Backbone State Park

Dedicated in 1920 as Iowa’s first state park, Backbone State Park is one of the most geographically unique locations in Iowa. The steep and narrow ridge of bedrock from the Maquoketa River forms the highest point in northeast Iowa - The Devil’s Backbone - giving the park its legendary name. Take a walk through history by checking out the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) museum, explore the rugged 21-mile multi-use trail system or fish in some of Iowa’s best trout streams. Whether you’re an adrenaline seeker or just wanting to get outdoors for the day, Backbone State Park has something for everyone.


Hike through the 21-mile trail system and venture along twisted and windblown cedars up rough, rocky staircases. In the winter, explore the park’s snowmobile and cross-country ski trails. Avid mountain bikers can trek through the picturesque trails of Barred Owl, Bluebird, East Lake and West Lake.

Rock climb up the rugged dolomite limestone cliffs, offering many challenges for climbers and rapellers throughout the park. Check out Backbone Trail for some of the most popular climbing spots. Please register at the park office before climbing.

Fish for trout in Backbone’s clear, quick flowing stream fed by Richmond Springs. Backbone is known for its exceptional trout fishing, and anglers looking for their “secret spot” can enjoy a variety of shady and universally accessible trails along the stream. The sidewalk and concrete parking lot along the trout stream are ADA accessible.

Boat on Backbone Lake and enjoy refreshments from the beach concession stand. Visitors can rent boats at the boathouse and a boat ramp can be accessed near the southwest end of the lake. Only electric motors are allowed on the lake. Kayaks, canoes and paddle boats can be rented from the park’s concessionaire.

Stay overnight in one of Backbone’s popular 4-season cabins, or camp in one of Backbone’s campgrounds. Non-electric and electric sites are located in the South Lake Campground along with two shower buildings, a playground and a dump station. Both shower buildings and the campsite in the South Lake Campground are ADA accessible. Near the west entrance lies The Six Pine Campground, featuring non-electric sites and pit latrines. Campsites and year-round cabins can be reserved through the online reservation system for Backbone State Park.

Reserve a picnic shelter for a leisurely meal or family gathering. The Stone Lodge overlooks the lake and can be rented for family reunions, weddings and other large gatherings. The historic outdoor auditorium is also available for large gatherings and reservations can be made through the online reservation system for Backbone State Park.

Learn about the history of Backbone at the Iowa Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) museum near the park’s west gate. The museum offers an interesting and informative look into the dedicated work of the CCC in Iowa State Parks.

Hours of operation:
Tuesday-Saturday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and by special arrangement through the park office.


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Backbone State Park
1347 129th St
Dundee, IA 52038

Backbone State Park will be closed December 3 and 4, 2022 for the Backbone Controlled Deer Hunt. The cabins will still be open for reservations but portions of the park will be limited. Only participants possessing the controlled deer hunt licenses will be authorized in the closed areas. Posted 09/18/2022
The Six Pines and Southlake Campgrounds will be closed December 2, 3, and 4, 2022 for the Backbone Controlled Deer Hunt. The campgrounds will open on Monday, December 5, 2022. Posted 09/18/2022
Road Resurfacing Project: The 16 cabins will not be accepting reservations from January 1, 2023 - February 28, 2024. The Beach Shelter will not be accepting reservations from May 1, 2023 - October 15, 2023. The Beach Lodge we are not accepting reservations from May 1, 2023 - October 15, 2023. The concession will be closed while the cabins are closed from March 1, 2023 - February 28, 2024. If you would like to be notified if the cabins open earlier than expected, fill out this Backbone State Park notification Google form. (Posted 3/1/2021)
  • Outdoor Auditorium; ADA accessible
  • CCC museum; ADA accessible
  • Beach lodge; ADA accessible
  • Concessions
  • Boat rental
  • Boat ramp
  • Trout fishing
  • Trails
  • Playground
  • Day-use lodge (2)
  • Picnic shelters (5)
  • Modern/non modern restrooms
  • Showers; ADA accessible
  • Deluxe family cabins ; ADA accessible
  • Modern family cabins ; ADA accessible
  • Electric campsites
  • Full hook-up campsites
  • Non-electric campsites
  • Tent-only campsites
  • Youth group only campsites
  • Dump station