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To the northeast of Iowa lies the Yellow River State Forest, one of the state’s largest forests, covering over 8,500-acres of land. Rocky outcrops, bluffs, and steep slopes characterize the forest that you get to explore on your motorhome camping trip. While the forest is massive, outdoor recreation is limited to the Paint Creek Unit of the forest, covering 5000-acres. Being close to the cities of Waukon and Lansing, it’s a good idea to book an RV in Allamakee County so that you are able to explore the forest and its surrounding areas.
The Civilian Conservation Corps established the forest in 1933, after they combined six areas, known as units, to make up the Yellow River State Forest. Luster Heights, Paint Creek North, Paint Creek South, Paint Rock, Waukon Junction, and Yellow River make up the forest collectively. Located in the Driftless Area of Iowa, the terrain remained rugged, as it wasn’t glaciated during the last Ice Age. Today, you get to make use of the forest in all its glory, offering the perfect landscape for hunting, hiking, camping, fishing, and nature study on your state park RV camping trip.
When you go RV camping at Yellow River State Forest, there are numerous recreational activities for you to enjoy. Hikers will love the trails in this forest. With a total of forty-five miles worth of trails to explore, ranging from easy to moderate to difficult, hikers enjoy every bit of their hiking experience. While the trail system is one of the most rugged in the state, the trails are well worn and easy to follow. Some of the trails are open to mountain bikers and equestrians, while about ten miles of trails are exclusively dedicated to hiking by foot only. The Paint Creek Trail is an easy, wide, multi-use trail covering 2.3 miles and crossing important areas in the park. Try the Forester Trail for a rugged hike, or the Heffern’s Hill Loop, which is perfect for endurance building. Don’t forget to explore the scenic overlooks on your hikes. For those of you who enjoy birding, your hikes will offer the perfect opportunity to check out rare bird species.
For your fishing enjoyment, there are two trout streams inside the forest. The Little Paint Stream and the Paint Stream are well stocked with trout and offer great fishing opportunities for both beginner and experienced anglers. Remember to buy a trout stamp before fishing in the forest, and follow all the necessary guidelines that go with fishing in Yellow River.
Hunting is a popular outdoor sport at Yellow River State Forest in all areas, except in or around camping areas. From white-tailed deer, squirrels, turkey, rabbits, waterfowl and upland game birds, there is ample game to hunt for. The state expects all hunting rules to be followed when engaged in the sport.
Camping with an RV at the Yellow River State Forest is easy and convenient. There are four campgrounds to choose from, with each offering a different set of amenities. The 45 miles of trails that go through the forest connect all four campgrounds. While all the campgrounds are non-modern with no electric service, the Little Paint Campground is most suitable to RV camping at Yellow River State Forest. It has eighty sites with big rig access, pull-thru sites, tent camping, and a water spigot. Vault washrooms are available at all the campgrounds, along with drinking water. The other campgrounds are Big Paint Campground, Creekside Equestrian Campground, and Frontier Equestrian Campground. There is a single cabin available for rent and comes equipped with electricity, a microwave, and a fridge.
If you’re looking for a place to camp in an RV near Yellow River State Forest, try the Sampson Springs Campground in Decorah, about 25 miles from the forest. It’s a small campground with 30 sites equipped with 20, 30 and 50 AMP electric service, pull-thru sites, big rig access, water, fire rings, picnic tables, restrooms, and showers. Kids will enjoy playing horseshoe or volleyball, while there is plenty of room for your pets to stretch their legs and run around.
Renting an RV is one of the best ways to explore the forest and its surrounding areas. After your camping trip, consider exploring the different areas of Allamakee County since it has so much to offer. Whether it’s arts or culture, history, sport, food, or shopping, there is something for everyone in this county. Check out the downtown murals of Decorah or the beautifully renovated opera house in Elkader; don’t miss the Bily Clock Museum in Spillville. Galleries and antique shops line the downtown area of McGregor that are known for their quaintness.
Decorah’s downtown area has a ‘historic district’ that offers an insight into the growth and development of the town. Ancient churches, distinguished homes, and the county courthouse are worth checking out here, displaying Midwestern architecture from the mid 18th century. Staying with history, the Allamakee County Historical Society in Waukon is a good starting point to understand the history of the region.
When it comes to food, Allamakee County, in particular, is known for its local and ethnic food varieties. There are a number of wineries and breweries spread across the county, as well as local and fresh food farms. Bars and taverns abound in every town as do small family-run eateries and cafés where a meal is a must. Don’t forget to fill up your RV rental at one of the gas stations in the county before hitting the highway and continuing on your outdoor adventure.