Best known for pastures and fields covering the heartland, Iowa also offers dramatic bluffs, rolling hills, and limestone caves.
Located in the heart of the Midwest, Iowa is a haven for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and paddling. Few people know about the state's trove of hidden gems, making it a great place to escape the crowds. Beyond its open plains, the farming state boasts rolling limestone bluffs, 13 natural lakes, the Mississippi and Maquoketa Rivers, and over 40 state parks.
The lakes and reservoirs are your ticket to world-class boating, sailing, fishing and water sports. Lake Red Rock Recreation Area lies just 40 miles outside of Des Moines, featuring breathtaking cliffs. Spirit Lake, one of the "Iowa Great Lakes," welcomes visitors to its huge sandy beach—a big hit with families in the summer.
On the eastern end of the state, towering bluffs and rugged terrain invite adventurers to strap on their hiking shoes. Check out the Maquoketa Caves to explore caverns and limestone formations. Perched on the Mississippi River, Pikes Peak State Park is a photo-worthy spot where you can hike to the top of a 500-foot bluff.
Backbone State Park is another must-see in this rocky corner of Iowa. Named for the Devil's Backbone, the highest point in the state, this park is famous for its hiking trails and trout streams.
Most state parks offer RV and tent camping. With no noticeable tourist season, camping in Iowa is a solitude seeker's dream. While Iowa state parks allow camping year round, there are limited amenities in the winter. You can also explore private campgrounds ranging from farmlands and grottos to lush vineyards.
Iowa is generally humid with extreme temperatures across the seasons. That means sweltering summers and snowy winters, with frequent road closures in state parks due to snowfall. The best time to visit is September when dry weather and temperatures in the 70s create the perfect recipe for outdoor adventure.