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Pilot Knob State Park
SHELTERS REMAIN CLOSED. All shelters remain closed through May 28, 2020. As DNR continues to monitor the situation, please be aware that the closures could be extended. (Updated 05/23/2020)
PLAYGROUNDS CLOSED: All park playgrounds remain closed. (Updated 05/23/2020)
CAMPGROUNDS OPEN: Modern restrooms and shower buildings will OPEN on Friday, May 22. Camping is limited to campers with self-contained restrooms only until then. A this time, campgrounds are open only to campers, NO visitors. Water hydrants and dump stations are open. Youth group campsites will remain closed. Campers should practice social distancing and proper hygiene and follow the Governor's recommendation regarding group size. (Posted 05/20/2020)

Facilities and Activities

Pilot Knob towerPicnicking/Shelters
Two open picnic shelters can be reserved online through the park reservation system. Picnic tables and fireplaces are plentiful in pleasantly shaded areas.

The campground includes electrical hookups, modern showers, rest room facilities and a trailer dump station. A playground is located near the campground. Advance campsite reservations can be booked through the park reservation system. One fourth of the campsites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The park has excellent trails for hikers and horseback riders. In winter, a warming house with electricity and heat provides comfort for ice skaters, snowmobilers, cross-country skiers and ice fishermen.

Hidden within the 700-acre park and enclosed by abrupt banks is Dead Man's Lake, a four-acre floating sphagnum bog, the only one of its kind in Iowa. This is a botanist's delight, bordered by native trees, shrubs and flowering plants. Waterfowl feed and breed in the tall grasses. Three species of pond lilies grow here, one found nowhere else in Iowa. Trees native to the Pilot Knob area include walnut, ash, basswood, wild cherry, burr oak, aspen, white oak and red oak. Pilot Knob's natural features are so significant, the majority of the park has been dedicated as a state preserve.

A scenic 15-acre, man-made lake offers fishing and boating with the use of electric motors only. It is also a popular site for ice skating.

Recreation Area
The Pilot Knob Recreation Area, just north of Pilot Knob State Park is available for public hunting, hiking, snowmobiling and other activities.

Pilot Knob State Park is one of the oldest units in the state park system. It was dedicated on September 11, 1924. Standing atop the tower on "Pilot Knob," visitors have a spectacular view. From the tower built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, one can see great expanses of some of the most fertile farmland in the world. After glaciers leveled the prairies of north-central Iowa, they deposited the rocks and earth that formed the hills and valleys that are now Pilot Knob. In earlier times, pioneers used the Pilot Knob as a guide as they traveled west in covered wagons, thus giving the park its name. An open air amphitheater, constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, is surrounded by scenic woods.

Nearby Towns
Forest City is four miles from the park

Nearby Lakes


Within park
Amphitheater, Bicycling, Bird Watching, Camping - Electric, Camping - Nonelectric, Camping - Youth Group, Canoeing, Cross Country Skiing, Dump Station, Fishing, Hiking, Horseback Riding, Horseshoe Pits, Lookout Tower, Modern Campground, Picnic Area, Picnic Shelter, Playground, Restrooms, Showers, Snowmobiling, Trails, Cross Country Skiing, Trails, Equestrian, Trails, Hiking, Trails, Mountain Bike, Trails, Snowmobile, Walking, Wildlife Viewing

Less than a mile
More than a mile
ATM/Cash Machine, Canoe Rental, Church, Fuel, Vehicles, Golf, Grocery Store, Hospital, Medical Clinic, Motel, Retail, Firewood, Retail, Ice, Retail, Snacks, River