Explore the Maquoketa Caves
Iowa › Maquoketa Caves State Park
Added by Grant Whitty
- Explore a diversity of caves
- Wye Cave is especially challenging and fun
- Also visit Balanced Rock, Natural Bridge, and Racoon Creek
- Hiking trails and camping
From the Maquoketa Caves State Park office, near the parking area, hike north for access to 8 of the 16 caves in the park. These caves include Wide Mouth Cave, Dug Out Cave, Twin Arch Cave, Hernando's Hideaway, Up-N-Down Cave, Widow Cave, Match Cave, and Upper Dancehall Cave. Other attractions in the northern half of the park include the Natural Bridge and the northern section of Racoon Creek.
In the southern section of the park you will find the remaining caves: Barbell Cave, Shinbone Cave, Wye Cave, Middle Dancehall Cave, Steel Gate Cave, Lower Dancehall Cave, Rainy Day Cave, and Ice Cave. Other attractions in the southern section of the park include the Balanced Rock and the southern section of Raccoon Creek.
Explore the northern and southern caves as you please, but one of the most exhilarating and challenging caves in the park is Wye Cave – picture doing a 12-foot “army crawl” in a very tight space as an out-and-back. If you are claustrophobic, do not go into Wye Cave.
The entrance to Wye is a hole in the ground beneath a giant slab of rock. Climb down the hole about 15 feet. Once you have reached the entrance, you will enter a large atrium that gradually descends, to the left.
At the bottom of the atrium, there is a small hole in the wall where you must "army crawl" about 12 feet through a narrow, tight space. The narrow space is only one person wide, so proceed single-file and keep in mind that others may be returning from the other side.
Once you have made it through the narrow space, a large atrium opens up where you and your party can reconvene after the crawl. The cave then continues into similar tight spaces and large atriums.
Once you have explored the desired distance into the cave, turn around and return the same way. Go back through the crawl space, up through the first atrium, and climb up the entrance hole.
The caves are about 52 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, so dress warm!
Getting there: Maquoketa Caves State Park is located just 7 miles northwest of the town of Maquoketa, Iowa. Take Caves Road off of Highway 61 directly to the caves. Parking is centrally located within the park.
- Caving attire (will get dirty)
- Hiking shoes
- Headlamp or flashlight
- Walkie-Talkies (optional)
- First Aid
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More
Camping, Chillin, Hiking, Photography
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We had an opportunity to explore Maquoketa Caves when in town for a concert. It hust happens that if we get to travel for something we usually pair it will a trip to a local forest or park if possible. We loved the caves you could walk into but did not have the time to explore the caves that are only accessible by crawling. The park was beautiful and impressive!
One of Iowa's hidden gems!
If you're looking for an adventure in central Iowa, look no further! Located amid corn fields, this park is truly unique for this area. The caves are incredible, be sure to take time to explore them all! The largest cave, Dancehall Cave, features paved trails and is lighted - great for adventurers of all ages! Also check out the Natural Bridge and Balanced Rock! We camped in the park and spent a whole day just hiking and exploring the caves and trails. Definitely wear sturdy shoes or boots with good traction if you will be exploring the caves and be sure to have a reliable flashlight and/or headlamp. The park is very well maintained. The campground was clean and the bathroom/shower facility was very well kept. There were rangers available to provide information to visitors with no prior hiking or caving experience. Overall, we were very impressed with this park and will definitely go back next time we are in the area!
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