Top 10 Waterfalls in Iowa

Published on October 10th, 2021

If you think Iowa is just flyover flatland, think again: this midwestern state is actually chock full of beautiful waterfalls and spillways to explore, and most of them don’t even require a major hike to get to!

Here are the top 10 most beautiful waterfalls in Iowa you absolutely have to visit on your next trip though the state.

Top 10 Waterfalls in Iowa

1. Malanaphy Spring Falls

2. Dunning’s Spring

3. Siewer’s Springs

4. Willow Creek Waterfall

5. Bridal Veil Falls

6. Beed’s Lake Spillway

7. Briggs Woods Waterfalls

8. Ledges State Park

9. Union Grove State Park Spillway

10. Macbride Falls

Visiting Waterfalls in Iowa

Let’s dive into these beautiful Iowa waterfalls — or at least walk up to them!

1. Malanaphy Spring Falls

Upper Iowa River
The scenic Upper Iowa River

Tucked into the Malanaphy Springs State Reserve, also known as the Upper Iowa River Access Area, Malanaphy Spring Falls is accessed via a relatively short and easy hiking trail, which wends its way about two miles altogether and sees a little more than 200 feet of elevation change along the way. The effort is certainly worth the reward; visitors will arrive at a small but scenic cascade that tumbles over a rock face into the pristine waters below. Because of its short length and relatively easy terrain, this trail is also popular amongst trail runners, and birders come to spot some sought-after avian friends, too.

Things to do near Malanaphy Spring Falls: This wilderness area is one of the most popular for outdoor sports enthusiasts of many types, particularly those looking to take to the water in a canoe or kayak. It’s all located just a short drive northwest of Decorah, which is home to some excellent RVshare rentals.

2. Dunning’s Spring

Downstream of the Dunning's Spring waterfall, Decorah, Iowa

Closer still to the town of Decorah, the Dunning’s Spring waterfall is easily one of the most impressive in the state, standing more than 200 feet high and tucked into an eponymous park that hosts a wide variety of forested hiking trails. Running right along the Iowa River, Dunning’s Spring Park also features wheelchair accessible entrances and parking lots, as well as picnic areas for families hoping to stay and relax for a few hours. Because the waterfall is located right off Ice Cave Road, it’s a good option for those traveling with small children and others who aren’t able to hike in very far to get a glimpse at some natural beauty — though there’s plenty of room to stretch out your legs if that’s what you’re looking for!

Things to do near Dunning’s Spring: This park is located directly adjacent to Ice Cave Hill Park, which, as its name suggests, is home to a fascinating ice cave as well as even more hiking and picnicking opportunities. Again, it’s all just over the river from the city of Decorah, which boasts, among other attractions, Vesterheim, The National Norwegian-American Museum & Folk Art School — not to mention some excellent RVshare rentals!

3. Siewer’s Springs

The Siewer’s Spring waterfall is a terraced waterfall that is a popular tourist attraction. Fishermen can often be found lining the banks.

On the south end of Decorah (which turns out to be a bit of an Iowa waterfall capital; who knew?), Siewer’s Springs is technically a spillway, but it offers a robust and scenic waterflow into the creek below year round. Additionally, this waterfall is located in a preserve that’s also home to the Decorah Fish Hatchery, which is a cool place to learn more about the way our seafood is brought to us while also enjoying a beautiful natural setting. Visitors regularly comment that beautiful wildflowers grow along the area hiking and biking trails!

Things to do near Siewer’s Springs: Located on the southern end of Decorah, Siewer’s Springs is within easy reach of both the city itself and some other wilderness preserves worth visiting, such as Fort Atkinson State Preserve and Idlewild State Park. Looking for an easy way to stay and play as long as you like? Here are some Decorah-area RVshare rentals to consider!

4. Willow Creek Waterfall

Mason City, Iowa - 10/10/2017: George Stockman Residence. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Built 1908.
The Stockton House is just in front of the Willow Creek Waterfall

Willow Creek snakes its way peacefully through Mason City — and includes this beautiful spillway, which can be spotted close to the intersection of South Carolina Avenue & 1st Street Southeast. The waterfall is located on Private property, so it’s important to obey all posted signage and respect the rights of the property owners. That said, it’s a really lovely little easter egg in a town that’s already really lovely and well worth a visit.

Things to do near the Willow Creek Waterfall: The fall is actually located just behind Frank Lloyd Wright’s Stockman House and Architectural Interpretive Center, otherwise known simply as the Stockman House, and a great stop to add to your itinerary whether or not you’re an architectural geek. Those looking for more room to roam should also check out East Park, which features long, winding walking trails, a bandshell, playgrounds, sports courts and more. Here are some excellent RVshare rentals to check out in Mason City!

5. Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Waterfall

Newbies to Iowa might be surprised to learn there’s a Pikes Peak State Park this far east — but indeed there is, and it’s also home to one of the state’s most scenic waterfalls! Bridal Veil Falls (which is also a common waterfall name you might recognize from another state like Colorado or Washington) is a small but stunning waterfall that streams slowly over a rock ledge covered in greenery, and it’s best visited in the spring or summertime, when the hiking condition aren’t snowy and icy. However, because the trail is less than a mile all told, and sees only a little more than 150 feet in elevation change, it’s doable for those with good traction even in the off season, and it’s friendly enough even for many kids to tackle. (No dogs are allowed on the trail, however.)

Things to do near Bridal Veil Falls: Pikes Peak State Park is such a great opportunity for RV campers: along with this waterfall, the park also offers miles more hiking trail, unmissable views of the Mississippi River, Native American mounds and preserved fossils. Additionally, it has its very own RV campground right there on site, and although there’s no water hookup, there is up to 50 amps of electrical! Here are some local RVshare rentals to consider for your stay!

