Explore the Maquoketa Caves

Maquoketa Caves State Park

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
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Activities Chillin, Camping, Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Year Round
Features
Bathrooms
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Food Nearby
Forest
Groups
Picnic Area
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Rad

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

Beautiful Place To Explore

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!

Stuck In Mud But Hell It Was Fun

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 :)


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

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

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