Finding new parks is always a fun surprise. If you are traveling across Iowa, visiting friends and relatives in a different part of the state, or just looking for a reason to road trip on a beautiful Iowa spring day, here are 13 parks across the state that absolutely deserve your attention.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Big Woods Lake Recreation Area, 1501 E Lake Street, Cedar Falls
Big Woods Lake Recreation Area is a county park with campsites, cabins, a no-wake 80-acre lake, handicapped accessible trails around the lake, and a beautiful pedestrian bridge. It's also part of the extensive Cedar Valley bike trail system. Locals know about it, but even if you don't live in this area of Iowa, it's worth a trip.
2. Miller Riverview Park and Campground, 1851 Admiral Sheehy Drive, Dubuque
This 20-acre park offers amazing views of the Mississippi River, a biking or walking path, picnic areas, and electric-only camping spots. Check with park management before making plans, though. If the river is too high they close the park until it's safe to camp there, again.
3. Pammel Park, 1900 Pammel Park Road, Winterset
Stay an hour or enjoy a few leisurely days at this beautiful park. This is one of Iowa's first state parks, dedicated in 1928. This park covers 350 acres and features yurt camping, a historic picnic lodge made from oak logs harvested from the park, and a rural chapel converted to an environmental education and nature center. Harmon tunnel is the only highway tunnel in Iowa, and is at the entrance to the park.
4. Vander Veer Botanical Park, 215 West Central Park Avenue, Davenport
This is the Quad Cities' own "Central Park" with a dedicated botanical center, rose garden, playground, pond, large fountain, and yearly themed displays. If you are traveling through or around the area, it's definitely worth a stop.
5. Terry Trueblood Recreational Area, 4213 Sand Road SE, Iowa City
This popular recreational area is relatively new and consists of paved walking trails, a small lake that fills an old quarry, restored natural prairie, and a seasonal walk-up place to get refreshments. There is also a boat rental place here where you can rent stand-up paddle-boards, kayaks, and canoes by the hour.
6. Bellevue State Park, 2166 429th Ave., Bellevue
You'll want to spend at least a couple of hours taking in the amazing views at this state park. It's across the river from the well-known Mississippi River Palisades Park and is a less crowded option with equally incredible scenery.
7. Mosquito Park, Corner of Franklin Street and 3rd Street, Burlington
This small city park offers a great view of the Mississippi River and the Illinois shoreline. Stop by with a picnic lunch or a photo opportunity. This quiet park is well-kept and neat. FYI, it's named, "Mosquito Park" because of its tiny size.
8. Squaw Creek Park, 4305 Squaw Lane, Marion
This park can handle a picnic lunch for 100 in either of its beautiful lodges. Or just grab a table and enjoy a quiet meal for two. There's places to camp, a golf course, bike paths, two dog parks, hiking trails, and many geocaches.
9. Rand Park, North 17th and Park Lane, Keokuk
This park is maintained by the City of Keokuk and they have many community events there, like fireworks, outdoor concerts, and even a Christmas light display. Stop by in the summer to see the handiwork of the local gardening club and the stunning Mississippi River views.
10. Mount Hosmer Park, North 6th Street, Lansing
If you'd like to see a barge travel up the Mississippi, hundreds of acres of backwaters, and maybe even bald eagles in flight, this is a park you need to put on your list. The drive the top is steep, but totally worth it.
11. Bever Park, 2700 Bever Park Trail, Cedar Rapids
Old MacDonald's Farm is a petting zoo that you can wander through at no charge April through October from 10am to 7pm, daily, to see Iowa farm animals. It's especially fun in the springtime when there are a lot of babies on site. The park also has picnic facilities, several playgrounds, and a large swimming pool with two waterslides.
12. Lewis A. Jester County Park, 11407 NW Jester Park Dr, Granger
Live Elk and Bison pens, picnic shelters, cabins, fishing, boating, hiking, and a unique playscape playground make this park worthy of a visit that lasts at least an afternoon.
13. Bacon Creek Park, 5015 Correctionville Road, Sioux City
Locals call this the best park in the area. The small lake is stocked each year, so the fishing is great. A three-mile trail winds around the lakes. A fenced dog park and a facility for get-togethers and parties are wonderful additions to this beautiful park.
There are so many parks in Iowa, it would take a lifetime to see them all. Which Iowa parks are your favorites?