Backbone State Park RV & Campground Guide


Backbone State Park is Iowa’s oldest State Park – visitors have been visiting the Dundee, IA, park since 1919! This 2,000-acre park is named for the narrow and steep ridge of bedrock carved by the Maquoketa River, and visitors can enjoy the lake, 21 miles of hiking and multi-use trails and even tour historic buildings, among many other fun activities. The park is also home to the “Devil’s Backbone,” one of the most popular hikes in the state as well as one of the highest points in Northeast Iowa. Read on to find out what else makes Backbone State Park unique, and you may want to add it to your list of vacation spots!

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Spring 24-70 F
Summer 47-83 F
Fall 37-74 F
Winter 14-31 F
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RV Resorts & Campsites in Backbone State Park

Even the most diehard tent camping lovers sometimes love a glamping RV experience with a private bathroom, stocked kitchen and best of all, a comfortable bed. If you’ve decided to rent an RV for your next camping trip, considering using  RVshare.com. A completely custom, perfect for your needs (and budget!) rig is just a few clicks away – and if you have trouble, the world-class team is quick to help, ensuring your trip is a success. Plus, all rentals come with nationwide insurance and 24/7 roadside assistance.

Once you’ve found your perfect RV, it’s a breeze to camp right onsite at Backbone State Park. There are two campgrounds, the South Lake Campground, which includes both non-electric and electric sites, 2 shower buildings, a playground and dump station. The other campground, the Six Pine Campground, contains non-electric sites only and pit latrines. The campsites within the State Park are available to be rented in advance but a quarter of the sites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, so make your reservation well in advance, or consider camping offsite. There are a wide variety of campgrounds and RV parks in the area. Here are some worth checking out:

Lakeshore RV Resort and Campground

Located just a half hour

from Backbone State Park on Lake Oelwein, Lakeshore RV Resort and Campground is

a family-friendly RV park and campground with a wide variety of amenities. Rates

begin at $30 a night.

Water hookup: yes

Electrical hookup: yes

Sewer hookup: yes

Wifi: yes

Pet-friendly: yes

Other amenities: beach with swimming, basketball, horseshoes, shuffleboard, playground, toddler train rides, 4-hole Frisbee golf, canoeing and kayaking, sand volleyball, miniature golf. Laundry facilities, firewood and pedal cart rental available for an additional charge. 

Big G’s Campground

Big G’s Campground is open from April 15th – October 15th or later, weather permitting. Located just about a half hour from the State Park, along Silver Lake, it’s the perfect location for shore fishing, canoeing and kayaking and plenty of hiking and hunting locations. The campground has 20 permanent sites, 20 temporary sites and a number of primitive sites. Reservations are not necessary and sites fill up on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Water hookup: yes

Electrical hookup: yes

Sewer hookup: yes

Wifi: no

Pet-friendly: yes

Other amenities: bath/showers, firewood available for sale, shore fishing, canoeing and kayaking, picnic table, fire rings. Primitive sites start at $10 a night and RV sites begin at $20 a night.

RV Rentals Near Backbone State Park

Nearby RV Rentals


What to Do at
Backbone State Park

Inside Backbone State Park

View the beautiful nature sights Iowa has to offer or experience them firsthand with biking, hiking, swimming or even rock climbing. There is something for every member of your family, in all age ranges, to enjoy at Backbone State Park! Some of the exciting things to do include:  

Water Activities – Backbone Lake offers a wide variety of water recreation, including canoeing, kayaking and paddle boating, swimming, fishing and more. Canoes and Paddle boats are available for rent, a boat ramp, swimming beach and concession stand are located near the southwest end of the lake. Whether you want to get in a swim or just pull up a beach chair and soak up the sun – there’s a water activity for you!

Hiking and Nature Activities – With 21 miles of hiking and multi-use trails, Backbone State Park is the perfect place to experience nature on foot, mountain bike and more. The trails in the park are known for elevation changes, rocky terrain, beautiful exposed limestone features, forested bluffs and stunning expansive views. Trails wind through wooded pathways, around the lake and stream, up rocky staircases to a cave and along Backbone Trail to one of the highest points in Northeast Iowa, “Devil’s Backbone” overlook.

Civilian Conservation Corps Museum – The Civilian Conservation Corps were a public work relief program during the Great Depression, established in 1933. Thanks to the program, Backbone State Park became one of the largest and most extensively developed parks in the state system. The museum opened in 1990 and offers visitors a look at the work of the CCC, plus many of the actual buildings and structures built by the CCC as well as personal mementos, photographs and firsthand stories from participants.

