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8 Surprising Memorial Day Camping Getaways

  • 5/1/2015 10:22:00 AM
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Bigger park campsites all booked? Try these 8 state park surprises | Iowa DNRNot all hope is lost when it comes to finding a place to camp this Memorial Day weekend, May 27-30.  For those who like a little more quiet, don’t mind more primitive camping or are willing to take a chance on a first-come, first-served or “walk-in” campsite, here are some nice possibilities. Try kicking off the summer season with one of these lesser-known state parks:


Lake of Three Fires is tucked away in the hills of southern Iowa and has three campgrounds, including one for equestrians. The park has eight miles of trails throughout the park and spring is an especially beautiful time to wander its wooded hills.

Honey Creek, the original state park on Lake Rathbun and neighbor to the resort park by the same name, offers a traditional camping experience with 149 modern sites – 25 percent are first-come, first served. The 800-plus-acre park has miles of trails to explore and Rathbun Lake provides plenty of fun for all types of boaters and anglers.


Union Grove State Park, located in Tama County, has a small 26-site campground located on the beautiful 110-acre Union Grove Lake. After a major lake restoration in 2015, the park’s lake is nearly full. The campground is currently open for walk-in camping on a first-come, first-served basis.

Dolliver Memorial State Park has 23 campsites and all but two are electrical. This small campground overlooks the Des Moines River. The park, with its bluffs, canyons, Native American burial mounds and “boneyard hollow,” gives campers and visitors plenty of natural and cultural features to explore.

NORTHEAST Union Grove State Park | Iowa DNR

Wapsipinicon, just outside of Anamosa, has a beautiful shaded campground, with 13 of its 26 sites walk-ins. The park has beautiful wooded trails and two caves to explore. Wapsipinicon is the only state park with a nine-hole golf course.

Bellevue State Park is made up of two units on the bluffs of the Mississippi River, just above the town of Bellevue. Camping is in the Dyas Unit. The Nelson Unit has a unique butterfly garden and nature center, and the views from the park’s overlooks are outstanding. One-third of the 46 campsites are available as walk-ins and the campground has a brand new shower building this year.


You won’t find it on the reservation system, but A.A. Call sits in the middle of north-central Iowa farmland, an oasis of rugged hills and woods located on the east fork of the Des Moines River. The park has 16 campsites, (13 electrical), and all are walk-ins.  The park is on the outskirts of Algona, in Kossuth County.

Pilot Knob, in Winnebago County, is the second-highest point in Iowa and the view from the CCC-built tower in the park provides visitors with spectacular views. The park has 60 campsites and 46 have electrical hook-ups. Half of the campsites are first-come, first-served.

Reserve a campsite or find more information on Iowa State Parks at or our Iowa State Parks or Iowa Camping boards on Pinterest.