<
  • Menu

38 Top Iowa Boondocking Campsites With Maps

Iowa boondocking campsites are known to be some of the best boondocking spots in the country, You may find fantastic free camping in Iowa anywhere from the western bluffs near Sioux City and Sioux Center to the cliffs along the Mississippi River near Dubuque and Muscatine.

Iowa Boondocking Locations by Sections

23 Eastern Iowa Boondocking Campsites
15 Western Iowa Boondocking Campsites
OTHER NORTH CENTRAL STATES

Iowa Boondocking Campsites

If you say you’re going camping in Iowa, people are likely to wonder if you’ll be sleeping in a cornfield. Although farmland covers 85 percent of Iowa, that doesn’t mean there’s no Iowa boondocking campsites in the state. The steep bluffs on the state’s western and eastern borders are particularly popular camping spots. Among the cornfields, there are a few parks and recreation spaces.

One of the best things about boondocking in Iowa is that you won’t have to deal with the crowds. Outdoor excursions attract only a small percentage of visitors. Even Hawkeye State residents are often unaware of the enjoyment that awaits them in their own backyard.

In Iowa, there are lots of free campgrounds, but you’ll have to know where to find them. State parks and state forests are the most common types of public land in Iowa, and they usually only feature fee-based campgrounds. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources, in addition to the state park system, also manages a few wildlife management areas that are free to visit. Only a few state forests and county parks allow free camping, but the majority do not. Before you go, double-check the rules at each location.

Iowa Boondocking Campsites

23 Eastern Iowa Boondocking Campsites

1. Lime City I80 Rest area

Address
Wilton, Iowa
GPS: 41.639293, -91.053505
Elevation: 728′

Management: Public – Rest Area (Unofficial)

The road in is Paved. Lime City I80 Rest area is open year round. There are 6-15 Iowa boondocking campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is unlimited. You may stay 24 hours at Lime City I80 Rest area. It’s an interstate rest area that states you can stay up to 24 hours. No tent camping but you could sleep in your vehicle.

2. Grant Park

Address
Swan, Iowa
GPS: 41.426983, -93.33927

Management: Public – County Park (Official)

The road in is Gravel and 2 miles miles from a paved road. There are 6-15 Iowa camping spots at this location and the maximum RV length is 25 feet. You may stay 14 days Warren county at Grant Park. Free 14-day stay over 10 spots hiking walking trails you got to register but it’s free there’s fire Rings places for RVs and Tents no electric or water come here for a picnic to two bathrooms might want to bring your own toilet paper

3. Rest area

Address
Oakland Acres, Iowa
GPS: 41.69346, -92.77333
Elevation: 945′

Management: Public – Rest Area (Official)

It is rest area but it has free RV DUMP STATION AND WATER! Also, very nice and peaceful Natural trail, 0.5 mile, good to flex your legs or let kids run around 🙂 Iowa boondocking spots.

4. Rest Stop 147

Address
Mitchellville, Iowa
GPS: 41.67984, -93.39379
Elevation: 968′

Management: Public – Rest Area (Unofficial)

Rest stop with vending machines and free wifi. Fine spot for sleeping in your car. Not the best rest stop since there isn’t a lot of parking space for semis, as they park close to the cars (noisy through ear plugs). Iowa boondocking campsites.

5. J L Reece Memorial Park

Address
26095 310 st
New Providence, Iowa
GPS: 42.253871, -93.190721
Elevation: 1001′

Management: Public – County Park (Official)

The road in is Gravel and 1 mile miles from a paved road. J L Reece memorial Park is open It opens around Mother’s Day and closes in the fall. There are 30 or more Iowa camping spots at this location and the maximum RV length is 35 feet. You may stay 14 days stay at J L Reece memorial Park.

6. David Bates Memorial Park

Address
33001 305th Street
Union, Iowa
GPS: 42.261829, -93.057852
Elevation: 925′

Management: Public – County Park

Simple park with no signs posted on limit of stay. Quiet and good to refresh yourself for a day or two. Iowa boondocking spots.

7. Cedar River – Near Palo IA

Address
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
GPS: 42.06851, -91.783696
Elevation: 748′

Management: Public – Fish and Wildlife Service (Unofficial)

Near Cedar River, right off of Blair’s Ferry Road (fairly busy). Iowa boondocking campsites. NO amenities. Walk-in access to river only.
Exposed and busy. Good for a quick overnight only. Site’s status is subject to change.

