7 Lesser-Known State Parks In Iowa That Will Absolutely Amaze You

Iowa’s state parks draw millions of visitors every year, and there’s no doubt you’ve heard about the incredible overlooks at Pikes Peak and the stunning trails at Maquoketa Cave State Park. Backbone State Park is another Hawkeye favorite and, being the oldest state park in Iowa, it’s full of history. However, sometimes it is nice to stray from the beaten path a bit and find a place where you can feel like you’re in another world. These often overlooked, quiet state parks in Iowa are some of the best spots to explore when you want to get away from it all.

What’s your favorite of Iowa’s little-known state parks? Tell us in the comments – we love to hear from you!

Address: Ledges State Park, 1515 P Ave, Madrid, IA 50156, USA
Address: Wapsipinicon State Park, 21301 Co Rd E34, Anamosa, IA 52205, USA
Address: Preparation Canyon State Park, 340th St, Moorhead, IA 51558, USA
Address: Lewis and Clark State Park, 21914 Park Loop, Onawa, IA 51040, USA
Address: Palisades-Kepler State Park, 700 Kepler Dr, Mt Vernon, IA 52314, USA
Address: Nine Eagles State Park, 23678 Dale Miller Rd, Davis City, IA 50065, USA
Address: Mini-Wakan State Park, 1500 Harpen St, Milford, IA 51351, USA
The OIYS Visitor Center

State Parks to Visit in Iowa

January 24, 2022

What are the most popular hiking trails in Iowa?  

Okay, so Iowa isn’t exactly a mountainous or forested kind of place, but don’t let that fool you – it’s home to plenty of amazing hiking trails! According to our friends at AllTrails.com, there are more than 700 awesome hiking trails throughout our beautiful state, all varying in difficulty, length, and features. The most popular trail is the challenging-but-worth-it Dozer Cut, Bunker Hill, Badger Ridge Trail Loop. It’s 6.3 miles of amazing landscapes and one-of-a-kind bliss, and it’s well worth the challenge! Another much-beloved trail is the much-easier-than-Dozer-Cut Maquoketa Caves Loop, which really is as interesting as it sounds. This is an awesome area where you can explore some awesome caves, and we strongly recommend it for anyone interested in Iowa’s most sought-after landscape. Other popular hiking trails in Iowa include Brown’s Woods Trail, in West Des Moines, and Wildcat Den Trail, within Wildcat Den State Park. We also really love Mushroom Forest Trail, in Coralville Dam Recreation Area. There are over 700 more; which will you conquer first?  

What are the best state parks in Iowa?  

Obviously, “best” is subjective, but Iowa is home to an impressive 83 state parks and recreation areas. With so many, it’s hard to know where to begin, but why not start with the most popular? Some folks might even argue that being among the most popular parks in the state means the parks in question are the “best of”; we tend to agree. Some of the “best” state parks in Iowa include Lake Manawa State Park, which sees about 1.6 million visitors each year, and Gull Point State Park, which sees about 1.6 million visitors each year. Then there’s Big Creek State Park, Backbone State Park, Walnut Woods State Park, McIntosh Woods State Park, and several others that see more than half a million visitors yearly. Iowa may not be thought of as a destination state, but perhaps it should be. It’s uniquely beautiful, and our state parks are second to none. For some more ideas – this time involving some of the lesser-known state parks in Iowa – check this list out!  

Address: Ledges State Park, 1515 P Ave, Madrid, IA 50156, USA
Address: Wapsipinicon State Park, 21301 Co Rd E34, Anamosa, IA 52205, USA
Address: Preparation Canyon State Park, 340th St, Moorhead, IA 51558, USA
Address: Lewis and Clark State Park, 21914 Park Loop, Onawa, IA 51040, USA
Address: Palisades-Kepler State Park, 700 Kepler Dr, Mt Vernon, IA 52314, USA
Address: Nine Eagles State Park, 23678 Dale Miller Rd, Davis City, IA 50065, USA
Address: Mini-Wakan State Park, 1500 Harpen St, Milford, IA 51351, USA