Yellow River State Forest
Guide

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Introduction

Yellow River State Forest is located in Allamakee County in north-eastern Iowa. Set within 8,900 acres of stunning hardwood and coniferous forest, the campground was once part of the ‘driftless’ area that escaped the glaciers during the Ice Age.

Today, the campground is open all year round and is a popular spot for outdoor recreationists. Surrounded by maple-basswood, oak-hickory, and bottomland hardwoods, there are over 25 miles of hiking trails to discover here – some of Iowa’s very best. Campers can enjoy them by hiking, biking, horse riding and even snowmobiling in the winter months.

Other activities include swimming in the river and hunting in the forest. Anglers will also enjoy fishing for bass and panfish in the marsh and fishing along six miles of trout stream stocked between April and October.

A great choice for campers with large RVs, the Yellow River State Forest campground offers a range of spacious sites for tents only, RVs, as well as equestrian sites at an extra charge. There is also a cabin available for tent.

RV Rentals in Yellow River State Forest

Transportation in Yellow River State Forest

Driving

You will find the entrance to Yellow River State Forest on Highway 76 in Allamakee County, north-east Iowa. The headquarters are located on county highway B24 about four miles south-east of Waterville.

There is also another entrance to the west of Harpers Ferry. It is two miles from town along the county road X42. Avoid taking the Donahue Road entrance as it is a B level road and not suitable for big rigs.

Parking

Public Transport

Campgrounds and parking in Yellow River State Forest

Campsites in Yellow River State Forest

Reservations camping

Cabin

One rustic camping cabin is available to rent from mid-April through to the end of October each year. There is a minimum stay requirement of two nights for this cabin. This rustic cabin has electricity, microwave, a full sized refrigerator, and two porches. Visitors must bring their own bedding, towels, and cooking utensils. The cabin is located near the back pack registration parking lot and the forestry office.

Creekside Equestrian Campground

The Creekside Equestrian Campsite is non-modern and has non-electric sites with hitching rails and vault toilets. It has a manure bunker and a dumpster.

No drinking water can be found in the campgrounds at Yellow River State Forest but it is available at the A-frame information center located on State Forest Road near Big Paint Campground. Some of these sites can be reserved ahead of time.

Frontier Equestrian Campground

The Frontier Equestrian Campsites is non-modern and has non-electric sites with hitching rails, manure bunkers, vault toilets and a dumpster. No drinking water can be found in the campgrounds at Yellow River State Forest but it is available at the A-frame information center located on State Forest Road near Big Paint Campground. Some of these sites can be reserved ahead of time.

Little Paint Campground

The campsites within Little Paint Campground are non-modern and non-electric sites with vault toilets and a dumpster. There are also two sites that are for used by chaperoned organized youth groups. . No drinking water can be found in the campgrounds at Yellow River State Forest but it is available at the A-frame information center located on State Forest Road near Big Paint Campground. Some of these sites can be reserved ahead of time.

Big Paint Campground

Big Paint Campground has a variety of non-modern and non-electric with vault toilets. No drinking water can be found in the campgrounds at Yellow River State Forest but it is available at the A-frame information center located on State Forest Road near Big Paint Campground. Some of these sites can be reserved ahead of time.

First-come first-served

Alternate camping

Seasonal activities in Yellow River State Forest

In-Season

Fishing

Yellow River State Forest is a favorite for anglers who enjoy fishing within the six miles of trout stream that is well stocked between the months of April and October. For something a little different, you can also try your luck at catching bass and panfish in the marsh. Please note that a trout stamp is required to do this.

Hunting

The entire Yellow River State Forest is open to hunting, except for the campgrounds. Take note that you will need a hunting permit to hunt in the park and this needs to be acquired ahead of time. Call the park for more information on hunting zones and permits.

Hiking

Yellow River State Forest is a popular spot for hiking enthusiasts with over 25 miles of multi-use trails to explore, as well as scenic trails leading through the forest – perfect for picnics! The Backpack Trail was featured amongst ‘America’s Top 50 Hikes – The Finest in Every State’ by Outside magazine in 1996. The trails are open all year round and offer a range of easy and moderate trails. The Backpack Trail is also part of the equestrian trail so you may encounter horses.

Off-Season

Horse Riding

Horse riding can be enjoyed only on designated trails, roads and campgrounds within Yellow River State Forest. Mountain bikes are also allowed on equestrian trails too so bear this in mind. For those with an interest in horse riding getaways, there are equestrian campsites where you can stay, equipped with manure bunkers.for your horse.

Picnics

There are plenty of picnic areas available in Yellow River State Forest that can be enjoyed all year round. You will find several picnic areas in the Paint Creek Unit that are perfectly peaceful for a winter picnic.

Winter Sports

With over 25 miles of trails, Yellow River State Forest is also a haven for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling in the winter months. A large portion of the cross-country ski trail system can be found here. The entire forest is open to cross-country skiers; however designated ski trails are maintained only on the Paint Creek and Luster Heights Units. As for snowmobiling, this can be enjoyed only along designated trails. .

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