8. Roadside park

Address
Anamosa, Iowa
GPS: 42.1188, -91.26216
Elevation: 846′

Management: Public – County Park (Official)

Iowa camping spots. Nothing except a couple grills and a picnic table. Along hwy – so noisy. Nobody here but us. Shade and sun. Grass.

9. Indian Bluffs Wildlife Management Area

Address
Cascade, Iowa
GPS: 42.214451, -91.067626
Elevation: 764′

Management: Public – WMA (Official)

The road in is Gravel and 10 miles from a paved road. Indian Bluffs Wildlife Management Area is open year round. There are 1-5 Iowa boondocking spots at this location. You may stay 14 days at Indian Bluffs Wildlife Management Area. This WMA is along the Maquoketa River in Jones County, Iowa (10 minutes off Hwy 151). Although the code states camping is only permitted beyond 100 yrds of any parking area, this is a popular spot for shuttles to float the river and camping is evident near the boat launch. There are hike-in sites from the parking area.

10. Retz County Park

Address
Delhi, Iowa
GPS: 42.400342, -91.314948

Management: Public – County Park (Official)

County park on less traveled gravel road, river access with boat ramp as well. Iowa boondocking campsites.

11. Cutsall Area

Address
1679 Baxter Avenue
Jesup, Iowa
GPS: 42.543592, -92.062765
Elevation: 925′

Management: Public – County Park

County park with no services. Iowa camping spots.

12. Beaver Roadside Park

Address
Holland, Iowa
GPS: 42.471381, -92.770188

Management: Public – County Park (Unofficial)

Iowa boondocking spots with vault toilets. Picnic benches. Stayed here overnight without being bothered. Nice little trail to walk.

13. Eagle City County Park

Address
27949 160th Street
Iowa Falls, Iowa
GPS: 42.471682, -93.145549
Elevation: 1050′

Management: Public – County Park

Local park with no services. Vault toilets. Picnic benches. Iowa boondocking campsites.

14. Cross’ Ford River Access

Address
15491 Oo Avenue
Iowa Falls, Iowa
GPS: 42.477731, -93.189459
Elevation: 1010′

Management: Public – County Park

Local park with not services. Iowa camping spots.

15. Big Marsh WMA

Address
21301-21459 270th Street
Parkersburg, Iowa
GPS: 42.658672, -92.819703
Elevation: 928′

Management: Public – Fish and Wildlife

Iowa boondocking spots. First come -> first camped. No reservations are accepted.

16. Gates Bridge Access

Address
Marble Rock, Iowa
GPS: 42.936699, -92.848999
Elevation: 977′

Management: Public – County Park (Official)

A primitive camping area located 2 miles southeast of Marble Rock allows canoers and boaters access to the Shell Rock River. This facility is free Iowa boondocking campsites.

17. Camp Glen Wendel

Address
Harpers Ferry, Iowa
GPS: 43.16608, -91.25957
Elevation: 951′

Management: Public – State Forest (Official)

Hike in site. Iowa camping spots.

18. Camp John Schultz

Address
Waukon Junction, Iowa
GPS: 43.15842, -91.24957

Management: Public – State Forest (Official)

Hike in site. Iowa boondocking spots.

19. Bluff’s View

Address
Harpers Ferry, Iowa
GPS: 43.16061, -91.24871

Management: Public – State Forest (Unofficial)

Hike in site on the edge of a bluff with a firepit. Iowa boondocking campsites.

20. Brown’s Hollow Camp

Address
Waukon Junction, Iowa
GPS: 43.15451, -91.22794
Elevation: 722′

Management: Public – State Forest (Official)

Hike in area with 4 Iowa camping spots. Each site has a bench and fire pit.

21. Hefferns Hill Camp

Address
Harpers Ferry, Iowa
GPS: 43.17212, -91.21528

Management: Public – State Forest (Official)

Hike in site. Iowa boondocking spots.

22. Chimney Rock Co

Address
3331 Chimney Rock Road
Cresco, Iowa
GPS: 43.423071, -91.938961
Elevation: 994′

Management: Public – County Park

My wife and I stayed here in our truck camper. Beautiful Iowa boondocking campsites next to the river. The bridge over the river is closed so you will need to get to this campsite from the south. The campsite is next to the bridge. There is a pay campsite that you will pass which has about the same name so don’t get confused.

