Camping in Iowa

Trip Planning

What Time of Year Should I Camp in Iowa?

Sara Broers, Iowan native, shares her tips on when to camp in Iowa.

When is the best time to camp in Iowa?

Iowa is in the heart of America and is known for having four distinct seasons. When you want to plan your camping trip, decide which season suits you best! If there is one thing that I do know, it is the fact that Iowa is cold in the winter. Spring, summer, and fall are fantastic times to camp with your RV. Here are my experiences camping during the different seasons which can hopefully enhance your next camping trip to Iowa.

Springtime brings new life to Iowa as the green grass begins to pop up along with the colorful flowers that start to bloom. Iowa State Parks rule when it comes to camping anywhere in Iowa. Some campgrounds are open all year long, and most are open April 15- October 31, weather dependent. A spring Iowa camping trip can be very wet, so pack your rain gear. It’s been said that April showers bring May flowers, and Iowa weather holds true to this. While the lakes in Iowa are too cold for swimming during April and most of May, the fishing is excellent, and sitting out around a campfire on a cool, clear night is incredible during springtime.

Summer camping in Iowa is outstanding. My family has always enjoyed camping in the State Parks over the summer months. The lakes, beaches, fishing, campfires, dark sky viewing, hiking, biking, and shaded campsites make for the perfect summer camping trip. Reserve your campsite as soon as you know when you plan to camp, as the campsites fill quickly in the summer months. From caving and camping at the Maquoketa Caves State Park to hiking in Ledges State Park, you will find an epic summer campsite. Tip: Pack old clothes for your caving adventure (or some you don’t mind throwing away) to explore the caves. It can be very muddy in the Maquoketa Caves.   

Most people think the Northeast (Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire) has the best fall foliage, but I think the northeastern part of Iowa has the best! In addition to leaf peeping, camping at The Yellow River State Forest is one of my favorite places to stay. It’s easy to disconnect, as you will have limited cell service. The campsites are surrounded with the colored leaves of fall, without electricity and water. There is running drinking water and pit toilets in each camping area. Your self-contained RV can easily take care of you for a few nights camping in this slice of paradise. If the weather turns cold earlier than usual, the water in the campground may be turned off before the fall camping season officially ends.

My family and I are not winter campers. There are a handful of campgrounds in Iowa that are open all year long. Running water is not available during the winter months due to the freezing temperatures. Snowshoeing, ice fishing, cross country skiing, and snowmobiling are activities that winter campers in Iowa enjoy, and early March is when you can see hundreds of bald eagles along the Mississippi River in eastern Iowa.

There’s nothing like meeting people around a campfire and sharing stories in an Iowa campground. Iowa State Parks, State Forests, and Recreational Areas offer the best way to experience nature and the sights and sounds that Iowa has to offer. Iowa’s landscape changes as you travel across the state, so keep your eyes wide open. From the rolling hills in Southern Iowa to the cliffs in the Northeast, your camping experience will be as epic as you make it out to be.

Sara Broers

Travel Blogger

Sara Broers is a travel enthusiast living in northern Iowa. She is the CEO of Travel With Sara and the co-owner of the Midwest Travel Network. Sara is also a proud wife and mother of two grown sons. She and her husband live on their family farm and enjoy taking their RV on adventures whenever they can.