Backbone State Park RV & Campground Guide


Recognized fondly as Iowa's first state park, Backbone sits in the valley of the Maquoqueta River near the town of Dundee. This park officially opened in 1920 and spans over 2,000 acres. Visitors to the park will find stunning scenery, lots of wildlife, and several deep, clear lakes, including Backbone Lake.

Backbone State Park is widely known for exceptional trout fishing, bringing anglers from all around to cast their poles. Other activities enjoyed at the park include miles of hiking trails, swimming, and camping. The park gets its name from the Devil's Backbone, which is a narrow, steep ridge of bedrock running through the park that creates stunning limestone formations and cliffs.

Nearby Cities:

  • Strawberry Point

  • Dyersville

  • Dubuque

  • Manchester

National Park Sample Image
Spring 44-70 F
Summer 79-81 F
Fall 45-74 F
Winter 26-31 F
National Park Sample Image
Trip Planner
Use our FREE RV trip planner to begin customizing the perfect RV trip. Continue
National Park Sample Image

RV Resorts & Campsites in Backbone State Park

Campground Accommodations

South Lake Campground

  • Water hookup: No

  • Electrical hookup: Yes

  • Sewer hookup: No

  • Wi-Fi: No

  • Pet-friendly: Yes

  • Max RV length: 60 feet

  • Other Amenities: Showers, restrooms, playground

Six Pine Campground

  • Water hookup: No

  • Electrical hookup: No

  • Sewer hookup: No

  • Wi-Fi: No

  • Pet-friendly: Yes

  • Max RV Length: 60 feet

  • Other Amenities: Restrooms, playground

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

This state park is an outdoor lover's paradise with fishing, climbing, hiking, and so much more. There are two campgrounds, a boathouse, and even concessions throughout the summer months. In the winter, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing top the list of must-do activities in the park.

Unique masonry work is on display throughout Backbone State Park. This includes the Civilian Conservation Corps Museum, where visitors can view historical documents, photographs, and other items from the program.

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.

Fishing Fishing

Backbone State Park is widely known for its exceptional trout fishing, with cold, clear streams, shady spots, and easily accessible fishing spots.

Nature Watching Nature Watching

You can find signs of nature all through the park and catch a glimpse of raccoons, rabbits, whitetail deer, foxes, songbirds, and waterfowl.

Stargazing Stargazing

Although the park is heavily wooded, there are open areas far from city lights, perfect for finding constellations and other points of interest in the night sky.

Hiking Hiking

21 miles of multi-use trails wind through Backbone State Park. Each campground features a loop trail that you can walk along as well. The individual trails vary in length from as short as half a mile to as long as 7.5 miles.


Boats, kayaks, canoes, and paddle boats are available for rent at the boathouse. Access to Backbone Lake is through the boat ramp at the southwest end of the lake.

Swimming Swimming

A swimming beach is located at the lake's southwest end. There are restrooms and picnic tables nearby.

Climbing Climbing

Rock climbing is a top adventure for daredevils at Backbone State Park. Rugged dolomite limestone cliffs provide challenging climbs with amazing views. The best climbing spots are located near Backbone Trail. Be sure to register with park staff before your climb.


A bike is the perfect way to get around throughout the campground and other park areas and is a popular way to explore the multi-use trail system. In addition, the Northeast State Park Bike Route, a 130-mile route, connects Backbone, Wapsipinicon, and Pikes Peak State Parks using nearby county highways.

National Park Sample Image

How to Get to
Backbone State Park

There are four main entrances to the park. To access the South Gate Entrance, where you can find the South Lake Campgrounds, the cabins, the swimming beach, and the park office, you can take W69 north out of Dundee for 1.3 miles.

The East Gate Entrance, where you'll find Backbone trailhead and the picnic areas, can be accessed by taking W69 north past the South Gate Entrance for about 1.5 miles.

To access the West Gate Entrance near Six Pines Campground, the museum, and additional picnic areas, take 187 north from Highway 20 to C57, then take C57 east for about five miles.

Finally, the North Gate Entrance is at Richmond Springs and near the auditorium and several picnic areas. To get there, take Highway 3 east from Strawberry Point. Then, go north on W68 for about two miles.

There is public parking available in many areas throughout the park, including at the beach, museum, park office, and marina. Each campground has limited spots for extra vehicles. Picnic spots along the roadside offer some parking as well. There is no fee for entrance at Backbone State Park.

Entering Backbone State Park

From relaxing and watching the wildlife to getting active and climbing the rock formations, there's something for everyone at Backbone State Park. Check out the deer and birds, venture out for a mid-day swim, or enjoy a picnic gathering at one of the park's many shelters and end your day with a clear view of the night sky.

Frequently Asked Questions About Backbone State Park

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

There are plenty of activities to enjoy year-round at the park. Spring and fall offer mild temperatures, while summertime boasts fantastic weather for swimming and boating. In the winter, there are snow activities to enjoy. Picturesque scenery can be viewed at any time but is especially beautiful in the fall when the leaves change color.

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

Backbone State Park is home to various wildlife, including whitetail deer, raccoons, rabbits, and many different kinds of birds.

Are there designated RV camping spots in Backbone State Park?

Yes. There are two campgrounds within the park, and each of them is able to accommodate RVs. Each site has a picnic table and a fire ring.

Do you have to reserve a camping spot at Backbone State Park and what is the cost?

Six Pines Campground has a reservations system, though some spots are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Camping costs $14 per night. At South Lake Campground, spots are available by reservation at a cost of $14 per night for non-electric sites and $20 per night for sites with electric hookups.

Are pets allowed at Backbone State Park?

Pets are welcome at Backbone State Park as long as they are on a leash and not left unattended. Be sure to pay attention to signage, as there are some areas of the park where pets are prohibited.