Plan a Day Trip to Backbone

Backbone State Park features plenty of brick and timber boathouses, bridges and cabins next to its signature attraction, Backbone Lake. Photo: Gisele Carbone Kruger.

By Beth Eslinger

Tucked away amid the rolling farm fields of Delaware County, the state’s oldest park delivers countless surprises. With 70-foot limestone cliffs (rock-climbing is a thing here), 21 miles of paths for hikers, mountain biking trails, and even fly-fishing for trout, Backbone State Park delivers some of the signature features of the Driftless Area within just an hour from Cedar Rapids, Dubuque and Waterloo.

Founded a century ago, the park is known for its scenic cliffs and forested vistas and Civilian Conservation Corps structures. The CCC created a number of stone and timber structures, including a boathouse, bridges and cabins (currently unavailable for rent due to road construction; check for availability). Just 3 miles away, Strawberry Point offers visitors options to explore local flavors. Yes, you’ll even find the world’s largest strawberry statue downtown on your visit.

Here are a few highlights:

Richmond Springs: With turquoise spring-fed waters and geological features such as a natural bridge and limestone cave, a short stroll through the northern section of the park will have you thinking, This is Iowa? There’s trout-fishing on the cool stream flowing out of the springs.

Devil’s Backbone: One of the most popular hikes in the state, this trek is a must-visit in all seasons (though those with a fear of height might want to steer clear in winter). The trek is named for the narrow ridge carved by the Maquoketa River. It’s a top spot for photos of cliffs and steep overlooks.

Backbone Lake: While summer is still here, it’s a perfect time to get out on the lake, which was created by a CCC dam. Activities include swimming, boating and fishing.

Downtown Strawberry Point: After stopping to snap a photo of the giant strawberry for your social feed, take a quick trip through downtown. Plan on a bite and maybe an overnight at the historic Franklin Hotel, grab a sweet treat from the soda fountain at Clayton Drug, and stop by gift shop Jake & Company for stylish home decor.


You May Also Like

Collectors’ Fantasy

More than 1,100 people packed the most recent Midwest Antique and Art Show in ...

All in the Mix

At Mount Vernon’s highly touted Lincoln Cafe, chef Matt Steigerwald reinvents comfort-food classics with ...

On the Block

  [dropcap]A[/dropcap]lmost 20 years ago, James Jackson left a career in marketing and advertising ...