Looking for camping spot between Des Moines and ChicagoWe are wondering if you have any good suggestions for a central location for four couples to meet up this summer to camp. We are coming from Des Moines, Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis. We have been looking around the Galena area, but are not sure that it is the best budget friendly spot. We really just want a place to hike, ride bikes, canoe/kayak and play games. Ideally, we would like to stay in a cabin at Backbone state park. We would love to rent a camper cabin, but will pitch tents if nothing is available. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thank you. - Stacy, Ankeny, Iowa
Backbone would be a great place to stay and is almost exactly halfway between Des Moines and Chicago. In addition to campgrounds, the park has a big variety of cabins, and the two-bedroom modern family cabins are a bargain at $85 per night or $510 per week (in the summer, they only rent by the week).
For more, see A cabin in Iowa.
Good bicycling is a little limited around the park, however.
You also could consider Decorah in northeast Iowa. The municipal Pulpit Rock campground is on the gorgeous Trout Run bike trail and the Upper Iowa River, which is great for paddling.
For more about Decorah, see A pocket of Norway.
Another option is the southeast Minnesota town of Lanesboro, which is on a 60-mile system of paved trails.
Camping at the Old Barn Resort west of Lanesboro is right off the trail, and Eagle Cliff Campground east of Lanesboro is on the trail and also the river. It provides canoe and kayak rentals and shuttles. It's also a good place for tubing, because you can do a self-shuttle with your bikes.
The Pulpit Rock and Old Barn are among our 30 great campsites.