Field Trip: Explore the trails, caves and springs at Backbone State Park


Spanning 2,001 acres in northeast Iowa, Backbone State Park was dedicated in 1920 as Iowa’s first state park. It is an otherworldly paradise named for its narrow and steep ridge of bedrock carved by the Maquoketa River.

Caves, sinkholes, karsts, an active natural spring, 125 campsites and some of the best trout fishing in the state make for an immersive nature experience.

Distance from Iowa City: 85 miles, about a 90-minute drive
Nearby: Strawberry Point, Lamont, Dundee


Richmond Springs pumps out over 2,000 gallons of water per minute, feeding the crystal-clear stream that runs through the park. Head here for excellent trout fishing.




Backbone Trail’s rugged dolomite limestone ridge—also known as the Devil’s Backbone—towers 80 feet over the ground below, offering jaw-dropping views that conjure visions of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth.



Featuring stalagmite stumps and flowstone-covered walls, Backbone Cave is relatively small and a cool respite from the summer sun.



Curious what's happening this weekend? Sign up here to stay in the know.



Learn more: Check out and Iowa Underground: A Guide to the State’s Subterranean Treasures by Greg A. Brick.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 178


  1. Trails Backbone has 21 miles of hiking and multi-use trails. Visitors can hike along trails winding through old twisted and windblown cedars and up rough, rocky staircases to one of the highest points in northeast Iowa, the Devil s Backbone. During winter, visitors can cross-country ski and snowmobile.
    By the way! The best essay writing service –
    And Happy New Year!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


A collaboration between The Englert Theatre and FilmScene


Help us build the greatest small city for the arts in America—right here in Iowa City. Learn more »

Donate Today

Strengthen • Grow • Evolve is a collaborative campaign led by two Iowa City-based arts nonprofits, The Englert Theatre and FilmScene that seeks a major reinvestment to strengthen the arts through modern and historic venues, innovative programming, and new models of collaboration.

For 18 years...

Little Village has been telling the truth and changing our little corner of the world.

If you can, help us head into the next 18 years even stronger with a one-time or monthly contribution of $18, or any amount you choose.


Wed, Oct. 23, 2019

Hilton Garden Inn Iowa City Downtown University at 7:15 a.m. (program starts at 7:30 a.m.)

Keynote address by Dr. Melissa Shivers
Vice President for Student Life
University of Iowa

Buy Ticketes

(No tickets sold at the door)

2019 Award Honorees

Jesse Case
Elizabeth Bernal
Angie Jordan (South District Neighborhood Association)
Inside Out Reentry
Matthew Farrey
Kevin Sanders


VOTER’S GUIDE for the 2019 Johnson County Elections

Mark your calendar! Local elections for City Council and School Board on November 5, 2019. Polls are open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.