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

Oct 21, 2021

"Quick stop"

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We only stopped here briefly to dump our tanks and refill water. It’s conveniently located and accessible. I don’t know if it’s open year-round or not. It was today on October 21, ‘21.

Ron Haupt
6 reviews
Oct 20, 2021

"Very large casino parking lot"

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This a a very large lot. There is an area for trucks and RV’s, but all RV’s went to the opposite side at the rear of the lot. Lots of road noise, but no problem for us. Just used our white noise ap on our iPads. Enjoyed casino as well. Scott’s County Park is nearby. $5 for a dump or water fill. We took showers there, it was only $2.00 each....
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Leslie Waterman
10 reviews
Oct 20, 2021

"Very large casino parking lot"

active staractive staractive staractive starinactive star
This a a very large lot. There is an area for trucks and RV’s, but all RV’s went to the opposite side at the rear of the lot. Lots of road noise, but no problem for us. Just used our white noise ap on our iPads. Enjoyed casino as well. Scott’s County Park is nearby. $5 for a dump or water fill. We took showers there, it was only $2.00 each....
Read More

Leslie Waterman
10 reviews
Oct 19, 2021

"Beautiful, Sprawling County Park"

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The campground is located on the west end of a sprawling county park. There are numerous sites in two separate areas. The campground is on a hill and the pads help a bit to make things level, but you'll still need to do some leveling almost everywhere. The area can easily accommodate big rigs. Water connections available at the sites. 30...
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Bob
44 reviews
Council Bluffs, IA

Bass Pro Shops

Oct 19, 2021

"Ok for a parking lot"

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Lot of freeway noise, otherwise it was ok. The noise died off some about 11 and picked up again around 5. Plenty of security lighting. One other rig in the lot. We were left alone.

Thomas Beard
23 reviews