Red Haw State Park is a beautiful 649-acre park in south-central Iowa. It’s known for heaps of colorful flowering Redbud trees that draw visitors each spring.
Red Haw is a great place to spend time in nature, enjoying the park’s 72-acre lake, trails, and other amenities.
About Red Haw State Park
Red Haw State Park opened in 1939 and is near Chariton, Iowa.
The park recently made headlines for an EF3 tornado that left a path of destruction on March 5, 2022. Wind speeds up to 140 mph caused widespread damage to the campground and surrounding areas, leaving one person dead and another injured. As a result, Red Haw was partially opened for the 2022 season. But the campground is still undergoing cleanup during the 2023 season. Check the Iowa DNR for closing updates.
Things to do at Red Haw State Park
See the Red Bud trees!
Spring is a fantastic time to visit this beautiful park! You’ve never seen so many Redbud trees in bloom! So, if you can, visit the park from late April to the beginning of May. You won’t regret it.
Hike the trails
Hiking is one of the more popular activities at Red Haw for a good reason! The upper and lower lake loop trails (that link together) provide scenic lake views with a backdrop of woodlands.
Choose your length – the Upper Lake Loop is four miles in total. Or you can walk along the shores for whatever distance you’d like. Trails are soft-surfaced and mostly mowed grass.
Have a picnic
There’s no better spot for a picnic than the lakeside at Red Haw! It’s a fantastic place to gather small and large groups.
Two open-air shelters are reservable – Youth Shelter & Stone Shelter. Stone Shelter is a popular option – it’s a historic CCC structure surrounded by water on three sides, with a fireplace.
The fishing is excellent at Red Haw’s 76-acre lake. It underwent restoration in the early 2000s and offers clean water for anglers to fish by shore or boat.
Fishing jetties and shoreline access are plentiful. And there are boat ramps for anglers with their own boat. The Iowa DNR reports fish species include Bluegill, Largemouth Bass, Sunfish, Catfish, and Crappie.
Red Haw Lake is a beautiful lake to paddle, perfect for kayaking. And two boat ramps offer handy, accessible kayak launches.* Electric trolling is also allowed, but note that it is a “no wake” lake (< 5mph).
*The campground boat ramp remains closed through 2024 due to storm damage.
Red Haw is a beautiful place to camp, and the campground is often busy on summer weekends.* It offers over 70 campsites, including electric and non-electric tent sites.
*The campground remains closed until the 2024 season.
Visit the beach
The Red Haw Beach is a great place to spend a summer day, whether picnicking, sunbathing, or swimming!
- No lifeguards on duty.
- Check for safe water conditions. Find beach monitoring status here.
Winter at Red Haw State Park
Red Haw State Park is a year-round park, and winter fun abounds! Ice fishing is popular when the ice is thick enough. And the park’s trails are open to cross-country skiing and snowmobiles in the winter.
Red Haw State Park Campground
A 2022 tornado caused extensive damage to the campground, including its electricity and shower building. Efforts are underway to restore the campground. It’s anticipated to re-open for the 2024 camping season.
The Red Haw State Park Campground has over 70 campsites, including electric and non-electric tent sites. Amenities include trails, a playground, a boat ramp, a shower house, and a dump station.
Things to do nearby
The town of Chariton is just a couple miles west of the park. Stop by to visit Piper’s Grocery & Candy store, grab a bite to eat, or attend a farmer’s market.
Hop on the Cinder Path Trail, a 13-mile rail trail from Chariton to Humeston, Iowa. Note that this trail has varied soft surfaces, from crushed limestone and cinder to mowed grass in the southernmost section.
Rathbun Lake, and all it has to offer, is a short 30-minute drive away. Also called Iowa’s Ocean, the 11,000-acre lake has 155 miles of shoreline with adventures on and off the water. Honey Creek State Park and Honey Creek Resort are on the lake’s north side, with hiking, boating, swimming, camping, and more!
Stephens State Forest is about 20 minutes west of the park and a great place to lose yourself in nature! At 15,000 acres (!), it’s Iowa’s largest State Forest, with miles of hiking trails and primitive campsites.
Red Rock Lake is 45 miles north of the park and another fun outdoor recreation spot! Outdoor activities include boating, swimming, hiking, biking, camping, and more. And it’s near Pella, Iowa, where you’ll find entertainment, shopping, museums, and eateries.
Visit Red Haw State Park Today!
Red Haw State Park is at 24550 US-34, Chariton, IA 50049.
• Rathbun Lake
• Lake Red Rock
• Lake Wapello State Park