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5 Best Campsites in Central Iowa

January 7th, 2014 5:02 am

The state of Iowa is one of the American Heartland’s best kept secrets when it comes to camping spots for groups and families. With thick wooded river valleys, canyons, bluffs and lakes situated in pockets of oak, cedar and elm nestled between multi-acre farmlands and fields, Iowa has just the right camping spot for any visiting camper near all of its most popular outdoor recreation spots. Here are 5 best central Iowa’s campsites that camping enthusiasts should try. All of the these campgrounds (except Pine Lake) are within an hour’s drive of Des Moines.

Rock Creek State Park

Rock Creek is near Grinnell, and it is about an hour drive from Des Moines. The state park is at a dammed lake. The campground is huge with 200 campsites. Rock Creek is a great place to camp during the summer because: 1) You are guaranteed to get a campsite without a reservation even on the nicest weekend 2) The area for tents is in a spacious area away from the RVs. The park has lots of trails around the lake. Also, Rock Creek is nearby Jacob Krumm Nature Preserve, so you can also go hiking there.

Ledges State Park

When hiking in Ledges, you do not feel like you are in Iowa. The amazing sandstone cliffs are unusual and unique in Iowa. While at Ledges, it is recommended to put on your sandals and creek-stomping to see the cliffs up close. The hike to Lost Lake has a great overlook of the Des Moines River.

The campground at Ledges has hike-in campsites, and they are only a short hike from the parking lot. If possible, you should camp at the hike-in sites for a more secluded campsite. Ledges is near Boone, and it is about an hour drive from Des Moines.

Elk Rock State Park

Elk Rock State Park is on Lake Red Rock near Pella, and it is about an hour drive from Des Moines. There is a separate loop in the campground for tents, so you can be separate from the RVs. The park has 13 miles of trails. Elk Rock also has an equestrian campground, so you’re likely to run into horseback riders on the trails. A side trip from Elk Rock is Cordova Park. Cordova Park has a 106 foot observation tower with great views of the lake and surrounding area. Make sure you have change when you visit Cordova Park because it is 50 cents to go up in the tower, and you must have exact change.

Pammel Park

Pammel Park is in Madison County near Winterset, and it is about a 50 minute drive from Des Moines. The campground is smaller with only 36 campsites. They also have yurt cabins available to rent. There are only 5 miles of trails at the park, but it has a neat backbone ridge that is similar to the rock formations seen at Backbone State Park. The park is next to the Middle River, and for a little excitement, drive across the Middle River Ford.

Pine Lake State Park

Pine Lake has over 10 miles of trails. The campground is next to the upper lake, and there is a trail from the campground that goes to the lower lake and loops around the lake. The pines trees on lower lake loop are 250 years old. There is another trail that goes along the Iowa River. Pine Lake also has cabins that open year round, and it is a great place to rent a cabin during the winter. Pine Lake is near Eldora, and it is about an hour and a half drive from Des Moines.

Best Hiking and Camping Sites in Prairies, Iowa

September 30th, 2013 2:05 am

If you love to sleep under open sky or you just want to sit near a campfire then camping will be a good option for you. Camping provides an opportunity to come close to nature. Many of us go out for camping in order to take a break from busy city life. There are 3 fascinated hiking and camping sites located all over Prairies, Iowa.

Chachaqua Bottoms Greenbelt

Chachaqua Bottoms Greenbelt is part of the Polk County park system. It is northeast of Des Moines past Bondurant on Hwy 65, and it is only about a half hour drive from Des Moines. There is a small campground, and a set of trails by the South Skunk River. One of the great places in the park is a small prairie at the Sand Hill Unit on NE 118th St. The experience will put you in the shoes is that this site is an endless landscape of prairie.

Jacob Krumm Nature Preserve

Krumm is a nature preserve close to I-80 right before you reach Grinnell. There are 5.25 miles of trails with two loops. One loop goes around a reconstructed prairie, and a second loop goes around a dammed lake. The loops are connected with a short trail. The prairie is especially beautiful when the flowers are in bloom.

Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge

Neal Smith is the largest reconstruction of tall grass prairie in the US with over 5,000 acres of prairie. The size of the prairie is amazing. It is also a wildlife refuge, and if you’re lucky, you’ll see bison and elk. In addition to the Tallgrass Trail by the Prairie Learning Center, the Savanna Trail is other good things to see. The Savanna Trail goes through an ancient forest of burr oak trees. Neal Smith is near Prairie City, and it is about 40 minutes from Des Moines.