of the best places to visit in Iowa for outdoor fun!
Located in the northeast corner of Iowa, Maquoketa Caves State Park is a great place to explore the state’s cave system. With over six miles of hiking trails, including a hike to Dancehall Cave, Maquoketa Caves has something for everyone. The park also features a variety of other outdoor activities, including camping, picnicking, and fishing.
Yellow River State Forest
Located in the northeast corner of Iowa, Yellow River State Forest is perfect for those who love to hike, bike, or ski. With 8,900 acres, Yellow River State Forest is a great place to get away from it all and enjoy the Iowa outdoors. The forest also features rustic cabins, campgrounds, places to kayak, fish, and hunt.
Iowa Great Lakes
The Iowa Great Lakes are a group of five natural lakes located in northwest Iowa. With close to 70 miles of shoreline, the Iowa Great Lakes offer plenty of opportunities for swimming, fishing, boating, and more. The Iowa Great Lakes are also a great place to enjoy the Iowa outdoors in any season – from ice fishing in winter to hiking and biking in summer.
Harper’s Ferry is home to Effigy Mounds National Monument, which features a variety of mounds in the shapes of animals. The mounds were constructed by Native Americans over 500 years ago and are a fascinating location to learn more about Iowa’s history.. In addition to the mounds, Effigy Mounds National Monument also offers hiking trails, picnicking areas, and a visitor center.
Pikes Peak State Park
Pikes Peak State Park is located in northeast Iowa and features a 500-foot bluff that offers stunning views of the Mississippi River. The park is also a great place for hiking, picnicking, and camping. In addition to the scenic views, Pikes Peak State Park is home to a variety of wildlife, including eagles, deer, and turkeys.
Backbone State Park
Backbone State Park is Iowa’s first state park and is located in northeast Iowa. With over 2,000 acres of natural beauty, Backbone State Park is a great place to explore the Iowa outdoors. The park also features a variety of other activities, including camping, picnicking, fishing, and swimming.
Other Iowa State Parks
At the time of publication, Iowa is home to 72 state parks, which offer a variety of outdoor activities for everyone to enjoy. From hiking and camping to fishing and swimming, Iowa’s state parks have something for everyone. And with so many state parks to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect place to explore the Iowa outdoors.
Sweet Marsh State Wildlife Management Area
Located in Iowa’s Northeast region, Sweet Marsh State Wildlife Management Area is a great place to hunt, fish, and explore the Iowa outdoors. The area is also home to a variety of wildlife, including waterfowl, deer, and turkeys. I had the marsh in my backyard when I first moved to Iowa, and learned how to drive on the paved section through the woods. We regularly come here to sit on the bridge, walk the loop, or to spot wildlife. Nearby, there’s also a farm with beefalo (from the marsh, head towards Tripoli and you’ll find it less than a mile on your right side).
Located in McGregor, you’ll be able to mine, camp, stay in cabins, or take a guided boat tour of Spook Cave. You’ll learn about the geology and history of Spook Cave as you boat through it. The temperature inside the cave is a constant 47 degrees, so it’s a great place to cool off on a hot summer day.
Fossil & Prairie Park Preserve
Outside of Rockford, you’ll find a Devonian fossil park. It’s open from sunrise to sunset—year-round—and provided you’re not a commercial enterprise, you can keep the fossils you find. Everywhere you step, there are fossils. There’s also a little pool of water at the bottom of the cliffs that’s a beautiful blue color thanks to what I believe is limestone.
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