Rock Climbing – The dolomite limestone cliffs and boulders aren’t just beautiful to look at, each year they bring in visitors for climbing and rappelling. Located along the Backbone Trail, there are varying routes with class 5+ difficulty levels. Keep in mind climbers and rappellers must register at the park office.

Outside Backbone State Park

Backbone State Park is located nearby many beautiful nature sights as well as plenty of Iowa and national history! When you’re done enjoying the State Park and ready to experience what the local community has to offer, there is plenty of family-friendly fun to have. Here are some of the unique things to do outside the park:


A great day enjoying nature by swimming in the Lake or hiking can leave you hungry!  Here are some nearby restaurants worth checking out:

Country Cottage Cafe

With daily specials, a friendly, family-friendly environment and of course, delicious food, Country Cottage Café is worth a visit for lunch or dinner. Enjoy homemade soups and desserts, burgers, melts, salads and much more.

Type: American

Location: Oelwein, IA

Del Rio Restaurant

Whether it’s taco Tuesday or you’re more of a burrito kind of person, Del Rio Restaurant has something for everyone! The Mexican restaurant offers a wide variety of authentic dishes in a fun, family-friendly environment.

Type: Mexican

Location: Independence, IA

Leo’s Italian Restaurant

Leo’s Italian Restaurant has been in business for over 90 years – the family-owned restaurant celebrated its 95th anniversary in 2017! The restaurant serves Italian and American fare, including sandwiches, pastas, steak, seafood, poultry and more in an old world, unique setting. The second story of the restaurant is a modern lounge that serves over 70 beers, a variety of wines and speciality drinks. 

Type: Italian

Location: Oelwein, IA


Lindale Mall

There is a Walmart located about 20 minutes from Backbone State Park for groceries, toiletries and other incidentals, but if you’re looking for more shopping, Cedar Rapids Lindale Mall has a wide variety of stores, plus plenty of food options and restaurants.

Location: Cedar Rapids, IA


John Deere Tractor and Engine Museum

Visit the site of the very first John Deere tractor factory and take in some of the history of the storied brand! Enjoy interactive exhibits, explore the collection of Deere equipment plus rare artifacts and much more. Admission is free!

Location: Waterloo, IA

Amish Boulevard

For over 160 years, the Amish have lived in Iowa. Visit Amish Boulevard and take in a truly unique cultural experience. The area has nearly fifty Amish businesses open to the public, offering handmade furniture, hand stitched quilts, delicious baked goods, plus sightseeing and much more.

Location: Hazleton, IA

Fontana Interpretive Nature Center

Located within the nearby Fontana Park, the Interpretive Nature Center was developed around a 19th century mill site, which includes a shelter house. The Nature Center includes an observation deck, nature library and variety of exhibits that helps visitors learn to make their home in a living environment.

Location: Hazleton, IA

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How to Get to
Backbone State Park

Backbone State Park is located on 129th Street in Dundee, Iowa. For a map and directions,click here.

Entering Backbone State Park

No need to worry about having extra cash before entering the park - Iowa State Parks do not charge entrance fees!

Whether you’re ready to soak up some history, want to pull up a beach chair and enjoy the Lake or take in the expansive views while hiking, Backbone State Park has it all. The entire family is sure to find something to do and enjoy themselves on this camping vacation! When you post your beautiful family photos on social media, don’t forget to tag us, or shoot us a photo and some details at [email protected]. We may just feature your

story on our blog or social media channels. Happy camping!

Frequently Asked Questions About Backbone State Park

What is the best time of year to visit Backbone State Park?

Summer is generally the best time of year to visit Backbone State Park because there are tons of outdoor activities to do in the warm weather. Boating, hiking, fishing and rock climbing are just a few.

What kind of wildlife can be found in Backbone State Park?

Backbone State Park is a great place to engage in wildlife watching. You can regularly see turkey, fox and deer in the park year-round, and it's always a great place for birdwatching.

Are there designated RV camping spots in Backbone State Park?

Backbone State Park has two campgrounds. South Lake Campground has electric and non-electric sites, two bathhouses and a dump station, and Six Pine Campground has non-electric sites and pit latrines for dry camping.

Are pets allowed at Backbone State Park?

Pets are welcome at Backbone State Park, but make sure they're on a leash that's no more than 6 feet long. Also, make sure to clean up after them and keep them under control at all times.

Is Backbone State Park accessible for disabled visitors?

Both the sidewalk and parking lot along the trout stream are accessible, and both shower buildings and the campground at South Lake Campground are ADA-compliant. Disabled visitors can request campsites located right next to the bathhouses too.