The Midwest, particularly states like Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa, get left off of many RV travelers’ itineraries. They’re seen as flat, boring, and totally lacking in outdoor opportunities. Nothing could be further from the truth though. They simply don’t get the great publicity that some of the surrounding states do. One great example of this low-key greatness is Clear Lake State Park in northern Iowa.
Sitting on the south shore of Iowa’s second-largest natural lake, Clear Lake State Park is a popular spot for hiking, paddling, fishing, and cross-country skiing in the winter. You won’t see too many out-of-state license plates at the campground though; the locals are trying to keep this one a secret. If this sounds like the hidden Midwest gem that you’ve been looking for, read on to learn about everything Clear Lake State Park has to offer.
Clear Lake State Park Facts
Before diving into the camping opportunities here, it pays to learn a few Clear Lake State Park facts that will help you plan your trip.
- The park is free for day users! Iowa only charges day-use fees at Lake Manawa and Waubonsie State Parks.
- Clear Lake is home to some of Iowa’s best fishing, with abundant stocks of walleyes, muskie, northern pike, bullheads, catfish, yellow bass, crappies, and panfish.
- You’re not limited to human-powered watercraft when RV camping near Clear Lake State Park –– jet skis and pontoon boats are available at Clear Lake Boat Rentals.
- RV camping in Clear Lake State Park isn’t your only option on this lake, McIntosh Woods is across the water on the northwest shore.
- Clear Lake is centrally located within the region, Des Moines and Minneapolis are both less than two hours away and Cedar Rapids isn’t much further.
Now that you’re more familiar with the state park, let’s look into RV parks near Clear Lake State Park for your upcoming adventure.
Best Clear Lake State Park RV Parks and Campgrounds
This is one of Iowa’s more popular state parks, fortunately, there are plenty of RV campgrounds near Clear Lake State Park to choose from. They vary in size and amenities, but there’s something for everyone at Clear Lake State Park’s RV campgrounds.
Clear Lake State Park
Amenities: The obvious spot for RV camping in Clear Lake State Park is within the park itself. It’s quite popular, but with over 150 sites, it’s usually only full on weekends and holidays. Sites all offer electrical hookups, along with a dump station, showers, a playground, and one of the best swimming beaches in the area.
Capacity: 176 RV sites
More Information: Clear Lake State Park
Oakwood RV Park
Amenities: This is one of the larger and more amenity-heavy places to stay when you choose a Clear Lake State Park RV rental. All of their sites have full hookups with 30 or 50 amp electricity. There’s also a bathhouse and shower facilities for you to wash off after a day in the lake. If you need to do a little work or just finalize your travel plans, the park has a speedy Wi-Fi connection available too.
Capacity: 80 RV sites
More Information: Oakwood RV Park
McIntosh Woods State Park
Amenities: Across the water from Clear Lake State Park, is the smaller but no less popular McIntosh Woods State Park. Sites are equipped with partial hookups, with 20 or 30 amp electricity, though non-electrical sites are also available. Like Oakwood, McIntosh has excellent shower facilities for washing off sand and lake debris. The park is popular with anglers thanks to its boat ramp and multiple fishing sites onshore. There’s also a fish cleaning station for prepping your catch.
Capacity: 49 RV sites
More Information: McIntosh Woods State Park
Amenities: For those that want to stay closer to urban amenities, MacNider Campground is just a 15-minute drive from Clear Lake but is right in the middle of Mason City. This city park is an excellent option for RV camping near Clear Lake State Park as it offers full hookups, a dump station, laundry facilities, showers, and a small general store. There’s also a swimming pool and playground for the kids, along with two breweries and several excellent restaurants just minutes from the park.
Capacity: 95 RV sites
More Information: MacNider Campgrounds
Amenities: Only 15 minutes to the south and a world away from Clear Lake’s crowds is Ingebretson Park. It’s a small RV park near Clear Lake State Park but has just enough amenities including electrical hookups (15, 20, or 30 amp), shower facilities, and a dump station. When all of the sites are reserved at Clear Lake State Park, there are still plenty of first-come, first-served spots here.
