Iowa is an outdoorsman’s or outdoorswoman’s paradise, with things to do in every corner of the state. You’re never far from fun when you’re in Iowa. Camping can be done anywhere from the many state parks to the state forests to the wildlife management areas and the state forest nursery. There’s hiking and biking, paddling and boating, equestrian riding and motorcycling. There’s truly something for everyone in Iowa.
Let’s start with the hiking: the Iowa by Trail program lets you explore more than 2000 miles of trails, and you can plan to stop and camp at numerous spots along the way as you pass through state parks and historic areas all managed by the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. Iowa’s bike trails criss-cross the state through hundreds of miles of prairies, parks, and woodlands.
Camping in Iowa is especially fun for families who love to shoot together--and we’re not just referring to hunting (though there is that, too). Shooting sports are a big deal in Iowa. The National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) means that there are ample opportunities for archery practice all across the state. And the Department of Natural Resources oversees the Iowa Scholastic Clay Target Program: in 2019, 4,200 student athletes competed in competitive shooting. And don’t think that these programs are reserved for kids: there are plenty of places to practice your own skeet shooting when camping throughout Iowa. Plus, bowhunting is a big deal here, with the proper license in the right season.
Canoeing and kayaking are big ways to see the state in its many lakes and rivers. Water Trails are recreational corridors that are designed to help you see the state’s heritage, history, geology, fisheries and wildlife. Some such trails are the West Fork Des Moines Water Trail Plan, which takes canoers and kayakers 32 miles down from the North TrailHead (north of Estherville) to Lammers Landing in Graettinger. The Iowa River Water Trail is more involved, heading down 722 miles of river, sometimes calm and sometimes rapid and rough. All of these Water Trails provide opportunities to stop for the night and camp on the river bank or a sand bar.
And this is only scratching the surface of what there is to do while camping in Iowa. Go wildlife watching to see deer, antelope and elk. Go horseback riding on one of our hundreds of miles of trails. In the winter, snowmobile and cross-country ski--or even get out on the lake and do some ice fishing.
Wherever you camp in Iowa, you will have ample opportunities to see the many cultural, historic, and natural wonders that the state has to offer. It’ll be a trip you’ll never forget.