Camping and Hiking in Ledges State Park in Boone, Iowa: Review and Tips

A downhill trail through the woods at Ledges State Park

 A few weeks ago I finished a short camping trip in Ledges State Park, in Boone Iowa. We had a great time, and I wanted to pass on what we learned about this gem of a park. 

Basic information about Ledges State Park Campground

What are the campsites like at Ledges State Park?

There are several types of campsites, some with water and electricity, and some without. There are also a few hike-in campsites. We chose a basic site without any utilities, and camped in our RAV 4. Our site had woods on two sides, making it very nice and somewhat private. Our site had a picnic table and a fire ring with a grill. The driveway was gravel. It stayed pleasantly quiet all night, and the campsite was clean and free of any garbage. 

What about the bathrooms? Are there showers at Ledges State Park Campground?

The bathrooms are pretty average for an Iowa state park- nothing fancy, just modern toilet stalls and concrete. There are showers here! (my partner only camps at venues with showers.) If you shower at a time that isn’t busy, the water can almost be too hot! If you have trouble getting the shower to turn on, push harder than you think you should on the button. 

When should I go camping at Ledges state Park? 

The campground is technically open all year, but the bathrooms and water pumps open in mid April and close in late fall. You can always call the park if you aren’t sure if they are open or not. We went on a colder spring weekend and still had a lot of fun. I would imagine that in the fall, the colors are spectacular!

What other resources does Ledges State Park campground have?

There are water pumps near the bathroom, and there is a dump station near the park entrance. There is also a playground, so kids will have a great time. Firewood is sold at a small shed near the dump station at a very reasonable price. ($6 when we were visiting) There is usually an itinerary of weekend activities and presentations posted on the bulletin boards at the park entrance and at the bathrooms. If you need any special help or recommendations, there is also a camp host who would be happy to help. 

Was it hard to get a reservation? How do I get a campsite? 

For me, it  was easy enough to reserve a site online at the last minute. However, we were technically in the shoulder season, and it might be harder in the peak of summer when kids are out of school. To reserve a campsite, go to the Iowa state park reservation website. You can also try to claim a spot the day of your camping trip by occupying an empty walk-up site. However, I wouldn’t call this method a safe bet. Also, make sure you have cash to pay for a walk-up site. Costs can vary depending on what site you choose and what season you go in, so check with the website. Our reservation cost about $10 in mid April, including a minimal reservation fee. 

The table rock outlook at ledges state park

Hiking and Activities at Ledges State Park

What is hiking like at Ledges State Park?

It’s incredible! I thought Backbone State Park would always be my favorite for hiking, but Ledges gives those trails a run for its money. The trails are on the opposite side of the road from the campground, and wind around two sides of a gorgeous valley leading towards the Des Moines River. There are so many beautiful overlooks as you hike, cute mossy stone steps, bridges and a crows nest. You could spend a full day hiking and not ever backtrack over the same path. At the time that we went, there were a lot of wildflowers poking up from the dirt, and even some fluffy white ones on the trees. We will definitely be back to see more in the summer!

How difficult are the trails at Ledges? Are the trails accessible? 

That depends on where you hike! There are a lot of hills, so expect to be winded if you aren't used to hiking hills. Most hikers will have no problem. The main parts of the trail coming from the parking lot have concrete pavers, which make walking through the elevation changes easier. However, further in there are uneven stairs, mud, narrow paths, and rocks within the trail. Bring good footwear, preferably hiking boots or running shoes with good treads. I would recommend that parents also keep a close eye on children and any particularly rambunctious teenagers, since there are areas where you could fall if you go off-trail. I would not call most of the trails “accessible” by any definition of the word. If you have any concerns about safety or difficulty of the trails, ask the camp host for recommendations for an easier route. The prairie trail might be a better choice than the trails that go through the valley. 

What else can you do at Ledges State Park, other than hike? 

Lots of things! There is a creek running through the center of the valley that is perfect for creek stomping. At the river, further along, there is a jetty where you can launch boats for fishing, or you can go kayaking. There are also a metric ton of perfect picnic places with grills, parking, picnic tables, and even bathrooms. Some of these are available to rent online, if you have an event you want to host here. I don’t think there is any rock climbing, volleyball nets, bike trails, swimming or such activities. 

What if it rains? Is there anything fun to do in Boone, Iowa? 

If it rains, there is actually plenty to do in the nearby town of Boone. The most famous activity would be the Boone County Scenic Railroad and Rail Museum. We still need to do this, and plan on doing that on our next trip to that area. There are also a few antique stores, restaurants, a winery, and a bakery. 

Do I recommend camping at Ledges State Park?

Absolutely! I actually think this is my favorite Iowa State Park, even more so that George Wyth State Park and Backbone State Park. This park is especially recommended for hiking junkies! The views when hiking here are the best I have seen. The campground is quiet and serviceable. If you need a little more variety in your outdoor activities, you might be slightly challenged, since there is no beach or bike trails. Since there are also activities in town and active park hosts, I would also recommend this campground as a great place for newbies to camp.

A stone staircase on the hiking trail in Ledges State Park


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