Explore the Maquoketa Caves

Iowa Maquoketa Caves State Park

  • Activities:

    Chillin, Camping, Photography, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Beginner

  • Season:

    Year Round

Bathrooms
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Food Nearby
Forest
Groups
Picnic Area
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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.

Pack List

  • Caving attire (will get dirty)
  • Hiking shoes
  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • Walkie-Talkies (optional)
  • First Aid
Read More

Reviews

Overall rating: 

Leave a Review

But maybe you should visit it on a weekday. It's kinda small with too many people.

about 2 months ago
about 2 months ago

If you love exploring you'll love Maquoketa Caves State Park. There's a bunch of caves to explore. Some you have to crawl to enter but often they open up into larger rooms. My girlfriend and I camped at the campsite for a weekend. It was difficult to get a reservation so plan in advance if you plan to camp. Spots fill up fast. Depending upon how busy it is and how much time you spend exploring each cave you should be able to explore all of them in a day's time. We did it in a little over a half a day. Definitely worth the time to stop and explore the trails and the caves. One of Iowa's hidden gems!

about 2 months ago
about 2 months ago

Alright alright this park is amazing, me and some friends took a trip here from Iowa city, so we had quite a ride with 1 and a half hours but once we got here we had an amazing adventure. The main touristy cave was flooded due to a flash flood, but we climbed over the giant rock formations to the other side and kept exploring, the ice cave is very large but narrows quickly. Still it's big enough to had lunch in there which we did (remember to always take out what you bring in). Anyway it got dark out so we decided to leave after 10 miles of hiking, great day. But got my car stuck in mud due to my gps leading me down a low maintenance road that suddenly turned to dirt so turn around before this happens to you :)

2 months ago
2 months ago

I say 5 ⭐️ because regardless of your experience in caves this places is perfect for everyone. The hike to each cave is filled with forest and life. Each cave is so different from the last some being huge others like being in a 2 seater civic,regardless of the size each cave has an amazing array minerals still growing from the ceiling covered in pyrite while the ground beneath you is worn down agate showing many layers of growth and color change. I took this trip with two friends of mine who have never been to any caves at all one who is an adventurer the other curious needless to say both me and them left the place in complete awe. The hike can be fast or slow depending on how you want to explore. The one thing I can say is pictures will not do justice. I ended my hike walking out to the view of the first picture shown on this article, that being said with the sun just getting ready to set I found myself standing observing and taking in the magnitude at the opening of this cave. I highly highly recommend this place to anyone interested at all in seeing a pure and beautiful piece of nature. Keeping in mind this is only Iowa's largest collection of caves in one spot. 👣🎒

9 months ago
9 months ago

Growing up in Iowa, I was quite surprised by the diversity of wilderness in this State Park. Small, but mighty. Beautiful caves and trees make for an excellent 1/2 day trip with some buddies.

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago
over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

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!

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

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!

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

Grant WhittyExplorer

Saved + Stoked

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

Nearby Adventures

Camp at Cottonwood Campsite

Iowa / Hitchcock Nature Center

With a short drive in from the Iowa/Nebraska border, enter the Hitchcock Nature Center's main parking lot. It offers 6 "Backcountry Campsites" that are only available by reservation.

11 Saves

Hike Robinson Bird Sanctuary

Iowa / Robinson Bird Sanctuary

This year for Earth day, I decided to hike one of my favorite trails near Waterloo, Robinson Bird Sanctuary.

11 Saves

Hike to Devil's Punch Bowl, WIldcat Den SP

Iowa / Wild Cat Den North Lot

Wild Cat Den State Park is located between Blue Grass, Iowa and Muscatine, Iowa, just south of the Quad Cities. If traveling on Highway 22, look for Wild Cat Den Road.

28 Saves