Boondocking in Iowa

Last updated on May 25th, 2021 at 10:03 am. Originally published on March 3rd, 2021

While Iowa has a strong reputation for being where the tall corn grows, it also is widely known for having some of the nation’s top boondocking sites. From the state’s western bluffs near Sioux City and Sioux Center to the cliffs along the Mississippi River near Dubuque and Muscatine, you can find excellent free camping in Iowa. There are also many outstanding options for boondocking in Iowa on the rolling plains in the middle of the state, near Des Moines and Mason City. Mild spring and summer temperatures make Iowa a perfect state to explore. 

A river with several grassy, forested islands in Pikes Peak State Park, Iowa.

Boondocking Sites in Iowa

Brad Niewoehner Memorial Park

Brad Niewoehner Memorial Park in Fredericksburg, Iowa, is a fantastic free camping in Iowa location. Each campsite comes with water and sewer hookups. A spacious picnic shelter with electricity is available. Take a stroll on the 5-mile Plum Creek Bike and Nature Trail to enjoy northeast Iowa’s beautiful scenery. 

Hickory Hills Park

Hickory Hills Park in New Virginia, Iowa, is a great place to go camping for free. Cast your line into the small fishing pond, or stroll along the hiking paths. A pit latrine is available. Find water in the nearby day-use area. 

Clemons Creek Wildlife and Recreation Area

Clemons Creek Wildlife and Recreation Area near Wellman, Iowa, is a fantastic spot to go camping. You can fish in Clemons Creek. There is also an archery range, where you can practice your shooting skills. This area is popular seasonally with pheasant and turkey hunters. 

Otter Creek Park

Indianola’s Otter Creek Park offers a scenic place to camp for free. There are no conveniences at this location except for vaulted toilets, so be sure to bring water and other necessities with you. This quiet campground is located several miles down a gravel road. Indianola is a fun town to explore, and it is just 16 miles south of Des Moines, so you can take in all that Iowa’s capital city has to offer. 

Grant Park

Follow the hiking trails after settling in your camping spot at Grant Park near Swan, Iowa. The secluded pond is a great place to go fishing. You will find a pit latrine but no other facilities at this campground. You may have this little plot of land all to yourself, making it the ideal getaway for those who like solitude. 

White Oak Campground

The White Oak Campground is in the Donnellson Unit of Shimek State Forest near Farmington, Iowa. You can find lots to do in this state forest, including hiking on the 6.2 miles of trails or strolling along the nature trail. Shagbark Lake is nearby and has a boat ramp, and there is a paid campground with full hookups. This southeast Iowa location is a great place to go hunting seasonally. 

Echo Valley State Park

Echo Valley State Park offers primitive camping with no water, electric, or sewer hookups. This park near West Union, Iowa, is administered by the Fayette County Conservation Board. Go hiking to see many historical sites, including part of a dam built by the CCC in the 1930s. Glover’s and Otter Creek make terrific places to go fishing. You can often catch trout from the shores on these creeks. They also make outstanding canoeing locations, especially in the fall when the leaves are turning color. 

Frenchtown Campground

Camp along the Mississippi River’s shores at Frenchtown Campground near Guttenberg, Iowa. A boat ramp at this park makes it easy to launch your vessel onto the river. This campground is open from May until October. Guttenberg is a fun, artsy community to visit, and you may want to include a stop at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Aquarium and Fish Hatchery on your trip. 

Where to Boondock in Iowa

The majority of Iowa’s boondocking sites sit near the state’s remote farming communities. You can find spots along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. There are also sites available in the middle of the state, especially in the Okoboji Lakes region. Some state parks that county governments manage have free camping in Iowa. You will find free primitive camping in some of the state’s forests, such as Yellow River State Forest and White Pine Hollow State Forest. The northwest region around Guthrie County has several fantastic opportunities. 

Free Camping in Iowa

When preparing for your boondocking trip in Iowa, there are various factors to keep in mind. Iowa weather can often be extreme with tornados in the spring and blizzards in the winter, so come prepared. Keep in mind that dispersed campgrounds along gravel roads can often be challenging to reach when conditions get muddy after rainstorms. 

Let someone know your plans because cellphone reception can be spotty in remote areas. If you usually count on electricity to charge your mobile phone, remember that you may not have any in remote camping areas, so it might be a good idea to invest in a mobile charging unit for your phone. 

Before you head out on your trip, check out our blog for all you need to know about boondocking. It is filled with helpful tips to make your free camping in Iowa trip even more enjoyable. 

Iowa is a friendly state to go camping in. You will love exploring the state’s diverse terrain. Pack up your RV, and leave as quickly as possible. If you do not have an RV, then rent one on

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