Ledges State Park is one of the more intriguing places to visit while RVing in the state of Iowa. The park is located on 1,200 acres, featuring hundreds of sandstone cliffs and glacially-carved terrain by Pea’s Creek and the Des Moines River. Created in 1924, the park area was first home to the Sauk, Fox, and Sioux Native American tribes that inhabited the area for centuries. Today, the park offers a landscape that is packed with interesting rock formations, bluffs, dense forests, and the Des Moines River, which plays an integral part of the landscape. You won't want to miss a chance to see the magnificent sandstone gorge that can be up to 100 feet deep. Located 4 miles south of the city of Boone, Ledges State Park offers 94 campsites year round, some of which offer full hookups.
Once inside Ledges State Park, you will find remnants of its historical past with numerous buildings, structures, and picnic areas built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The organization was instrumental in developing much of the original infrastructure in the park. Visitors can enjoy their outstanding craftsmanship as they travel over arched stone bridges, hike on trails carved from the sandstone, and picnic in the stone shelters in the Lower Ledges area.
Ledges State Park offers year-round activities that range from hiking and swimming to gazing over the densely forested areas from one of the many lookouts. The climate is in Iowa is typical of most mid-western states with temperatures that range from the mid-80s and 90s in the summer to sub-freezing weather with snow in the winter. During melt-off and periods of high rain, the park suffers from extensive flooding caused by the Des Moines River.
RV Rentals in Ledges State Park
Transportation in Ledges State Park
Ledges State Park is located in central Iowa and it is very easy to get there. The park is located about 45 minutes north of Des Moines and just 15 minutes west of Ames. The park is surrounded by farm estates and agriculture areas, and the entrance is through Quill Ave, which is a two-way road. Once inside the park, the roads can be narrow with several stone bridges along the main attraction, which is the Canyon Drive. Canyon Drive is a one-way road with numerous turnouts for people who are having a problem with navigating the narrow road. The Canyon Drive passes through numerous gorges, some of which plunge 50 to 100 feet. The road is best traveled in a passenger car or SUV. The single two-way road running along the western portion of the park connects 255th Street and Oriole Road as the road passes over Pea’s Creek. The road is generally flat and easily maneuvered in any type of vehicle. There are no roads within the northern portion of the park.
The campground roads are one-way and generally easy to navigate, no matter what size your RV or trailer you might be towing. Visitors will not encounter any hairpin turns within the loops and you are advised to adhere to the posted speed limits as there is usually children playing along the loop roads.
Campgrounds and parking in Ledges State Park
Campsites in Ledges State Park
Ledges State Park Campground
The campground at Ledges State Park is well-designed and has been recently renovated. There are five connected loops with two large and three small loops. There are 94 campsites within the loops, each featuring a fire ring or barbecue and picnic table. The campground boasts 40 sites with electric and water hookups, 40 non-electrical sites, and 12 hike-in sites which can be up to a quarter-mile from the road or parking area. The sites are flat with gravel pads and there are a few pull-through sites which can accommodate larger RVs and trailers up to 138 feet in length.
Within the campground visitors will find a playground, showers, restrooms and numerous fresh water stations. RVer’s can use the dump station located along the campground loop road as you first enter the area. Generators may be used between the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Pets are allowed within the campground area. Some of the services such as restrooms and showers may not be available in each loop during the off-season.
The campground at Ledges State Park offers a select number of first-come, first-served campsites. Of the 94 campsites within the loops, there are 23 campsites that are non-reservable. Seven of the campsites offer water and electrical hookups and 11 boast electrical hookups. Each campsite features a fire ring or barbecue and picnic table. The sites are flat with gravel pads and there are two pull-through sites which can accommodate larger RVs and trailers up to 138 feet in length.
Within the campground visitors will find a playground, showers, restrooms and numerous fresh water stations throughout. RVers can use the dump station located along the campground loop road as you first enter the area. Generators are allowed from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Pets are allowed on a 6-foot leash. During the off-season restrooms and showers may not be available in each loop.
Seasonal activities in Ledges State Park
Kayaking and Fishing
Several visitors will take advantage of kayaking along the Des Moines River, which runs along the western boundary of the park. The river offers an easily navigated waterway for novices, as well as some challenging areas for more expert paddlers. Kayakers, canoeists, and tubing enthusiasts will find the best access to drop-in somewhere along the Lower Ledges Road. Fishing is also popular along the Des Moines River with the possibility of catching walleye, white bass, flathead, and hybrid striped bass.
Hiking is one of the most popular things to do in Ledges State Park. The park boasts over 13 miles of trails including an interpretive trail that explains the dense forests and the geologic formations. One of the more popular trails is the Campground to Canyon Trail. This one-mile trail will lead you past the remains of the historic remains of the old Fowler Homestead. Another popular trail is the one-mile Crow’s Nest Trail. The trail winds through exposed sandstone walls and offers gorgeous views of the Des Moines River Valley.
Scenic Driving on Canyon Road
The main attraction in Ledges State Park is taking a drive along Canyon Drive. This one-way road offers plenty of places to turnout where visitors can enjoy views of the glacially-carved sandstone, which includes gorges that plunge 50 to 100 feet downward. Photographers like to snap unique shots of the historical stone bridges and structures that are visible from the road. Picnicking along the Canyon Drive is also popular with many spots available along Pea’s Creek where you can take a dip if the weather is warm.
Wildlife Viewing and Photography
Viewing wildlife and taking photographs of the scenery are fun ways to spend time while you are RVing in Ledges State Park. Wildlife you can expect to see ranges from white-tail deer to beaver to raccoons, as well as rare birds including the pileated woodpecker along the Makoke Birding Trail. The park sports a tremendous amount of colorful trees during autumn when the densely forested areas of basswood, oak, hickory, as well as maple trees start to turn into vibrate colors of red, orange, and yellow.
Snowshoeing and Cross-Country Skiing
Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are popular things to do in Ledges State Park during the off-season. The numerous hiking trails are ideal for people who are looking to enjoy a winter wonderland of nature. Trails such as the Prairie, Lost Lake, and Council Ring Trails boast level ground with easy terrain to navigate. Caution is advised during icy and stormy conditions, if you choose to snap on your shoes or skis. The northern portion of the park offers flat prairie which is great novices.
Visiting the Hutton Memorial
The Hutton Memorial is a truly special place to park your RV while you are inside the park. The memorial is accessed off a trail that starts off the Canyon Road. The Hutton Memorial is dedicated to Murray Lee Hutton who was the first director of the Iowa State Conservation Commission, as well as a staunch conservationist for the state of Iowa. Once at the memorial you will be treated to panoramic views of the intriguing sandstone cliffs, the northern prairie portions of the park, and incredible views of the Des Moines River Valley.