Best Camping in Iowa

Camping in Iowa

By Alex Murphy

Iowa, the Hawkeye State, is probably best known for endless fields of corn. The state is nestled in the Midwest and is surrounded by six other states, making it a short drive to a lot of places. Plus, visitors can see the Mississippi River in the east and the Missouri River in the west. With plenty of historic small towns and State Parks to check out, Iowa may be the perfect road trip state.

Here's a look at some of the places you can stop while making your way through Iowa.

See a map of all camping in Iowa.

Iowa State Parks

There are more than 50 Iowa State Parks managed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, plus another handful of parks designated as state parks that are managed by individual counties.

When it comes to camping in Iowa, these parks have plenty of campsites but also feature a number of lakes and forests and Iowa history.

One of the most popular destinations is Pikes Peak State Park which overlooks part of the Mississippi River from an impressive bluff. Lake MacBride State Park is another spot for anyone who loves water sports with campgrounds right near a massive reservoir.

Finally, visitors can stop and see a spot where expeditioners Lewis and Clark made their way across the state. Lewis and Clark State Park has numerous campgrounds, many with electric hookups.

National Parks in Iowa

Long before Lewis and Clark, Native American people living in what is now Iowa, created what's called effigy mounds. The mounds of earth are shaped like animals and were built more than a thousand years ago. The true meaning of them is unknown. About 200 of these mounds are protected inside Effigy Mounds National Monument.

While there is no camping within the park, there are a few campgrounds nearby in the Harpers Ferry area, including Yellow River State Forest and Pine Bluff Campsites.

RV Parks in Iowa

Iowa's state capital and largest city, Des Moines, is more or less smack in the middle of the state. Along with that, you'll find plenty of RV Parks in Iowa right around that area.

For anyone looking to enjoy what Des Moines has to offer or is just passing through the state, you'll find some popular stops at places like Timberline Campground and Griff's Valley View RV Park & Campground.

To the east, visitors will find an area called the Quad Cities, made up of five cities split between Iowa and Illinois and divided by the Mississippi. Travelers can stay in that region at Interstate RV Park.

Finally, for anyone looking to stay just outside Omaha, NE, there are several RV parks on the west side of the state including Bluffs Run RV Park at Horseshoe Casino.

Free Camping in Iowa

Anyone looking for free camping in Iowa is in luck! A number of county parks around the state offer free places to stay overnight. These are a far cry from rest stops found across many other states. Many of these free parks offer amenities like campfire rings, picnic tables, trails, and even fishing ponds.

Some of these Iowa campgrounds include Hickory Hills Park and Great Nature Park which are centrally located near Des Moines and are definitely a destination on their own.

For visitors looking to spend a night while passing through near a highway like I-80, there is Grinnel Rest Area, also near Des Moines.

National Forests in Iowa

The National Forest Service does not manage any land in Iowa.

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Recent Iowa Campground Reviews

Dec 03, 2022

"Convenient stop with good amenities."

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This is one of the best rest areas i have ever stopped at. Clean and extremely modern facilities. It almost doubles as a museum with displays and interpretive plaques dedicated to wind turbine energy production. There were also several picnic areas with tables and charcoal bbq pits and a small grassy area for dogs. It was quite busy overnight...
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1 review
Nov 23, 2022

"Clean For It’s Old Age"

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Great site for RV parking. Keep to the right with the autos and there is a lane for pump-out that isn’t used anymore as of 11/17/22 when we stayed. There was plenty of room for the slide outs. They have signs posted “no camping” and “10 hour limit” but we never get any grief. Stay as long as you need to feel safe on the snowy roads. There are...
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3 reviews
Nov 17, 2022

"Electricity On A Cold Night In November"

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Traveling through on i80, wanted electricity for the night. Only ones there beyond what appeared to be a loan term. First number we called - county office? - said it was cold and snowy so probably wasn’t open. After a bit of internet digging found (712) 307-0509. They confirmed we could spend the night with power $20, but the water was off. ...
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3 reviews
Davenport, IA

Interstate RV Park

Nov 12, 2022

"Great For Brief Stays"

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Spots are small, but I was only staying one night and some were bigger so that may impact placement. Pet friendly and friendly staff. Open year around with water, electricity, and sewer. I would stay here again if passing though!

8 reviews
Oskaloosa, IA

Eveland Access

Nov 06, 2022

"Uninviting County Park"

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We arrived to full campground for a County run Halloween event. It was lots of fun walking around and looking at the decorated campsites. People take this seriously and there were amazing decorations. But the campsites are cramped and close together with no vegetation separating them. The electrical boxes are placed without any...
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BurntFrog Life
32 reviews