This is what Hipcamp is all about! We would have never found this amazing place otherwise.
We (me, my partner, and our two dogs) arrived around 9 PM and Dori was happy to meet us in the dark (her mom usually helps with campers, but was on vacation, so Dori stepped in). She had a camp fire waiting--which was perfect after a 6 hour drive. Our dogs have a hard time getting along with other dogs sometimes, but Dori was super accommodating and penned her dogs so ours could explore. Dori assured us we could treat this property like it was ours, which made us feel extra comfortable. She gave us a quick history of the property—we were in awe. It's an abandoned resort built in the 1920s, complete with cave restaurant. Yea... a restaurant built into a cave. WHAT?!
The cabin was primitive, but that's exactly what we were looking for. Two rooms, four beds. A bathroom. Running water. It was super comfortable. Waking up to a rooster crowing with the view of expansive hills out one window and a close hillside with flowers out the other was just perfect.
Dori offered us her kayaks and even dropped us off at the starting point the next morning. The route was beautiful. The bluffs were awesome, and it was fun to "spot the cave." This was an unexpected part of the trip, and I'm so thankful for Dori's willingness.
Lake of the Ozarks State park is a beautiful 35-minute drive from Dori's place. Perfect for a quick trip to lots of hiking. They even rent boats, but we stuck to the trails. Dori provided all we needed to cook over the campfire, so we had steak and veggies for dinner when we returned. Yum! (The property is not far from a small town, so when we needed to run for groceries, it wasn't a bother.)
We explored the property the next day, and it felt like we were true explorers that had just come upon Shangri-La. The property is beautiful. The run-down cabins were really neat to explore. And the cave/restaurant—my goodness. You won't find anything like it anywhere else. They're in the process of taking all of the restaurant equipment out of the cave, but it was mostly gone. There is a door in the cave that leads to a tunnel you can climb through, and that leads you to the bluff. We weren't able to do this with the dogs, but we will next time we visit! Truly unique.
Sugar Bottom Campground not exactly private, but it's typical for popular Iowa camping spots. We brought our kayaks and went up the little waterway next to the campground—beautiful! We came upon a beaver home, and I think Mr. Beaver followed us up the short river. The adjacent disc golf course is hilly and wooded—exactly what I love. I would visit the area again, but would probably find a different area to camp.
The caves alone are worth a visit, and camping was fantastic. I went with a group of five of my best friends. Although it rained, the hiking was spectacular—we found a few really great hidden water spots. This was also the first time I ever had a pizza sandwich cooked over the fire. It changed my life. Haha! <3
This is a neat little area. A trail off of the campground leads to the lake, where it's easy to climb down the rocks to the water. We had our dogs with us, and they had a blast. The trail leads to a dam and a hill that's easy to climb. It's a popular fishing spot--nice to relax. I have been meaning to visit this campground again and will bring a big group of friends when I do. <3