Capacity: 23 RV sites
More Information: Ingebretson Park
Best Time To Visit Clear Lake State Park for RV Camping
The Midwest is known for bitterly cold winters and hot summers, so you might not think Clear Lake would be a year-round destination. However, the large lake and Iowa’s more moderate climate keep everything a little more temperate. While not everything is open through the year, there’s plenty to do in every season and any time can be the best time for a Clear Lake State Park camping trip.
This is a truly magical time to stay in one of Clear Lake State Park’s RV parks. The crowds are nonexistent, there’s plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and ice skating, while the glittering snow makes for an enchanting experience. Be aware that many facilities will be closed during the off-season though.
The birds are singing and the snow is finally melting, which means it’s time to get outside. Hikers and birdwatchers love to visit during the quieter months, before the arrival of summer crowds. The Midwest is famous for its unpredictable weather though, so bring layers and be prepared for late-season snowstorms.
Obviously, summer is the most popular season for visiting Clear Lake State Park; the water is warm, the fish are biting, and there are plenty of activities to do in town. It’s also when you’ll have the most trouble snagging a campsite. On the weekends, you may not get one on the lake. If crowds aren’t your thing, plan for a weekday trip.
The lake is getting too cold for swimming, but the fishing is still going strong. Fall is a great time to visit if you want to avoid crowds while still having access to all the campgrounds and area amenities. Boat rentals on the lake might be shut down, but canoes and kayaks can be procured from shops in town.
Things To Do in Clear Lake State Park
Clear Lake’s central location in northern Iowa makes it the perfect jumping-off point for activities along the Mississippi River or exploring southern Minnesota. You don’t need to go far to have a good time to find great things to do in Clear Lake State Park though, most are just a few minutes from your campsite.
- Take a Hike. There’s a two-mile loop trail inside the park that’s popular with runners, dog walkers, and hikers. For a longer adventure, check out Pilot Knob State Park, less than half an hour away, with its five-and-a-half-mile hiking trail.
- Rent a Boat. They’re available at Movement Solutions on the lake’s north shore or you can rent a jet ski or pontoon boat from the Clear Lake Marina. Spending time on the water is one of the best things about RV camping in Clear Lake State Park.
- Enjoy a Sunset Cruise. On most evenings the Lady of the Lake steamboat paddles her way around Clear Lake with the captain narrating points of interest along the way. It’s a fantastic date night activity when you get an RV rental for Clear Lake State Park.
- Go Fishing. While Clear Lake and McIntosh Woods State Park are the obvious fishing beaches, there are also a few wildlife management areas and City Beach in the town of Clear Lake.
- Visit the Surf Ballroom. The Surf Ballroom is located on the east end of the lake. It’s a large and lively music venue and the last place that Buddy Holly played before tragically dying in a plane crash in 1959.
Tips for Visiting Clear Lake State Park
Staying at one of Clear Lake State Parks RV campgrounds is a straightforward affair, so long as you make reservations during summer weekends and holidays. However, there are a few things you should probably know before visiting.
- There are no lifeguards at any of Clear Lake’s swimming beaches.
- Should you need to do any major shopping, Mason City is only 12 miles away and is one of the largest retail centers in northern Iowa.
- Some of the RV campgrounds near Clear Lake State Park close during the winter months. Check the campground’s website before making any travel plans.
- During the winter, Clear Lake freezes over, but skating on it is risky. However, there’s an outdoor skating rink at Marian Park in the town of Clear Lake.
- An Iowa fishing license is required for both residents and non-residents fishing in Clear Lake (or any other public waterway). You can purchase a one, three, or seven-day license if your RV rental at Clear Lake State Park is a short one. You’ll also need a separate trout license if you’re going to fish for them.
RV Rental for Clear Lake State Park
Iowa doesn’t top many RV travelers’ bucket lists, but the Hawkeye State is a whole lot more than just cornfields. Clear Lake State Park offers a variety of outdoor recreation options and the towns of Clear Lake, Ventura, and Mason City provide plenty of shopping, restaurants, and nightlife.
If you’re thinking about camping in a Clear Lake State Park RV park, consider renting an RV from Cruise America. With the best selection of RVs and several dozen pickup sites across the country, Cruise America is the obvious choice when planning a big road trip. Contact Cruise America today to learn about all of our RV rental options to get you started on your next great adventure.