101 Trip Ideas: At the Lake

Sure, Lake Red Rock is Iowa's largest lake, but the real reasons to visit are all the experiences the lake area provides.  If you like water, there is plenty of room to sail, fish and boat in addition to the water trail for paddlers.  If camping is your thing, we have over 1,000 campsites in the area from primative to full hookup and tents to campers.  On land, explore one of the many hiking trails or climb up the Cordova Observation Tower.  Birds like to congregate around the lake area just like us humans, so this makes Lake Red Rock a fantastic spot to enjoy spring and fall migration.  In the winter, enjoy the bald eagles around the area.

Applaud a Sunset from a Bird's Eye View


Take G28 along the north side of Lake Red Rock until you reach Cordova Park.  Turn into the main park area and take the 2nd road to the right.  This will lead you to the Cordova Tower.  Don't be intimidated...the stairs are easy to climb with landings to catch your breath and a great view all the way to the top.  Once you are at the top, watch the sun slowly set in the western horizon and see how the light dances across the water of Lake Red Rock.  HINT:  Many couples of used this amazing view to get engaged.

Wilderness In Iowa


Travel down Highway 14 to Elk Rock State Park.  This large boat ramp is a great location to launch your kayak.  Travel along the Red Rock Water Trail through the sea cave and along the cliffs to Hickory Ridge.  Hickory Ridge is a primitive campground accessed only by water or hiking in.  Spend a night in your tent under the stars removed from all the busy activity of the week.  This is a great way to dial down and get in touch with those you love.

A Walk or Run in the Woods


One of the most peaceful hiking places at Lake Red Rock can be found at Cordova Park.  The Karr Trail  starts just west of the Cordova Observation Tower.  As you hike, you can enjoy some great views of the cliffs and wooded timbers.  It is a short trail so small children can enjoy it also.  Many people enjoy taking their morning run through the trail as something different than running on a treadmill or downtown street.

Space for Two


Pack a picnic lunch and head down to Fifield Park on the north shore of Lake Red Rock.  You can either make the lunch yourself at home or just stop by one of our deli's or shops for your supplies.  After lunch, walk or bike the Volksweg Trail.  This trail takes you across bridges and through wooded areas.  Go back to Fifield and end your romantic day with smores over the campfire.

Sand, Sun & Fun


Located at North Overlook near the dam, you will find a great beach to entertain the kids.  The new restrooms and amenities make this a great summer excursion.  There is a beach volleyball court and picnic tables also.  Kids really enjoy building sandcastles and splashing around in the water.  If you are camping, the North Overlook campground is within walking distance to the beach.



During winter months, plan a trip out to Lake Red Rock to view bald eagles.  When the temperatures go down, the open waters below the Red Rock dam mean amazing gatherings of eagles.  Make sure to pack your binoculars and camera.  A prime location for viewing is the Horns Ferry Bridge located near Howell Station.  

Open Water


Unlike lakes that you can practically walk from boat to boat, Lake Red Rock is Iowa's largest lake with over 15,000 acres of water at normal pool.  On busy weekends, the boat ramps can be congested, but once you are on the water there will be plenty of space to recreate, fish and enjoy the natural scenery.   The largest boat ramp at the lake is located just off Highway 14 at Elk Rock State Park.  Information on lake levels is important in low water and high water periods so go to www.rivergages.com or call 641.828.7522/641.628.8690.

Here you won't find the shores clutter with houses, it is a much more natural environment.  So leave those  small lake behind and set a course to boating enjoyment.

Get Up Close


Get up close with nature by attending one of the nature programs held at Lake Red Rock campgrounds.  The topics change but it is always very informative and especially geared for kids to enjoy.  To find out what is happening, stop by the Red Rock Visitors Center near the Red Rock Dam for a complete schedule.

Bring the Whole Family


Cordova Pavilion: A new picnic shelter (capacity 400) has been completed at Cordova Park.  This new large shelter is great for reunions, weddings and corporate gatherings.  Contact the park to reserve it for your next family gathering.  It is near an access point to the Karr Trail and just a short hike to the Cordova Observation Tower.

Woodsy Lovers


Woodsy Lovers:  If your special loved one and you enjoy nature, pack your gear for a weekend adventure in one of the largest public land areas in Iowa.  Launch your kayak or canoe from the Elk Rock boat ramp to explore the Red Rock Water Trail.  Go through the “sea cave” on your way to an evening stay at Hickory Ridge.  Hickory Ridge is a primitive campsite, so no modern amenities just the stars for your enjoyment.  Cook a meal by the campfire and enjoy the sounds of nature as you snuggle roasting s’mores. 

If primitive isn’t your thing, book a cabin at Cordova Park or Horn’s Ferry Hideaway  to enjoy all the modern amenities while still enjoying nature.  In the afternoon, couples also enjoy relaxing at one of the beaches at Lake Red Rock or bringing your boat to water ski.  Both cabin locations are close to hiking trails, so you might want to pack a picnic basket for a hike or enjoy a cozy dinner inside the cabin.  After dinner, climb to the top of the Cordova Observation Tower to watch the sunset.  

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