23. Shellrock River Preserve

Address
19316 Yucca Ave
Nora Springs, Iowa
GPS: 43.172089, -93.039391
Elevation: 1098′

Management: Public – County Park (Official)

The road in is Gravel and 4 miles from a paved road. Shellrock River Preserve is open Year round. There are 30 or more Iowa camping spots at this location and the maximum RV length is Any Length. You may stay 14 days at Shellrock River Preserve. Fires are allowed only in designated fire rings. Rustic toilet facilities, two small shelter houses and hitching posts are provided.

Other North Central States

38 Top Iowa Boondocking Campsites With Maps
85 Awesome Minnesota Boondocking Areas Plus Maps
153 Free Nebraska Boondocking Sites Including Maps
106 Best North Dakota Boondocking Spots Along With Maps
67 Amazing South Dakota Boondocking Spaces And Maps

Free Iowa Camping Spots

The majority of Iowa’s free RV camping can be found on public lands controlled by the state’s Department of Natural Resources. Eagle Lake State Game Management Area, in Mason City, Iowa, isn’t much more than an open stretch of land with a few trees and a creek running through it. It is one of Iowa’s most visited free camping locations due to the fact that it is free, easy to access, and even has strong mobile phone coverage.

Eldon Wildlife Management Area, on the other end of the state, is little more than a few wide spots in the road with pull-offs that can accommodate medium-sized RVs. But, it’s another prime example of what free camping in Iowa is all about – a place to call home with decent views and, in the case of Eldon WMA, access to a river.

While the majority of camping in Iowa’s state forests is limited to paid, designated campgrounds or hiker-only areas, a small dirt lot along the banks of Jones Creek Pond in the state’s newest state forest, Loess Hills, offers some free camping. If you’re vehicle camping or tent camping, you’ll have even more possibilities. Within an hour of Des Moines, Warren County has three campgrounds that allow RV camping. Expect a pleasant country drive into a forested camping experience, as well as a picnic table, a fire ring, and a vault toilet. The most beautiful is arguably David Bates Memorial Park, which is located along the Iowa River.

Free Iowa Camping Spots

15 Western Iowa Boondocking Campsites

1. Murray Roadside Park

Address
1352-1372 U.S. 34
Murray, Iowa
GPS: 41.025629, -93.946535
Elevation: 1184′

Management: Public – City Park

The Murray Roadside Park is located one mile south of Murray, just off Highway 34. Picnic tables and children’s play equipment is available. Iowa boondocking campsites along the park’s graveled road and enjoy the scenery and animals native to the area.

2. Ross Park and Recreation Area

Address
300th Street
Braddyville, Iowa
GPS: 40.609101, -94.963731
Elevation: 994′

Management: Public – County Park

Primitive sites – no facilities – No fee.

3. McTil Farm

Address
Anita, Iowa
GPS: 41.464052, -94.77654
Elevation: 1319′

Management: Private – Privately Owned Campground (Official)

We have 20 acres Iowa boondocking spots with fire ring for campers, lot of room for a group. Fold-out bed if you stay inside. we do have beds. If we like you you might get breakfast LOL. even camp inside if the weather is bad. Shop and tools and a trailer if you’re in real trouble. Text call or email before arriving.

4. Big Creek Lake WMA

Address
15301 Northwest 100th Street
Polk City, Iowa
GPS: 41.819025, -93.756061
Elevation: 928′

Management: Public – Fish and Wildlife

Iowa boondocking campsites. First come -> first served. No reservations accepted. There is no known areas at Big Creek WMA that I know of that are prohibited from camping at this time. You may camp in the WMA for no more than 14 days at a time. You shall not damage any vegetation, etc. Please carry all trash out with you.

5. Big Wall Lake WMA

Address
2601-2699 290th Street
Blairsburg, Iowa
GPS: 42.629948, -93.644163
Elevation: 1230′

Management: Public – Fish and Wildlife

This is a free dispersed campsite. No reservations. First come, first served. I confirmed with Iowa Fish and Wildlife that I could park my RV at their lakes for no charge. However, when I went to this lake I discovered there really wasn’t much of a place to park. I have attached a photo of the only place I could find to put the RV, and I chose not to put it there.

6. Dunbar Slough

Address
B Avenue
Scranton, Iowa
GPS: 41.973845, -94.610589
Elevation: 1119′

Management: Public – County Park

Iowa boondocking spots. No reservations. First come, first served. This is an open prairie with no trees. Like other Iowa WMAs, there are lots to park in.There’s other WMAs in the area. Elk Grove WMA isn’t too far south and at least has trees. I’ve seen burn scars where people have had campfires at Elk Grove in some if the parking lots.

