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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.

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.

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.

Backbone State Park
1347 129th St
Dundee, IA 52038

OPEN FACILITIES: All parks and forests remain open for day-use including: trails, roads, river and lake access points, boat ramps, shorelines and open spaces such as grassy areas. Equestrian trails may temporarily close due to wet conditions. Please check this page or call the park/forest office regarding equestrian trail closures. When recreating practice social distancing, avoid other groups of people and practice proper hygiene. (Posted 4/10/2020)
FACILITY CLOSURES UPDATE: ALL park, rec area and state forest campgrounds (including backpack campsites), youth campsites, group camps are closed for recreational camping through April 30, 2020. All cabins, yurts, day-use lodges, shelters, restrooms (modern and nonmodern), shower buildings, playgrounds, museums/visitor centers are also closed through April 30, 2020. (updated April 7, 2020)
CABIN RENOVATION CLOSURE: Cabins 1 - 8, 9-12 and cabin A will be closed from November 11 - May 31, 2020 and July 10 - October 31 2020 for renovations. The restoration techniques required, which include large equipment and potentially hazardous materials, will not allow people to be in the cabins until the work is completed. If the project is finished early, the cabins will be re-opened for reservations. (Updated February 19, 2020)
Backbone Gates are now open for the season, but will close during flood events.
WATER IS CURRENTLY SHUT OFF AT ALL CAMPGROUNDS FOR SEASON: Water is currently shut off to the campgrounds at Backbone State Park for the season. The sewer dump station is also closed for the season.
  • 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 (4); ADA accessible
  • Modern family cabins (12); ADA accessible
  • Electric campsites (49)
  • Full hook-up campsites (1)
  • Non-electric campsites (59)
  • Tent-only campsites (15)
  • Youth group only campsites (4)
  • Dump station