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Located in south-central Iowa, Stephens State Forest is a fascinating ecosystem renowned for the rich recreational opportunities it provides to Chariton campers and locals alike. Just under a half-hour drive away from scenic Osceola and roughly 35 minutes from the history-filled town of Corydon, the forest is surrounded by exciting places to visit. Camp out in the forest for a fun-filled week of hiking, hunting, horseback riding, fishing, backpacking, and so much more.
Once a base of operations for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the Stephens State Forest land was transformed from the heavily eroded landscape it once was into the lush and wonderful forest it is today. Another interesting facet of the forest is the Native American roots hidden inside four identified archeological sites. Home to a myriad of Native American artifacts, these sites are unmarked within the forest to prevent vandalism.
As you explore this expansive forest comprising over seven units and more than 15,500 acres, expect to see narrow, flat ridges divided by entrenched drainages while walking the woodland streets. Whether it's the history that fascinates you or the miles of forest to explore, book an RV in Lucas County today to experience all that Stephens State Forest has to offer!
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, then be sure to pick up a map of Stephens State Forest before heading out for a hike. As the forest encompasses a vast seven units, you’ll be sure to find an assortment of recreational trails and opportunities for all your vacation desires. Head over to the Lucas Unit for ten miles of hiking trails within a sweet pine and hardwood forest. Or, take advantage of the six miles of hiking at Woodburn Unit. Keep your eyes on the skies and you might catch sight of a bald eagle or a variety of delightful songbirds.
Wildlife keeps your backpacking experience entertaining each step of the way as every unit of the forest is rich in a wide range of species. Deer, turkey, bobcat, squirrel, rabbit, bear, quail, pheasant, and red fox are just a few of the animals you might catch a glimpse of. Backpacking through the Woodburn or Lucas units will create an enriching experience for Stephens State Forest campers to enjoy time and time again.
If you packed a rifle or a fishing rod in your rental RV, then you’re in luck! The forest has ample hunting and fishing opportunities available. As the entire forest, excepting the campgrounds, is open to public hunting, load up a pack for the day and set up camp in the cozy atmosphere of the Iowa forestry. Or take a trip to one of the four rippling ponds within the forest for a day spent fishing. From the plentiful Mine Pond to the secluded Hidden Pond, you can’t go wrong with any one of these beautiful fishing spots.
Camping with an RV at Stephens State Forest gives you 64 reservable campsites to choose from. The 64 sites are spread across the Lucas Primitive Campground, Boy Scout Camp, Middle Campground, Mine Pond Campground, White Breast Equestrian Campground, and more. Of those, 42 sites are equestrian-friendly. The sites are spacious and comfortable, providing up to a 65-foot back-in length for your motorhome rental. You’ll love the opportunity to camp year-round at Stephens State Forest as the campsites are nestled inside the cozy forest for a rustic camping experience.
Although there are no hookups available, a fire ring and picnic table are provided at most of the sites. If you book a site in advance, you just might be able to take advantage of one of the Lucas and White Breast sites where pit latrines and running water are available. Pets are welcome at each of the campgrounds, as long as they are leashed.
If you’re looking to learn more about the history of the surrounding area, then drive on over to Prairie Trails Museum in Corydon. With 25,000 artifacts inside a five-gallery brick building, the museum covers 21,000 square feet of fascinating history. Browse Heritage Barn, where a spectacular display of olden-day farmer tools and artifacts capture the attention with thousands of stories buried in each corner of the building.
After a day of exploring, you’ll probably want to fill up on some food at a local restaurant. In Chariton, just a few miles away from the park, you’ll find Chinese, Mexican, fast-food, and grill fare to satisfy your palate. If it’s gas or groceries you need, then stay in town for numerous gas and grocery options. You’ll love the small-town convenience that Chariton offers.
Looking to steal away for a day on the lake? Osceola boasts East Lake County Park and West Lake as dazzling bodies of water for the traveler to discover. Bring the kids for a family picnic on the shore, or kayak out into the lake for a fun fishing experience. Whatever makes your heart sing, allow your vacation to take flight with a journey into one of Iowa’s sweetest gems.