State Park Spotlight: Maquoketa Caves

One of the state’s most scenic parks, Maquoketa Caves has been thrilling visitors with its natural beauty and subterranean geology since the mid-1800s. Photo: Iowa Department of Natural Resources

With spring wildflowers peaking and warmer temps in the forecast, it’s a perfect time to start planning state park travel. The first on our checklist is Maquoketa Caves in Jackson County.

About 40 minutes south of Dubuque and less than an hour north of the Quad Cities, the park is a perfect weekend getaway with an overnight in either city. There’s also camping in the park (reserve in advance).

The park features 16 caves, including “1,100 Dancehall Cave”—named after the community dances held here back in the day.

While Dancehall is easy to navigate and the largest in the park, other caves offer challenging spelunking experiences. On the 6-mile loop trail, you can explore options such as Hernando’s Hideaway and Dug Out. Inside the caves, see unique flowstone and dripstone formations—pack a flashlight or headlight and hiking clothes for your explorations.

Other popular park attractions include Natural Bridge standing 50 feet above Raccoon Creek and the 17-ton Balanced Rock. Currently parking is only available in the lot, so come early or later in the day to snag a spot.

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