Make it a weekend to remember by exploring not one, not two, but three parks! With less than 100 miles between parks, there’s plenty of time to hike, swim, fish, camp and stargaze.
More One Weekend, Three Park ideas:
DRIFTLESS AREA | EASTERN IOWA | LOESS HILLS | NORTH CENTRAL IOWA | SOUTHEAST IOWA | SOUTHWEST IOWA
Twenty-eight luxury cottages, ranging from one to four bedrooms, are the perfect home away from home. Each cottage includes a full kitchen, wrap-around deck with scenic views and cozy touches like living room fireplaces.
Access to bicycles, kayaks and stand up paddleboards are included free with overnight stays. Jet skis, pontoons and ski boats are available for rent on site. Naturalists lead programs including guided hikes, live animal meet and greets, stories by the campfire and nature-themed craft and games.
The Preserve on Rathbun Lake was designed for golfers of every age and skill level. The 18-hole course blends great golf and natural landscapes, meandering through scenic prairie and oak savannas.
2. Lake Ahquabi
Rentals include rowboats, kayaks, fishing kayaks, pedalboats and stand up paddle boarding (SUP). Classes available for canoeing, kayaking, SUP and SUP yoga. The 115-acre manmade lake also includes a large sandy beach and modern boat ramp. A number of fishing jetties and a handicapped accessible fishing pier offer great options for shoreline fishing.
Most of the 6.5 miles of trail are gravel surfaced. The lake trail hugs the shoreline for four miles while the remaining 2.5 miles wind through the woods.
Three open shelters are available for picnics. A stone lodge, built by the Civilian Conservation Corp, is popular for family reunions, weddings and other large gatherings. All can be reserved online.
Noted for its natural woodland beauty highlighted by its signature limestone ridge known as the “backbone,” the park is also home to a lush diversity of woodland vegetation from wildflowers and native plants to the best quality walnut stands in central Iowa and the state’s oldest recorded oak trees.
A fun alternative to tent camping, yurt cabins are fashioned from the nomadic Mongolian culture that often moved their circular huts from one region to another while following food or warmer weather. The two yurts, which can each accommodate up to eight people, boast heat and air conditioning, electricity, a kitchenette and dining table with chairs.
Visitors enter the park through the Harmon Tunnel, Iowa’s only highway tunnel. Originally dug in 1858 to power a saw mill, the tunnel was enlarged in 1925 to accommodate vehicle traffic. The Middle River Ford, constructed in the 1920s, is the only means of vehicle access to the west side of the park from inside the park. During normal river flow levels, cars can safely cross the ford which maintains a depth of 2-4 feet.