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Get inspired by the Great Outdoors. Embrace the peaceful pause of nature on crystal clear lakes and in quiet forest groves. Explore wildlife-rich wetlands and bluff-lined streams. Feel the rush of adrenaline sports and find the perfect trail. Dotted with lakes and bordered on both sides by two major rivers (the Mississippi and Missouri), Iowa is a water lover’s paradise. Go fishing, boating, and paddling. Find thousands of miles of scenic pathways for hiking and biking. Get a charge from high-octane activities like skydiving and rock climbing. Unleash your spirit and choose your own adventure in Iowa.
Relax with Blue-Ribbon Fishing and Boating in Lakes and Rivers
Enjoy abundant fishing in thousands of lakes, ponds, streams, and rivers. Catch trout in cold-water streams lined with willow trees in the northeastern Driftless Area. Follow the route of Mark Twain on the Mississippi River by boat (or raft, if you’re adventurous) – this massive river is teeming with bass, catfish, pike, and walleye. On the other side of the state, the Missouri River is home to sauger and the rare blue catfish. Find awesome boating, beaches, and fishing holes at inviting state parks and freshwater lakes. West Okonoji Lake, Clear Lake, and Lake McBride are some of the best.
Discover Cool Hiking Paths and Rock Climbing Hotspots
Explore trails along rolling hills, rocky bluffs, and steep cliffs in Iowa’s gorgeous state parks and wildlife areas. Venture into the rugged wilderness in Backbone State Park, a natural oasis with 21 miles of trails and epic limestone cliff climbing. You’ll also find rock climbing action in Palisades-Kepler State Park and Pictured Rocks County Park. Effigy Mounds National Monument in Harper’s Ferry combines natural beauty with historical culture, and you can hike past ancient Native American burial mounds on 14 miles of trails. For the most breathtaking scenery in Iowa, head to Maquoketa Caves State Park and Pikes Peak State Park – especially during the fall foliage season.
Pedal on Paved Biking Trails with Stunning Natural Scenery
Slow down and savor every moment of your travels when you follow paved pathways through Iowa’s spectacular natural parks. Biking is a big deal in Iowa. Start with the artsy, award-winning High Trestle Trail. This shaded, 25-mile trail features a soaring 23-story bridge over the Des Moines River Valley. Bicyclists flock to Iowa’s converted rail trails, which are often lined with watering holes and picnic spots. Try the Sauk Rail Trail, the Great Western Trail, or the Wabash Trace Nature Trail. Cross quiet streams on the Trout Run Trail and watch for wildlife in the woodlands surrounding the Three Rivers Trail.
Fun River Floats, Paddle Sports, and Whitewater Adventures
From lazy tube floats to thrilling whitewater rapids, intrepid paddlers and water sports fans will find plenty to love in Iowa. Hop in a canoe or kayak and explore one of the state’s designated water trails. Sail under the famous Bridges of Madison County on the romantic Middle River. Follow the Des Moines River and cruise through the capital city’s parks and vibrant downtown area. Paddle the Iowa River past charming small towns before reaching the mighty Mississippi. Want to try stand-up paddle boarding? Find rentals and classes on Lake Okoboji, Gray’s Lake, and the Mississippi River in Dubuque. Get your whitewater fix at Riverfront Park in Charles City and at Elkader Whitewater Park.
Sky-High Thrills: Skydiving, Zip Lines, and Hot Air Balloons
Experience Iowa from a whole new perspective when you take to the sky. Floating in a hot air balloon at 5,000 feet above the ground offers a unique vantage point on the heartland’s fertile farming regions. Climb into the basket of a hot air balloon for a ride in Des Moines, Indianola, and Cedar Rapids. Zoom across Iowa’s forests and valleys on a zip line adventure; you’ll find these fast-flying sky tours in Dubuque, Waterloo, and Atkins. For real heart-pounding excitement, drop out of a plane with a parachute in Brooklyn and Des Moines.