6. Beed’s Lake Spillway

Beed's Lake Spillway
Image via iowadnr.gov

Beed’s Lake State Park is a small but beautiful natural getaway, especially for those living in or visiting nearby cities like Hampton, Latimer and Coulter. While the lake itself is often considered the main attraction, offering plenty of opportunities for boating, swimming, fishing and other water-based recreation, one of the most scenic parts of the experience is seeing Beed’s Lake Spillway, which shimmers in the sun as it tumbles gently down the tiered rock backdrop it sits on. Some consider it to be the most-photographed dam in the midwest, and only a short walk is necessary to access it and add it to your own Instagram grid.

Things to do near Beed’s Lake Spillway: There are a variety of smaller cities in the area to check out, and bigger metropoles like Des Moines and Cedar Rapids aren’t too far afoot, either (1.5 hours and 2 hours away, respectively). There are plenty of other preserved natural areas nearby to explore, too; an RVshare vehicle is a great way to see it all in comfort and style.

7. Briggs Woods Waterfalls

The water flows over the lower waterfall in Briggs Woods Park. The waterfall is surrounded by fall colors.

A tiered set of gentle cascades along the Boone River, the Briggs Woods Waterfalls offer a lot of scenic glory for only a little bit of effort. Easily accessed via a short hike, these waterfalls are best seen along the Boone River Recreational Trail, which runs just under six miles point to point as it winds through the park and beyond. Much of the way is paved, making it a great option for cyclists, those pushing wheelchairs or strollers, or roller bladers. Briggs Woods Park itself also features developed restrooms, picnic areas, and an on-site campground which does feature a few slots with full hookups (and many with electricity).

Things to do near the Briggs Woods Waterfalls: Located just outside Webster City, which has plenty of places to shop and dine, the park is also only about an hour out of Des Moines, which offers lots of urban to-dos, of course, but is also home to some excellent RVshare rentals — and some great campgrounds and RV parks to take them to!

8. Ledges State Park

Fall Colors and Limestone Cliff on Peas Creek in Ledges State Park in Iowa

Ledges State Park is, as its name suggests, known for its beautiful rock ledges — it’s a bit like a midwestern Grand Canyon, although its walls are admittedly much less steep. However, given its propensity for beautiful fall colors come autumn and its network of achievable hiking trails, Ledges State Park is a great stopover for outdoor enthusiasts of all skill and interest levels… and along its iconic Canyon Road, a series of cascades sprays over the side, offering both scenic beauty and a great place for kids (and even adults!) to cool off from the overheated summer sun. You’ll want to budget ample time to check out all of the intriguing offerings this state park has to offer: Inspiration Point, the Crow’s Nest, and river activities await!

Things to do near Ledges State Park: The town of Boone lies just north of the park and is a great place to head if you’re in need of some quick resources, but if you’re looking to balance out your outdoor adventure with some indoor, city-life fun, head down to Des Moines, which is less than an hour away. Plus, there are some great RVshare rentals and campgrounds in the area!

9. Union Grove State Park Spillway

union grove state park spillway iowa
Image via iowadnr.gov

Another state-preserved green space with an absolutely gorgeous spillway worth stopping for, Union Grove State Park encompasses both Union Grove Lake and a large swath of land alongside it — and although there are many worthy attractions in the park to consider, the spillway is one of the most popular to visit and photograph. Offering a robust and even flow especially in the spring and summer months, this impressive man-made cascade doesn’t even require any kind of hike to get to; you can see it right from the scenic drive around the lake. That said, we highly recommend pulling off so you can enjoy it for a while longer, perhaps even with a great picnic in tow!

Things to do near the Union Grove State Park Spillway: Located approximately midway in between Des Moines and Cedar Rapids — and only a little bit further from Iowa City — one of the best things about this waterfall is how easy it is to access for such a wide range of people. Additionally, there are lots of other beautiful preserves in the area to explore, such as Pine Lake State Park, Rock Creek State Park, and the Pleasant Creek State Recreation Area. Here are some area RVshare rentals so you can take your time and see it all, as well as some excellent Des Moines-area RV parks!

10. Macbride Falls

The water rushes over the Lake MacBride Waterfall. This waterfall has several main falls and numerous smaller falls.

Just one part of a vast expanse of watery wilderness just north of Iowa City, MacBride Falls State Park is unique for its inter-lake location; as the Iowa River runs through this place, it broadens out into Coralville Lake to the west and Lake Macbride on the east, and is a very popular spot for sailors, kayakers, canoers, and other water sports enthusiasts to hang out. Along with its many outdoor recreation opportunities (including plenty of dry-land options), this state park is also home to Macbride Falls, which is actually also technically a spillway — though it’s punctuated with beautiful boulders in such a way that it creates a stunning natural display. There are plenty of campgrounds in the area for those hoping to stay and play, and it’s also known for its beautiful changing fall colors.

Things to do near Macbride Falls: This gorgeous park is just 25 minutes from downtown Iowa City, which, thanks in part to its status as the home of the University of Iowa, has more than its fair share of cultural offerings, including some excellent bookstores. Here are some area RVshare rentals and campgrounds to check out, too!

Planning an RV Trip to Iowa

Whether it’s waterfalls or one of its many other attractions that convinces you to go, an RV trip is an excellent way to see what Iowa has to offer — and we’ve got everything you need to make it a great one.

For starters, check out our peer-to-peer Iowa RV rentals, which offer both character and comfort at an affordable price. We’ve also written up guides to the best state parks and campgrounds in the state to see and stay in, as well as its major metropolitan areas.

The rest is up to you, adventurers — so get out there!

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