Spook Cave and Northeast Iowa Adventures

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Spook Cave and Northeast Iowa Adventures

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Our family has been having loads of fun exploring everything that Iowa has to offer. From sleeping with cows, crossing off state parks, and sleeping in a yurt, there is no shortage of fun experiences in the state of Iowa. We have added Spook Cave and Northeast Iowa to the list!

Northeast Iowa is one pocket of Iowa, you do not want to miss. It is easy to forget you are in Iowa with all the beautiful hills, trees, and caves! If you are really looking for a change of scenery, something different than flat fields of corn, head Northeast.

You can plan a day trip to this portion of Iowa or better yet, plan a long weekend to explore the area. If you need a place to stay, I highly recommend camping at Spook Cave. They offer tent camping, RV camping, or cabins. There is something for everyone!

Spook Cave

We were thrilled to have another great place to experience Poppy the Popup Camper. Spook Cave did not disappoint. They offered a huge playground with a fun slide, beach, fishing, tons of ducks, a gift shop with some of the best ice cream, a waterfall to play in, and much more.

In addition, Spook Cave is well-known for its cave! This fun cave tour is fun for all ages and you get to ride in a canoe, which my kids were super excited about. The guides were knowledgeable and had tons of fun with the tourists. Forwarn you, if you tend to get claustrophobic you may want to be careful. You have to bend down pretty low at several points during the tour. If that does not bother you, it is definitely worth it! We all learned so much about the cave and area years ago.

While I loved Spook Cave it did come with one downside, train tracks. Train tracks run right through the campground and they are active. All three nights we stayed at Spook Cave 2-to 3 trains came through. Of course, our campsite was right by the tracks so it was extra loud, but the kids also thought it was pretty cool. I am not sure how loud it is for other areas of the campground. Make sure you take note when you book your camp spot!

Pikes Peak State Park

Pikes Peak State Park is located approximately 15 minutes away from Spook Cave. You can plan an entire morning or afternoon hiking and take in the beautiful views at this Iowa State Park. There are tons of picnic tables available, including a small snack shop that offers ice cream treats, snacks, and coffee.

We took the hike to view Bridal Veil Falls, which is an easy hike for little ones and offers a couple of great spots to view the Mighty Mississippi River.

Effigy Mounds National Monument

After our hike at Pikes Peak State Park, we made our way to Effigy Mounds National Monument which is another 15 minutes away. To get there you will travel through the small town of McGregor, which is so charming and offers tons of places to grab lunch or dinner!

Effigy Mounds National Monument is associated with the American Indian tribes. The area is breathtaking and offers tons of trails for hiking. If you are keeping track of National Parks and monuments, this one is on the National Park Passport so do not forget to snag your stamp before you leave.

Rollercoaster Road

Rollercoaster Road was recommended to me before we left for our trip and I was not really sure what to expect, but I am always excited to check out quirky and unique things. The second day we loaded up and headed for Rollercoaster Road! The 40-minute drive from Spook Cave was well worth the drive itself. It was a beautiful morning and I could not get over the views that this area of Iowa offered.

This may have been the kid’s favorite part of the entire trip. It is funny how the most simple things bring the most joy. Rollercoaster Road is gravel and the faster you (safely) go, the more it feels like you are on a rollercoaster! We did it twice and I am so glad we did.

Dunning Springs Park

After our thrill ride on Rollercoaster Road, we headed to Decorah, Iowa to explore. Decorah is about 45 minutes from Spook Cave and worth the day trip! Our first stop was Dunning Springs Park. Dunning Springs Park is a city park and has a 200-foot beautiful waterfall. It also offers creek splashing, climbing galore, and tons of hiking! This was such a fun place. Make sure you bring water shoes and a change of clothes if you plan to play in the water.

Ice Cave State Preserve

Ice Cave State Preserve is right by Dunning Springs Park. Park and you can visit both places with a short walk. You will want to make sure you visit this cave as it is the largest ice cave in the Midwest. It is self-guided and when we made it to the entrance there was a short line. It is recommended that one family goes down at a time due to social distancing, it’s a tight squeeze and slick!

We did not go all the way down as it was pretty slippery, but it was very neat to see all the formations and how the temperature dropped quickly as you entered the cave. I still cannot believe these types of things exist in Iowa!

Here are a few tips before you visit Dunning Springs and the Ice Cave …

  • Bring a backpack stocked with water and a snack. If you plan to visit both without a stop at the car, you and the kiddos will get thirsty and/or hungry!
  • Make sure you pack a flashlight for the cave. I did not even think of this but had my phone light which worked okay.
  • I mentioned this already, but a change of clothes is a good idea if your kids love to splash in the water! There are plenty of opportunities to do so.
  • Bring a sweatshirt! It gets pretty chilly in the cave after all it is an ice cave.

Toppling Goliath Brewing Co.

If you are a local, craft brew fan (like we are!) you will not want to miss the opportunity to stop at Toppling Goliath Brewing Co. We stopped for lunch after our Decorah exploration and their menu is just as good as their brews.

The Old Man River Restaurant & Brewery

This local restaurant and brewery is located in McGregor, Iowa. The first night we arrived, after setting up camp, we headed to dinner here! They had great food and local brews. One of their beers was even served with a hop in it. This was a great place!

Have you explored Northeast Iowa? What is your favorite place?


Erin Huiatt

Erin is a reliable resource and stepping stone for women and families to find support and make connections within our community. She wants families to feel confident to reach out and ask for help and advice to get pointed in the right direction. She enjoys traveling and exploring with her two children in tow!

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