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Experience Iowa's natural beauty and all the fun our state parks offer. Make your online reservation for state park cabins, camping sites, shelters and lodges.
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While looks aren’t everything, they certainly don’t hurt when you’re talking about parks. If you haven’t seen the views below for yourself, put these state parks on your list of destinations to hit this autumn. Changing leaves make fall one of Iowa’s most picturesque seasons, so take plenty of photos when you stop to admire the view.
For updates on current fall color conditions, check the DNR’s fall color hotline at iowadnr.gov/fallcolor or 515-233-4110.
Pikes Peak State Park
The northeast corner of the state is known for its beautiful hills and forests, and the overlook at Pikes Peak State Park is one of the best places to see this grand view. From the 500-foot bluff, visitors get a panoramic view of the Mississippi River, the river valley, and a few of the stately bridges that connect Iowa and Wisconsin. While you’re there, hike the extensive trails and check out the picturesque Bridal Veil Falls.
Maquoketa Caves State Park
Home of the largest public caves in Iowa, Maquoketa Caves State Park has views and photo opportunities like nowhere else in the state. Dancehall Cave, the Natural Bridge and Balanced Rock are popular picture popping places, but six miles of scenic trails, a restored prairie, oak savanna and a wildlife food plot also provide great chances to look around and enjoy scenic eastern Iowa.
Bellevue State Park
With a name from the French words for “beautiful view,” Bellevue State Park should be on any list of scenic Iowa destinations. Although it’s not particularly large, the park offers views of the Mississippi River, woodlands, restored prairie, a wildlife viewing area, Native American burial mounds and more. Up the road a bit, Mines of Spain State Recreation Area offers a variety of trails popular with hikers and mountain bikers alike (and don’t miss the stunning views along the river from the Julien Dubuque monument).
Waubonsie State Park
On the other side of the state, Waubonsie State Park offers exceptional views of the Loess Hills area. Hiking and equestrian trails lead through prairie, valleys and gorges resembling the “badlands” of the west, and the Sunset Ridge Interpretive Trail gives visitors an opportunity to learn more about the unique plants, animals and history of the area. This park is a site on the national Lewis and Clark Historical Trail.
Pilot Knob State Park
Located in north central Iowa, Pilot Knob State Park offers visitors a unique way to see the plains of Iowa. Ancient glaciers made this land very flat, so visitors can see for miles around atop the park’s observational tower. The Civilian Conservation Corps constructed the tower in the 1930s, and it’s now the second-highest point in Iowa. Pilot Knob also has two scenic lakes, the larger of which is open for boating, fishing, swimming, skating and ice fishing depending on the season. The other 4-acre lake is the only sphagnum bog in Iowa, and offers visitors the chance to see rare plants and animals.
Rock Creek State Park
At nearly 1,700 acres, Rock Creek State Park is a well-known camping hotspot, but the 602-acre lake also provides excellent opportunities for activities and wildlife viewing. Whitetail deer and assorted ducks can be seen year-round, especially near the south end of the lake near the spillway.
Lacey-Keosauqua State Park
Another large park, Lacey-Keosauqua offers many historical and scenic points of interest. It includes a historical crossing point of the Des Moines River, Native American burial mounds, and a network of scenic trails through the cliffs and valleys bordering the river. Wildlife is plentiful and varied, and some individual trees in the park are more than 200 years old.
For more ideas, check out our Iowa State Parks and We Love Fall in Iowa boards on Pinterest.