Rock Creek State Park is a 1697-acre park in Central Iowa known for its scenic lake. It’s a popular camping destination and an ideal spot for outdoor adventures, like boating, fishing, paddling, and hiking.
And there are a ton of other things to do nearby. It’s near several other natural areas with excellent trails, a few museums, and the Iowa Speedway!
A Brief History of Rock Creek State Park
Rock Creek State Park was once farm ground. Then, in the late 1940s, Newton residents asked the state for an artificial lake and recreation area. And in 1952, it became a state park.1
Today, an additional 250-acre parcel of land north of the park gets used as a wildlife management area. It also filters drainage from surrounding land to improve the lake water quality.
Things to Do at Rock Creek State Park
There’s so much to do in and around Rock Creek State Park, you’ll want to stay awhile!
The Rock Creek State Park campground is a premier camping destination in Central Iowa. And for a good reason! It has excellent campsites, incredible lake views, and so much to do nearby. (See the campground section below for more.)
Hit the trails
The 8.5-mile multi-use trail surrounding Rock Creek Lake is a great way to explore the park. This soft surface trail is open to hiking, biking, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing. Also, a beach trail spur (.6 miles) is on the west side of the lake off the main trail.
Twin Bridges Trail is a short interpretive trail through restored woodland and prairie north of the campground.
Also, the Rock Creek Recreation Bike Trail is a paved 5½-mile trail extending east from the park, following Hwy F-27 to Grinnell. Find this trail on the park’s north side.
Play disc golf
Baker’s Disc Golf Course is a 9-hole course on the east side of Rock Creek Lake. Not only is it a fun course, but you’ll enjoy terrific lake views while playing.
Go boating at Rock Creek Lake (+ boat rentals!)
Whether you want to explore the lake or go fishing, Rock Creek Lake is a fantastic place to go. Bring your own boat or rent one at the Rock Creek Marina!
Boat rentals are at the marina concessions on the lake’s northeast side (near the campground). They rent pontoons, fishing boats, canoes, kayaks, and pedal boats (and sell snacks, too!).
Also, there are courtesy docks at the marina and five boat ramps around the lake.
(Note that any size motor is allowed, but only at less than five mph, no-wake speeds.)
The 602-acre lake has fifteen miles of shoreline! In other words, there are lots of great fishing spots. That’s why fishing is one of the top activities at Rock Creek!
Anglers catch fish like Crappie, Carp, Bluegill, Largemouth Bass, Walleye, Saugeye, Freshwater Drum, and Channel Catfish.
There are fishing jetties near a few boat ramps and an ADA fishing pier close to the beach on the lake’s west side.
If you prefer to fish by boat, you can bring your own or rent a fishing boat at the marina. There are five boat ramps at the park, and any size motor is okay at no-week speeds (<5mph). Plus, boat slips rentals are available from April 15 to October 15. And the courtesy docks near the campground are first-come, first-serve.
Bait and fishing licenses are available at concessions.
Have a picnic
Rock Creek is the ideal spot for a lakeside picnic! There are picnic areas throughout the park and three open-air shelters.
The picnic shelters are reservable and otherwise available first-come, first-serve.
Visit the beach
A swimming beach is on the park’s west side. Find it at the end of Rock Creek W. St., the park road on the lake’s west side.
Swimming is allowed in designated areas. There is no lifeguard on duty, and water gets monitored for safety. See the Iowa DNR Beach Monitoring page for more information on water conditions.
Rock Creek State Park has year-round opportunities for outdoor fun! The 8.5-mile multi-use trail is open to cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling in the winter. Visitors also enjoy ice fishing once the lake is sufficiently frozen.
Also, public hunting is allowed at the wildlife management area north of the park during hunting season. See the hunting areas here.
Rock Creek State Park Map
Rock Creek State Park Campground
The Rock Creek Campground is one of the most popular campgrounds around! With lots of excellent campsites and nearby amenities, it’s a must-stay.
- 170 campsites total; some lakeside*
- 100 electric campsites; back in and pull-through (one pull-through buddy site)
- 70 non-electric sites, including two youth group campsites
- Modern restrooms & showers
- Dump station on site
- Firewood (and snacks!) for sale at concessions
- Docks and marina nearby
The entrance to the campground area is off of County Hwy F-27 on the north side of the park (watch for signs on F-27).
*Note: The park’s trails allow horses, but there are no designated equestrian campsites.
Things to Do Nearby
Uhlenhopp Arboretum is just six miles southeast of the park and newly open to the public. This 250-acre nature area is an ideal place for nature lovers. It has a picnic area, miles of mowed trails, 7 ponds, prairie, and trees! Next to the arboretum (to the north) is Sugar Creek Nature Preserve, a 49-acre preserve with a few short loop trails (about 1 mile).
Jacob Krumm Nature Preserve is about 9 miles southeast of the park. This 450-acre area has seven miles of hiking and cross-country skiing trails. Also, there are two observation towers, a picnic shelter, and a 25-acre lake!
Arbor Lake Park is a few miles east of the park in Grinnell. This 80-acre park has a 13-acre lake with boat access, picnic areas, an open-air shelter, and a trail around the lake.
Mariposa County Park is a 151-acre park eight miles west of the park. It features a 17-acre lake, a primitive campground, and a picnic shelter.
The Iowa Speedway is only 15 miles from the park in Newton. This state-of-the-art race track and stadium hosts races and events, like Indycar and Nascar races.
Newton Arboretum & Botanical Gardens is a 20-minute drive from the park. It has six acres of gardens and trees, including a butterfly garden, water garden, native prairie, etc. Admission is free!
The Wagman Mill & Museum is a 20-minute drive from the park. Constructed in 1848, the mill is on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s open to the public each Sunday from 1-4 pm, Memorial Day through the end of September. See the Facebook page for up-to-date info.
Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge is 30 minutes west of the park, near Prairie City, and a great place to spend the day. Tour the visitor center, take the auto tour to see the bison, or wander through the tallgrass prairie. They even have free loaner binoculars, snowshoes, and children’s activity backpacks.
Visit Rock Creek State Park Today!
Rock Creek State Park is at 5627 Rock Creek E St, Kellogg, IA 50135