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.
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 can be reserved online 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.