Farm camping in Iowa with campfires

Explore lakes, rivers, wide-open expanses, and hilly countryside in the heart of the American Midwest.

99% (1640 reviews)
99% (1640 reviews)

Popular camping styles for Iowa

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Farm camping in Iowa with campfires guide

Overview

Sandwiched between the Mississippi, Missouri, and Big Sioux Rivers, Iowa is characterized by a mix of plains and hilly countryside, farmlands,  lakes, and rivers. This Midwestern state is full of spots to get out and adventure, with about 83 state parks and nearly 6,000 campsites spread among them. The state also has an extensive river system—with numerous lakes and reservoirs—and boating and angling are among the most popular summer activities here. Like elsewhere in the Midwest, the winter months often bring with them plenty of snow, ideal for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

Where to go

Northwest Iowa

Northwest Iowa has lots of parks and camping opportunities along the Des Moines River, including the massive Brushy Creek State Recreation Area and Dolliver Memorial State Park. The Lakes Region—home to West and East Okoboji Lakes and Big Spirit Lake—is particularly popular among boaters, anglers, and birders, with a number of state parks and wildlife preserves across the region. Camping is available at Gull Point State Park.

Southwest Iowa

Southwest Iowa is characterized by wide-open farmland and pretty woodlands. Cyclists can take a tour of this region on the Wabash Trace Nature Trail, which stretches for 63 miles from the Missouri border up to Council Bluffs near the Nebraska border. The region's Loess Hills State Forest is one of the more popular areas for outdoor recreation, offering a fishing lake and more than 60 miles of trails.

Northeast Iowa

Iowa's Northeast is ideal for getting outside, with miles of recreation opportunities, from trout fishing to canoeing, on the Mississippi River and its Upper Iowa River tributary. Popular spots in the region include Backbone State Park, which offers camping, fishing, and cycling and hiking trails. The Effigy Mounds National Monument, which preserves hundreds of ancient effigy mounds built by Indigenous people during the first millennium, is also worth a visit.

Southeast Iowa

There's no shortage of lakes in Iowa's southeastern region, including Lake Keomah, Indian Lake, and Lake Bonnefield,  in the charming town of Fairfield. This region is home to Lake Red Rock—the largest lake in the state—and the lakefront Elk Rock State Park offers camping, boat ramps, and 13 miles of trails. Other lake areas worth checking out include Geode State Park on the banks of Lake Geode and Lacey-Keosauqua State Park, which has camping, cabin rentals, and easy access to Lake Seguma.

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