1.Ledges State Park – The Ledges is one of my favorite natural places in all of Iowa. A small creek winds through a deep canyon that has been carved out over many, many years. Cars passing through the canyon are forced to drive through a few inches of creek water splashing water, and getting squeals of joy from children swimming nearby. The Ledges looks like it belongs in Colorado, and is worth a trip even if not for camping. Ledges offers 95 campsites; 40 with electrical hookups, 42 non-electric, and 12 hike-in sites. A trailer dump station, rest rooms, showers, and a playground are also located in the campground. Campsite reservations can be made online through the park reservation system. Half of the campsites are always available on a first-come, first-serve basis and cannot be reserved. Click here for more information and reservations.
2.Jester Park – Jester Park is great due to the fact of how close you are to so many things. Saylorville Lake is right next door, there are lots of hiking trails, an equestrian center, playground, also a Bison and Elk herd nearby. Jester also sports 197 campsites there are 80 electric sites, 111 primitive sites, four walk-in primitive sites, and 2 youth areas. There are two showerhouses available from mid-April through mid-October, rates are $20 for electric sites and $15 for non-electric. Click here for their site and reservations.
3.Walnut Woods -Walnut Woods is located just south of the metro, just a few miles south of West Des Moines. Although close to Des Moines this is a pretty quiet spot, and has thick timber. The campground is quite a bit smaller than others in the area, but thats not always a bad thing. Altogether, there are 22 campsites, including 8 with full hookups and 13 with electric hookup, with modern restrooms, but no shower facilities. Click here for reservations or here for more information.
4.Thomas Mitchell Park – Thomas Mitchell Park is located just a few miles east of Altoona, which makes it very convenient for a shorter one night trip. There is a seven acre lake for fishing. There is also hiking, softball fields, and a creek that runs through the park. There are 42 campsites, and picnic areas available. Click here for more information.
5. White Breast Beach – White Breast is located on Red Rock Lake near Knoxville, about 45 minutes southwest of Des Moines. I have always like Red Rock lake, it is huge,it is quiet, and it is undeveloped for the most part. If you don’t like hearing traffic while you are camping this spot will probably suit you well. There are 128 campsites available along with showers, boat ramp, electric hookup, and a playground for the kids. Click here for more information.
6.Chichaqua – Chichaqua is one of my favorite places to bike. There is a bike path that runs twenty miles through a green areas, over small rivers, beside corn fields, and ending up in Baxter. The campground is on the smaller side with 28 primitive locations, and 8 electric. Chichaqua was originally acquired to return the skunk river to its original form, and the area really looks minimally touched by human hands. There is a modern showerhouse located in the main campground and is open mid-April through mid-October. Click here for more information, and click here for reservations, or here for a printable map.
7.Yellow Banks – Located east of the Metro past Pleasant Hill, Yellow banks has something that you don’t see to often in these parts. There are 140 foot cliffs overlooking the Des Moines River. There are also hiking trails (leading to 5 camping spots), a fishing pond, baseball fields, and the river close by. There are 12 primitive camping sites on the aforementioned bluffs overlooking the Des Moines River, as well as 48 electric sites. Click here for more information.
8.Adventureland campgrounds – Some wouldn’t call this classic camping, due to the fact that you are in the city of Altoona, and right next to a major amusement park. I would usually agree. However, if you are coming into Des Moines from out of town to go to Adventureland, this would be a great place to go. The campground is close enough that you could walk over and be first in line, and a hotel next door if you change your mind. Click here for more information.
9.Ashton-Wildwood Park – I think what makes Ashton-Wildwood Park great is stars. This park is far away from city lights and you can see the stars so well they built an observatory here. This park is located near Baxter, about 30 minutes northeast of Des Moines. If you want to learn more about this park click here.
10.Cutty’s – Cutty’s is Des Moines camping club located in Grimes northwest of the metro on highway 141. They really go out of their way to keep their guests entertained, offering free paddle boats, fishing, mini golf, and swimming pools. Through out the camping season they also offer live bands, bingo, cookouts, and pancake breakfasts. If you are interested they do offer two nights camping free to try them out. Click here for their site.