7. Pape’s Pond

Address
Moorhead, Iowa
GPS: 41.871103, -95.925367
Elevation: 1125′

Management: Public – Department of Natural Resources, DNR (Official)

There are 1-5 Iowa boondocking campsites at this location. Gorgeous, dammed pond out in the beautiful Loess hills. Great fishing, can kayak or boat on the pond/lake. There is a shelter house with picnic tables. No cost to camp here, no electric nor facilities. Nearest town is less then 5 miles away and there is a gas station and two restaurants.

8. Iowa Welcome Center Rest Stop

Address
Sergeant Bluff, Iowa
GPS: 42.374559, -96.354326
Elevation: 1089′

Management: Public – Rest Area (Official)

This is a rest stop on the I-29 SB (there’s a NB side too). Very nice bathrooms, diagonal parking for passenger vehicles and some RV/trailer parking as wel. Good spot to crash for the night. There’s no camping allowed but overnight parking is allowed. Check the DoT website for more info.

9. Devine Wildlife Area

Address
Intersection of US 169 and 130th Street
Algona, Iowa
GPS: 42.948711, -94.232979
Elevation: 1131′

Management: Public – Fish and Wildlife Service (Official)

The road in is Gravel and .1 miles from a paved road. There are 6-15 Iowa boondocking spots at this location and the maximum RV length is 30. This is a small wildlife area managed by the county. From their website -“Public use is mostly for fishing and accessing the East Fork of the Des Moines River. Existing facilities include a shelter house, picnic tables, grills and fire pits. A concrete boat ramp was constructed in 1992”

10. Union Slough (Smith Pool)

Address
1701-1739 340th Street
Titonka, Iowa
GPS: 43.250117, -94.142097
Elevation: 1138′

Management: Public – State Park

Iowa boondocking campsites. Reservations are not accepted at this campsite. Unless you are hiking in, I would no longer consider this a good place to camp. It was my first stop on May 12. The road leading to the GPS coordinates is posted “no vehicles Beyond this point”

11. Okamanpeedan WMA

Address
5068-5074 110th Street
Dolliver, Iowa
GPS: 43.490162, -94.587081
Elevation: 1230′

Management: Public – Fish and Wildlife

This is a free dispersed campsite. This campsite does nuse a reservation systerm. First come, first served. NOT recommended unless you have a high-clearance 4×4. Tried to get down the potholed, muddy, rain-soaked jungly road in our RWD Chevy Express 1500 conversion van and almost got stuck in the mud before deciding to abandon and back out.

12. Rice Lake Access

Address
Unnamed Road
Joice, Iowa
GPS: 43.384363, -93.488414
Elevation: 1257′

Management: Public – State Park

Iowa boondocking spots. First come -> first camped. No reservations are accepted. There is a sign that says Rice Lake State Park but there is nothing there but a small pavilion and a porta john. Othwise everything is built up in to golf course and residential.

13. Elk Creek Marsh WMA

Address
4477-4491 Dogwood Avenue
Lake Mills, Iowa
GPS: 43.412392, -93.438533
Elevation: 1224′

Management: Public – Fish and Wildlife

Iowa boondocking campsites. Reservations are not accepted at this campsite. Stayed here in late April. Nice open lot, very clean, out of the way and very quiet. No amenities but very comfortable and quiet place.

14. Eagle Lake WMA

Address
1318-1328 260th Street
Britt, Iowa
GPS: 43.137798, -93.729453
Elevation: 1207′

Management: Public – Fish and Wildlife

This is a free dispersed campsite. First come -> first served. No reservations accepted. The GPS coordinates take you just a slight bit past, but look for the brown sign that says public access to eagle lake. It’s all out on gravel road which can be a bit slippery, but once you turn down past the sign, you do to a small round about area, probably too small for a large camper to comfortably turnaround in.

15. Thompson City

Address
111 3rd Avenue
Thompson, Iowa
GPS: 43.368764, -93.774601
Elevation: 1273′

Management: Public – City Park

The town of Thompson maintains these Iowa boondocking spots. Bathrooms were closed off season, so we didn’t stay. There is a sign offering free camping. I did see one gravel pad for a RV. Maybe they allow people to parallel park on the roads around the park. Nice park and town.



For complete photos and videos of our trips, visit our photos on our Facebook Page

You May Want to Join Our Boondocking Group on Facebook For More Information