Explore Iowa's outdoors at these unique state and county parks in Eastern Iowa.  Whether you're looking for unique topography to hike, caves to spelunk or great views, here are 16 parks to consider.

Great Views

These parks all feature unique and spectacular views.

Mines of Spain, Photo by Brian Abeling
Mines of Spain Recreation Area, Dubuque - Photo Courtesy Abeling Photo

1. Mines of Spain Recreation Area
Mississippi River bluffs are on full display at the Mines of Spain Recreation Area. One of the most iconic views is from the Julien Dubuque Monument, honoring the founder of the nearby city of Dubuque. 
Amenities: Hiking, interpretive center.

2. Mosquito Park 
It's Burlington's oldest and one of the city's smallest parks, but Mosquito Park still has a lot to offer - including one of the best views of the Mississippi River in the state. It's a popular spot for weddings, photo shoots and a spot to relax.
Amenities: Seating areas.

3. Bellevue State Park
View up to 60 different species of butterflies in the Bellevue State Park butterfly garden. Continue exploring on hiking trails that feature scenic views of the Mississippi River.
Amenities: Camping, hiking, boating.

4. Rock Creek County Park
This county park near Clinton has excellent cabins and campgrounds, a nature center, hiking, boating and fishing. The park is also home to Blue Heron Eco Cruises, which give visitors an up-close experience with the ecology of the Mississippi River.
Amenities: Camping, cabins, boating, fishing, hiking, nature center.

5. Pinicon Ridge Park
Central City
This well-developed county park offers watercraft rentals (canoes, kayaks and paddleboats) and group canoe trips. Landlubbers can explore the walking and hiking trails, playgrounds, observation tower and the wildlife area with elk and deer.
Amenities: Camping, cabins, boating, hiking.

Unique Parks

These Eastern Iowa parks are full of varied and unique landscapes to explore.

Backbone State Park, Eastern Iowa
Backbone State Park, Dundee

6. Devonian Fossil Gorge
Iowa City
Fossils in the limestone bedrock of this park were revealed after the floods of 1993. The fossils are part of the Devonian-age sea floor and date back almost 200 million years before the dinosaurs. 
Amenities: Hiking.

7. Backbone State Park
Named for the "Devil's Backbone," a steep rocky ridge that divides the park, Backbone State Park includes unique rock formations, a cave, a natural spring, a lake and miles of trails ranging from easy to adventurous.
Amenities: Hiking, biking, camping, cabins, boating, rock climbing.

8. Pikes Peak State Park
Some of the best views of the Mississippi River are at Pikes Peak State Park. In addition to sweeping vistas, hikers can view limestone bluffs, fossils and Bridal Veil Falls, a natural spring-fed waterfall.
Amenities: Camping, hiking.

9. Wildcat Den State Park
The trail system at Wildcat Den leads hikers through canyons and cliffs with names like "Devil's Punch Bowl" and "Fat Man's Squeeze." The Historic Pine Creek Grist Mill is also located in the park.
Amenities: Hiking, camping.

10. Pictured Rocks County Park
This county park is lined with steep limestone cliffs and surrounds the Maquoketa River near Monticello. Rock climbing is popular at this park, with 14 different wall areas to climb.
Amenities: Rock climbing, hiking, fishing.

11. Effigy Mounds National Monument
Harpers Ferry
Hike among prehistoric Native American burial grounds and forests that line the Mississippi River at this National Monument site.
Amenities: Hiking, nature center.


Head underground for a unique park experience. Explore these natural caves:

Maquoketa Caves State Park, Maquoketa, Iowa
Maquoketa Caves State Park, Maquoketa

12. Maquoketa Caves State Park 
Maquoketa Caves State Park contains more caves than any other park in Iowa. The recently updated trail system links caves, limestone formations and scenic overlooks. 
Amenities: Camping, hiking, cabins, nature center.

13. Crystal Lake Cave
Guided tours of Crystal Lake Cave's 3,000 feet of passageways feature stalactites, stalagmites and many different crystal formations.

14. Spook Cave
Spook Cave is the only cave in Iowa you explore by boat! Boat tours include the history and development of the cave while viewing natural limestone formations.

15. Wapsipinicon State Park
Explore the caves at Wapsipinicon State Park as you hike the multi-use trails. Horse Thief Cave is named after a legend that horse thieves used the cave as their camp. Ice Cave's cool temperatures provide relief during a hot summer day.

16. Ice Cave
As one of the largest ice caverns in the Midwest, Ice Cave typically keeps its ice-covered walls and freezing temperatures throughout the summer months. After exploring the cave, head to Dunnings Springs, a natural spring-fed waterfall located within walking distance.