With beautiful river valleys and steep limestone walls, Eastern Iowa's landscape offers some great rock climbing opportunities. The area's numerous state and county parks feature rock formations, river bluffs and boulders for various skill levels.


Climb On - Climbing Group

Climb On, Dubuque Iowa

For those who are brand new to rock climbing, learning with a group is a great first step. Based in Dubuque, Climb On offers lessons for novices and kids and arranges events for advanced climbers. The club teaches all styles of climbing including boulder, top-rope and sport climbing and has extra gear for those just starting out.

Backbone State Park

Featuring challenging cliffs and rugged dolomite limestone, this park near Dundee offers plenty of rock to explore with all different styles of climbing. The most popular formations to climb are located near the Backbone Trail. Climbers and rappellers must register at the park office.

Pictured Rocks County Park

Pictured Rocks Park, Monticello Iowa
Pictured Rocks County Park

The most popular climbing area in Eastern Iowa, this park near Monticello is full of climbers throughout the fall and spring when the weather is best. Beginners or those hoping to master climbing can take classes here with the University of Iowa. The Maquoketa River valley has steep limestone bluffs that provide over 60 climbing routes.

Joinerville Park

Also along the Maquoketa River, this spot near Maquoketa is popular for bouldering and free climbing and features nearly 60 named routes. Bolting and rope climbing are not allowed in the park for preservation reasons. 


Palisades-Kepler State Park

With dramatic river bluffs and thick vegetation along the Cedar River, this area near Mount Vernon offers a beautiful spot for top-rope climbing and bouldering. Pick from a handful of difficult routes within the 840-acre park. Registration is required before climbing. 

Ozark Wildlife Climbing Area

Palisades-Kepler State Park, Mount Vernon Iowa, Shay Hoffman
Photo Courtesy Instagram Shay Hoffman

Explore some of Iowa's finest limestone along the Maquoketa River near Monmouth. This area features bolted sport climbing or bouldering and two short overhanging cliffs. The jagged limestone makes this a great climbing spot in the winter as well.


Indian Bluffs

One of the most beautifully rugged natural spaces in Iowa, this park near Scotch Grove features almost 30 named limestone routes, which are taller and more difficult climbs for experienced adventurers. Be sure to keep an eye out for temporary route closures.