Enclosed in one of the most beautiful parts of Iowa, the Union Grove State Park is more than just a park. It is an absolutely breathtaking depiction of the power of nature and her intricate ways of creation. This gorgeous 282-acre park is located in the northwest Tama County and is a perfect place to set up your rig, put on your backpack, and hike through the enchanting surroundings. Nature lovers will definitely find a piece of heaven here, as some of the most popular activities include bird watching, swimming, boating, and hiking. During the summer months, the 110-acre Union Grove Lake provides plenty of opportunities for cooling off, and if you come around the end of June, you can attend the annual Gladbrook Corn Carnival.
Families can enjoy the picnic sites, and engineering lovers can visit the Pentagon, rocket ship, and battleship replicas constructed of matchsticks in Matchstick Marvels in the nearby town of Gladbrook. Boating is a popular choice as well in this park established in 1938. Truly Iowa’s shiniest gem, Union Grove State Park will offer numerous opportunities for fun and relaxation for everyone. Endless greenery, beautiful waterfalls, and a vast lake are just some of the reasons to set up camp in this park and enjoy the beauty of Iowa.
Union Grove State Park is pretty easy to reach. When you reach the town of Gladbrook, you will need to travel for about five miles south on the highway T47 to access the park. From Tama and Toledo, drive north along the US Highway 63 and turn left on the 210th Street. If you are coming from Marshalltown, you’d have to drive for about 16 miles which only takes around 20 minutes, so it is safe to say that the park is easily accessible from all four sides of the world.
Big rigs are allowed in the park, and all motor vehicles need to be parked at designated areas, adjacent to the dam. Parked vehicles cannot be left unattended on a park drive, road, or highway, unless in a case of emergency. Persons with disabilities may use some motorized vehicles to access park routes, however, electric bikes and motor scooters are not allowed on the premises. There are no driving restrictions, except on the hiking trails which are foot-only.
Whether you choose a full-hookup or a no hookup site, rest assured that they are all pet-friendly. Two of the sites are buddy-sites, one of which only has 30 amp electric hookups, while the rest are full-service campsites. The maximum length of the rig is 35 feet, and all but the two buddy sites are back in and allow up to six people.
Drinking water can be found in the camp, as well as the comfort station, modern showers, and restrooms. You can find an RV dump station close-by. The RV sites are about 20 feet apart, which gives you enough room and privacy while still staying close to your temporary neighbors. Children will enjoy the proximity of the playgrounds, and families can have a relaxing day out at the designated picnic stations. Of course, the camp is close to the Brule Creek, and visitors can take a hiking trail to the scenic overview area where they can also spend some time before returning to the camp.
About one-quarter of campsites at this state are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.
One of the most popular activities in Union Grove State Park is hiking, due to an abundance of wonderful trails you can take. Pack up your hiking shoes and venture onto an adventure alongside one of the foot-only trails. The north trail is 1.5 miles long and requires moderate effort, and the south path is pretty easy and requires around 30 minutes of walking, or 1.1 miles. You will see waterfowl and songbirds, and if you are lucky even deer!
The gorgeous Union Grove lake is big enough for everyone! Swimmers can enjoy the beach on a hot summer’s day, and boat lovers can go to one of the boat ramps to access the water and spend some time in the middle of the lake. Boats of any size are allowed on the water, as long as they operate at no-wake speeds, so as to avoid disturbing the fish and other people on the water, and to prevent bank erosion.
Fishing is one of the most popular pastimes for RV visitors at Union Grove Lake. Anglers can look forward to an abundance of catfish, bullheads, crappies, bluegills, and bass. Fishers need to be aware of the no-wake lake rule, and fishing, just like swimming is allowed from sunrise to 10:30 pm, to avoid accidents due to low visibility. Get informed on the state laws regarding the fishing and hunting licenses, and don’t forget to have fun grilling the fish you catch!
Don't forget to pack your bike in your trailer or camper. The trails around Union Grove State Park are perfect for cycling or mountain biking, as they offer breathtaking surroundings and are far away from any traffic that may hinder your efforts to use your bike more. Cycling in the off-season will be a delight since the trails won’t be full of hikers. You can even take your dog as long as they are on a leash and know how to behave with a bicycle.
During the winter months, the Union Grove South and North hiking trail become the perfect playground to a myriad of winter sports. If you are looking for a place where you can get your adrenaline running, look no further. Snowmobiling and cross-country skiing are encouraged for the more experienced guests, and children can enjoy sledding at safer areas. For those who are just looking for some safe winter fun, head to an open space and have a snowball fight!
Eating grilled corn and marshmallows, maybe even a fish you caught earlier while sitting around a fire pit is one of the fondest childhood memories you have. You can recreate that and spice it up with a classic horror story wrapped in a warm blanket on a chilly night. The park has designated fire pit areas, so make sure to honor their rules and only light fires there. Don’t forget to bring a flashlight for the iconic movie effect – eerie light under your face while you are telling your favorite ghost story!