If you're looking for a stop for your next RV vacation that combines breathtaking views, adventure, and lots of history, there's no better place than the Maquoketa Caves State Park. Located in Jackson County northwest of Maquoketa, Maquoketa Caves State Park extends for almost 200 acres, with a significant chunk being part of the historic district of Iowa. Maquoketa Caves State Park is famous for its caves (it has more caves than any other Iowa state park), many nature trails, and unique natural formations, including the Natural Bridge. The history behind the park and its landscape is rich, dating back possibly thousands of years. Stepping into the park and exploring all it has to offer is almost like stepping into a time machine and going back to when Native Americans inhabited the land.
There is something for everyone at Maquoketa Caves State Park, even if young children cannot keep up with the terrain of some of the trails. Don't hesitate to pack up the RV (or rent one) and take the whole family, including the dog, to Maquoketa Caves State Park. There is a great RV-friendly campground waiting for you to call home for the night that has 25 sites, all of which come with electric hookups.
Peak season for the Maquoketa Caves state park is between mid-April and mid-October. During the off-season you can still explore the park's trails, but the caves will be closed for bat hibernation.
RV Rentals in Maquoketa Caves State Park
Transportation in Maquoketa Caves State Park
Getting to and from Maquoketa Caves State Park is relatively simple thanks to its handy location near the city of Maquoketa. If you need to get any last-minute supplies this is the best place to visit to grab them.
While finding the park isn't hard, you may have issues once you reach the park as the roads are known for not exactly being RV-friendly. The roads in the campground aren't too tight, but some visitors have noted that the campsites are a little close together which makes setting up a little tricky.
You definitely can't take the RV around the entire park. For convenience, if you plan on going in and out, you should bring a car with you. However, if you just plan on exploring the park you can get around by foot or bike pretty easily as long as you don't mind a little bit of good old exercise. Make sure to check ahead and see if there are any road closures or construction going on since these are both fairly often occurrences.
While there are parking lots around the park, it is probably easiest to set up shop at your campsite and travel by foot or by bike. This gives you a chance to explore the many nature trails that are just waiting to be discovered.
Campgrounds and parking in Maquoketa Caves State Park
Campsites in Maquoketa Caves State Park
Maquoketa Caves Campground
The Maquoketa Caves Campground is the only campground available, and it will give you the chance to call the park home for the night. The campground has a total of 35 sites that are available for tents and RVs, 25 of which feature electric hookups. The other sites are a mixture of six walk-to sites, youth group sites and an additional two picnic shelters.
The campground is known for being kept in really good condition, and it will provide you with a comfortable stay. Some visitors warn that the campsites are close together, but at the end of the day this all comes down to preference, and all of the RV sites have the same amenities. All of the campsites are back-in, but they vary in size. Some sites can accommodate RVs and trailers up to 68 feet long, while others only have enough room for vehicles up to 31 feet in length. Make sure you check for the maximum length of whatever campsite you reserve.
Some of the amenities at the campground include water collection points, showers, restrooms, picnic tables, and a dump station. You can even bring your furry friend with you during your stay, and you should be able to get cell phone reception. You can make reservations for sites from April to October. Most campsites can be reserved up to three months in advance while some sites are not open for reservations.
Maquoketa Caves Campground
Maquoketa Caves Campground has a variety of sites available that differ from the standard reservations process. Some sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis year-round, while during the off-season it is available on a walk-in basis.
If you are visiting the campground during the off-season a lot of the amenities at the campground will not be accessible, including water collection points, showers, and the restrooms. During this time the campground is not known to be busy so you will have plenty of room to stretch out. You'll also be able to choose from sites with electric hookups, shelters, hike-in sites, and youth group sites. You'll be within walking distance to restrooms and showers. Your pets are also welcome to come with you during your stay and you should get cell phone reception on all of the major networks.
Seasonal activities in Maquoketa Caves State Park
If you are interested in fishing during your trip to Maquoketa Caves State Park than the Maquoketa River is the place for you. Located roughly two miles south of the park the Maquoketa River is a great fishery that is home to a wide variety of fishing spots that can be accessed by watercraft or off the banks of the river. Popular species caught in this area of the river include smallmouth bass, walleye, sauger, northern pike and various species of catfish. You will need an Iowa fishing license, so remember to get one before you cast out a line.
Relaxing on the Maquoketa River
The park is located just one mile from the Maquoketa River where canoe rentals are available. This tributary of the Mississippi River is a great place to chill out and relax at with many activities for you to do. You can take a boat ride down the tranquil Maquoketa River (which is a great activity for couples), or rent inner tubes for the entire family and float together. This is especially nice after a long day of getting dirty in the caves. As you float along you'll likely see wildlife among the lush vegetation along the edge of the river.
Hiking the Nature Trails
Maquoketa Caves State Park features over six miles of trails with varying terrains that are suitable for hikers of all skill levels. The trails put you smack dab in the middle of the gorgeous forest that is just teeming with wildlife. From towering trees and the many species of birds that inhabit them to the wildflowers that attract fluttering butterflies, you can enjoy it all while strolling through the shade. There is no rock climbing or repelling allowed because it's such a historic site, so as tempting as it may be, be sure to respect the rules and not damage any of this beautiful park.
The Maquoketa Caves State Park has more caves than any other Park in Iowa, making it the perfect vacation for spelunkers ( who are also known as cave explorers). The large spacious caves, such as the Dancehall Cave, are perfect for families or beginners. Some of the smaller caves are a little bit difficult but still provide lots of fun for those able to explore them. Just be sure to bring a flashlight, helmet, and some comfortable clothes that you don't mind getting dirty. With 13 caves to explore, you could spend all day at the park and still not see everything it has to offer.
Jackson County Historical Museum
Are you hoping to learn more about the local area? If so, you must check out the Jackson County Historical Museum. Located only eight and a half miles from Maquoketa Caves State Park, Jackson County Historical Museum is a fantastic place to visit due to the many displays and friendly staff. The museum is mostly known for being the home of a few oddities, including a stuffed two-headed calf and a six-legged lamb, but there are also some great displays on Civil War artifacts, a one-room schoolhouse, and woodworking. Hot tip: If you purchase a ticket to the museum you can also visit the nearby Clinton Engines Museum free of charge.
Among the diverse wildlife at the Maquoketa Caves State Park are the many species of birds. Bird lovers who visit the park love walking the trails and counting how many different species that you can see. Some species of birds you may see include turkey vultures, golden-winged warblers, gray catbirds, and great horned owls. You also might be able to spot blue jays, crows, goldfinches, pigeons, woodpeckers, northern cardinals, and doves. If you're lucky you may even see some eagles soaring overhead. The specific species you see will depend on what season you go during, but you're guaranteed to see at least some of the local residents that call the park home.
During the off-season, you can still enjoy natural beauty of the park by going for a picnic. Few things compare to enjoying a meal with people you love in the middle of such a beautiful park. While this can be enjoyed any time of year, many people find the park especially beautiful during the late fall and early winter months, when the leaves are changing colors and when the entire park has been transformed into a winter wonderland.
Visiting the Interpretive Center
The Interpretive Center is like a museum and theater all in one and should be your first stop once you have set up your campsite. History buffs will love the vast amount of information contained within the Interpretive Center that will inform you about the geologic formations around the park and the natives that inhabited the caves many, many years ago. The interpretive Center is a go-to for any families with very small kids who may not be able to handle all of the caves but still want to see some cool stuff. The center offers a virtual tour that lets you explore the entire park from within the safety of the Interpretive Center. This is a must-see, especially if you are visiting the state park in your RV during the off-season.