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For many, when they step outside to enjoy Iowa’s state parks, snapping some pictures is a natural part of the journey. Explore parks all over the state by hiking, biking, relaxing lake side and experiencing extraordinary views – you can start with these 10, which are the parks posted about the most by Iowans on Instagram. For a chance to be featured on the Iowa DNR’s Instagram page, be sure to tag @iowadnr and use #IowaStateParks in your post!
1. Ledges State Park
Explore the geological wonder of the iconic sandstone canyon, stomp through Pea's Creek, or take in the vista at Crow's Nest and Table Rock. Camping, picnic areas, and historic open shelters compliment the natural diversity of this must-see central Iowa park.
2. Maquoketa Caves State Park
Crawl around caves of all sizes at Maquoketa Caves State Park. You have the option to easily explore a walk-in cave, or get down on your hands and knees and crawl through some caves. Don’t forget to snap some pictures on your endeavor. Hike past a restored prairie, an experimental oak savanna restoration and a wildlife food plot in the western area of the park.
Caves photo: Bernice Ticknor
3. Backbone State Park
Iowa’s first state park boasts 21 miles of hiking and multi-use trails. One of the most well-known sites is the geologic feature that gives the park its name. The Backbone, one of the highest points in northeast Iowa, is accessible by trails. Backbone Lake also offers swimming, boating and fishing. Stay for a while, as Backbone has the largest number of cabins available in any Iowa state park. Here, you also have the opportunity to climb and rappel the cliffs throughout the park, one of the few Iowa State Parks to allow climbing (just check in at the park office first).
4. Lewis and Clark State Park
Relax beachside at Lewis and Clark State Park. The 250-acre lake is the perfect background for sunset pictures after a day at the beach. Go for a cruise around the lake with easy access, provided by the boat ramp. The park was named after the famous duo that explored the region in 1804. Dive into history by checking out the full-size reproduction of Lewis and Clark's keelboat, “Best Friend.” Check online or call ahead at 712-423-2829 for keelboat hours.
5. George Wyth State Park
On a summer day, George Wyth State Park’s lakes are crowded with beachgoers snapping pictures and soaking up the sun. Each of the park’s four lakes offer an array of activities from wind surfing to power boating. The park is a popular picnic area and provides 5.5 miles of paved multi-purpose trails for a leisurely stroll or bike ride. Or, if you’re ready for a longer trek, the park trails connect to more than 100 miles of trail in the Cedar Valley.
6. Black Hawk State Park
A popular gathering spot for group activities, Black Hawk State Park has picnic areas, informal cookout areas and fishing, which bring in many people to enjoy the beauty of the lake - Iowa’s southernmost natural glacial lake - and time together. The beautiful Civilian Conservation Corps era structures found throughout the park are perfect backdrops or photo subjects, in addition to a picturesque deluxe cabin available to rent. Plus, a disc golf course is available nearby. There are 128 camping units on site with a volleyball court and a large playground facility for kids of all ages.
7. Wildcat Den State Park
Located near Muscatine, Wildcat Den State Park provides stunning backgrounds for all your pictures, no filter needed! The systems of trails throughout the park lead the visitor to layered and rough 75-foot cliffs. Pine Creek winds through the park with historical structures, like the Pine Creek Grist Mill, lining the waters.
Photo of trails: Lee Lounsbury
8. Clear Lake State Park
Whether it’s swimming, boating or fishing, Clear Lake State Park, located on the southeast shore of Clear Lake, is all about the water. Fish for walleye, northern pike, catfish, yellow bass, crappies and other panfish. Don’t forget that #IowaFishing and #IowaStateParks hashtags!
9. Pikes Peak State Park
Pikes Peak State Park won’t take you to the mountains, but it will give you a breathtaking view of the Mississippi River. Look out across the vast Mississippi, dotted with islands from atop the 500-foot bluff. The park has 11.5 miles of trails where hikers can view a waterfall and many more geological wonders. Yes, Pikes Peak State Park is named after explorer Zebulon Pike, the same namesake of Pikes Peak in Colorado!
Photo of Pikes Peak overlook: Brian Gibbs
10. Lake Ahquabi State Park
Enjoy a day fishing or kayaking at Lake Ahquabi State Park. Boats, canoes, kayaks and paddleboats are available to rent through the concessionaire. Trails run 6.5 miles throughout the park, including four miles of trail that runs along the shoreline.