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Set in an ancient valley carved by the Maquoketa River, Backbone State Park immerses you in the natural beauty of the Hawkeye State. It's the oldest state park in Iowa and has been welcoming visitors since 1919. The 2,000-acre park is named after its unique geological features, predominantly the narrow "Devil's Backbone" ridge that slices through the valley and forms one of the highest points in Iowa. There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the scenery, from woodland hikes and sun-dappled picnics to leisurely paddles and exhilarating rock-climbing routes. There's even a dash of history thrown into the mix, with rustic stone cabins and an absorbing museum recalling the legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps.
At just three hours from the Iowa state capital, Backbone State Park is a fantastic destination if you're looking to camp in an RV near Des Moines. Backbone is also a four-hour drive from Minneapolis, which makes it eternally popular with city dwellers in search of fresh air and serene waterscapes. Planning to camp at Backbone State Park? Discover a range of affordable RV rentals in Delaware County.
Backbone State Park is crisscrossed with more than 20 miles of hiking trails that take you through cedar groves, along rocky outcrops, and up to scenic lookouts. For sweeping views over the park, nothing beats the famous Devil's Backbone viewpoint. Mountain bikers will be in their element, with designated trails like Barred Owl and Bluebird offering serious thrills. Climbers can gear up and take on challenging routes set on rugged dolomite limestone walls.
In summer, Backbone Lake lures sunseekers with a sandy beach and warm water. Spend the day soaking up the sunshine or challenge your crew to a game of beach volleyball. It's easy to enjoy a paddle, with kayaks and canoes available to rent from the historic boathouse. The dog-friendly grassy area is great for picnics with your pup. Alternatively, treat yourself to hot dogs, ice cream, and other snacks at the concessions building.
Anglers will jump at the chance to reel in trout from the streams that meander through Backbone State Park. Stick to popular fishing sites or explore the waterside trails and find your own secret spot. A stone's throw from the park's west gate, the CCC Museum celebrates the efforts of the Civilian Conservation Corps with photos, tools, and memorabilia. As you explore the park, you can also discover one of the best-preserved collections of CCC structures in the Midwest, including bridges, stone buildings, and a unique trout hatchery.
For spacious sites and creature comforts, head to the South Lake Campground. This well-maintained state park RV campground features almost 100 electric and non-electric sites, all with picnic tables and fire rings – perfect for frying up your catch of the day or roasting s'mores. Hot showers and flush toilets are also available. There's a playground for keeping little campers entertained, as well as easy access to the lakeside boathouse, swimming beach, and concession stand.
Sites on the northwest side of the campground tend to be shaded by oaks and maples, while southeastern sites are sunnier and set on grassy patches. Motorhome campers at Backbone State Park always have access to a dump station and potable water. Most sites cater to rigs of up to 45 feet, though a handful are large enough to host 50, 60, and 70-foot RV rentals. Pets are welcome at South Lake; just be sure to keep your dog leashed. On the western side of Backbone Lake, Six Pine Campground offers an off-the-grid experience with non-electric tent sites and pit toilets. It's a great option if you want to enjoy a little R&R and reconnect with nature.
Camping at Backbone State Park puts you in the heart of Delaware County, a picturesque pocket of Iowa known for rolling farmland and golden maple forests. Lake Delhi is one of the top recreation spots in the county, dotted with sandy beaches and scenic picnic spots. Don't miss the photo-worthy Labyrinth Spillway, which commands breathtaking views over the lake. Visiting local Amish communities offers a unique chance to learn about the simplistic lifestyles of traditionalist Christian church fellowships that have toiled in the Iowa countryside since the 18th century.
A 30-minute drive from the park, the Traver Toys and Farm Machinery Museum and Store is always a hit with kids. Check out a restored 1930s tractor, admire vintage Coke machines, and marvel at the huge collection of retro toys. If you're visiting in the fall, Sherman’s Corn Maze and Pumpkin Farm is another family-friendly gem.
For gas stations and grocery stores, Dundee is one mile to the south. You can also stock up on supplies in Lamont and Strawberry Point, both within ten minutes of the park. The lively riverside city of Manchester is another great place to fill up your tank or enjoy a pint of craft beer. For more RV rentals near Backbone State Park, consider starting your trip in Chicago. As well as a great selection of RV rentals, the Windy City also boasts big-ticket attractions like Millennium Park, Navy Pier, and Cloud Gate.