There’s nothing better than beautiful fall colors, fragrant meals, and cozy campfires. And what better way to experience all the above than to go camping?! Fall is an excellent time to camp. And if you’re looking for a fall camping getaway nearby, you’ve come to the right place. Below is our list of the best fall camping near Des Moines!
The good news is, peak fall foliage in Central Iowa is usually through October. And many campgrounds are open through at least mid-October. Some even allow year-round walk-in tent camping!
The Best Fall Camping Near Des Moines, Iowa
Walnut Woods State Park
This 260-acre state park along the banks of the Raccoon River has Iowa’s largest stand of Black Walnut trees. Twenty-one electric campsites are available in this scenic campground. Plus, campers have easy access to Bottomland Trail. And, if you’re looking for more fall hiking, head to other nearby areas, like Purple Martin Lake and Brown’s Woods Forest Preserve.
Walnut Woods offers some of the best fall camping super close to Des Moines! Camping reservations are available through October. And the water and restroom facilities usually close on November 1 (depending on the weather). Walk-in camping is available in the winter.
Jester Park is a 1660-acre park with tons of fun activities—with gorgeous scenery. And it has over 140 beautiful campsites, making it an excellent spot for fall camping near Des Moines.
Hike on 8+ miles of hiking trails through the colorful woods along the shores of Saylorville Lake. And don’t forget to visit the nature center while you’re there!
Jester Park campgrounds close November 30, but walk-in tent camping is year-round. But, reservations are only available through mid-October; after that, it’s first-come, first-serve. Modern restrooms/showers close mid-October as well.
Camping not for you? Rent one of the four modern cabins at Jester Park! The furnished cabins are two-story walkouts, with a modern kitchen and restroom. The best part is, they back the woods and are right across from Discovery Pond.
Saylorville Lake offers a ton of scenic campsites, great for soaking up the best of fall! The 6000-acre lake is a fantastic backdrop, with fishing, hiking, and biking nearby. And with over 500 campsites(!), you’re sure to find a beautiful site.
Saylorville Lake campgrounds are popular in the Des Moines area, so we urge you to reserve a site! Campgrounds close for the season in mid-October.
Yellow Banks Park
Yellow Banks Park is a 552-acre park, ideal for a fall camping getaway close to Des Moines! Views from bluffs over the Des Moines River valley give a vantage point for the fall colors. Another great thing is, there are 50+ electric, tent, and backpacker sites.
Yellow Banks Park campgrounds are open until November 30; hike-in tent camping is year-round. But, reservations are only available through mid-October; after that, it’s first-come, first-serve. And modern restrooms/showers close mid-October as well.
Thomas Mitchell Park
Thomas Mitchell Park is a scenic 197-acre park with great hiking trails, a pond, and a walkable creek. The creekside campground offers views of the woodlands and prairie, with 40+ electric and tent sites. But, if you’d like a few more amenities, the Thomas Mitchell cabin makes a great fall getaway.
The campground is open through November 30, and walk-in tent camping is year-round. But, reservations are only available through mid-October; after that, it’s first-come, first-serve. Modern restrooms/showers close mid-October as well.
Ledges State Park
Ledges State Park is about 40 miles north of Des Moines and well worth the trip any time of year, especially in the fall. Its 100-foot sandstone ridges overlook the Des Moines River Valley, offering a great view of the fall colors. And with 4 miles of hiking trails through its unique landscape, it’s a fantastic place for fall camping. The Ledges campground has over 90 electric and tent sites, plus hike-in sites.
Camping reservations are available through October 31; water and restroom facilities usually close on November 1 (depending on the weather). Walk-in camping is available in the winter.
Go Fall Camping in Des Moines!
As you can see, there are some excellent places for fall camping near Des Moines! Don’t wait, or you’ll miss the best of what’s left of ideal camping weather. Go hike, see the fall foliage, and enjoy a cozy campfire! There’s so much left to do and see before winter arrives.
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