A Guide To Decorah Camping: Best Campgrounds, Dispersed Camping, Tips & More!

Wandering our World is reader supported! If you purchase anything through a link on our site, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you.

Last updated on July 4, 2023 by Wandering our World

Decorah, Iowa is a beautiful region of the country with rivers, limestone cliffs, and hill-country perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. Despite having an elevation below 900 feet, Decorah feels like a mountain town, drawing in visitors that have a love of hiking, fly-fishing, and kayaking. With all of that to enjoy and more, it’s little surprise that camping in Decorah is becoming more and more popular every year.

No wonder too. Nothing beats waking up to that crisp northern air in the beautiful countryside full of wildlife to spot amidst lush greenery.

Since we strongly believe Decorah is a place worth checking out, we share a few of our favorite Decorah campgrounds below. Each will give nature-lovers a peaceful ambiance alongside opportunities for fun and adventure.

We then look at the best time to go camping in Decorah, Iowa, share the rules on dispersed camping in Decorah and give tips on bear safety. Then lastly we have a free camping game for kids that you can print out – you can find that at the bottom of this article!

But first, here’s the six best campgrounds in Decorah, Iowa for fun, views and adventure. So grab your hiking boots, camping stove and those marshmallows. Let’s begin your Decorah camping adventure!

Photo for illustrative purposes only: iStock.com/cookelma

The Six Best Campgrounds in Decorah for Fun, Views & Adventure

1. Upper Iowa Resort and Rental

Upper Iowa Resort and Rental is a 29-acre resort with cabins, campsites, RV parking, rentals and superb facilities like a huge natural swimming pool located along the Upper Iowa River.

This luxurious Decorah camping spot is the ultimate Iowa experience and the perfect getaway for families needing a fun vacation with everything they could possibly need.

There are lots of adventures to be had here like taking a dive into the spring-fed swimming pool, renting a kayak or a tube, playing games like sand volleyball, or just hanging out on the beach at the river.

Amenities & Facilities

Whether you want to be by the pool, the river, or backed into a treeline, there are many picturesque and private camping spots available to you here. Those sites include water, electricity, a fire pit, and a picnic table.

And if you want a more modern nature experience, you can rent a cabin for a couple of nights. Each cabin is unique and offers a different experience. However, all cabins come fully furnished with kitchens, bathrooms, multiple bedrooms, a living area, porch, grill, picnic table, and air conditioning.

There is also a wonderful spring-fed pool to enjoy, and a river beach available for campers.

What’s Close By & On-Site

Upper Iowa Resort offers many fun adventures. They provide kayak, canoe, and tube rentals and shuttles for an all-inclusive experience. You’re able to kayak or float in a tube on four different landings which they can bring you to, each with a different course to enjoy.

While everything you need will probably be available to you at Upper Iowa Resort, there are many opportunities to venture outside the resort.

This resort shuttles visitors to Iverson Bridge, Mark’s Landing, Canoe Creek, and Lundy Bridge. Each one is a popular landmark in the area which is perfect for exploring nature, kayaking and hiking.

There’s plenty of restaurants near this Decorah campground too, should you want to explore the food options away from the resort.

The Important Info

Rates: Camping starts at $38 a night while cabin rentals can get as high as $230 a night. There is also seasonal camping available starting at $1800 for the whole year.

Address: 578 Lonnings Dr, Dorchester, IA 52140

Photo for illustrative purposes only: iStock.com/Apicha Thumvisead

2. Pulpit Rock Campground

Pulpit Rock is a great family-oriented campground located along the Upper Iowa River which offers both tent and RV sites with electric hookups.

What makes this campground unique is its depth. It has two sides to the park, the Pulpit Rock Side and the Twin Springs Side. Twin Springs is located along the Trout Stream, a staple for trout fishers.

Whereas The Pulpit Rock side is next to the Upper Iowa River, where you can kayak and canoe as a fun adventure.

It’s a fantastic Decorah campground with wonderful views and a choice of outdoor adventures as soon as you step out of your tent in the morning.

Amenities and Facilities

The park includes 56 back-in sites, 19 pull-throughs, 37 tent sites and electric hookups with 30, and 50 amps.

There are restrooms and shower facilities located throughout the park, playground equipment, free wifi, and excellent opportunities to fish and canoe!

There’s also firewood and ice available, and many friendly staff members are there to help assist you with any questions.

What’s Close By & On-Site

It’s relatively close to the highway for easy access to civilization and the town of Decorah.

In fact, you’re just walking and biking distance into town. That means shopping, museums, and restaurants are available even if you don’t want to use your vehicle.

Just a few steps from this campground is the Trout Run Trail and a River and Trail Outfitters that’s ready to assist you with a river tube, kayak, or canoe.

The Important Info

Rates: Depending on your spot and your preferred method of camping (RV or tent), rates can range from $15 to $30+ a night. If you’re staying during a holiday, there is a 3-night minimum stay.

Address: 505 Pulpit Rock Road, Decorah, IA 52101

Photo for illustrative purposes only: iStock.com/nortonrsx

3. Hutchinson Family Farm Campground

Hutchinson Family Farm Campground/B&B offers a unique environment for family and friends. The campsites are spacious, picturesque, private and many sit on the riverside.

Like Pulpit Rock, Hutchinson Family Farm is also located along the pretty Upper Iowa River and is just ten minutes away from Luther College.

Aside from being a camping site, they are also a working beef and quarter horse farm! So this place is a great spot for kids to learn about rural life, especially as they do free farm tours!

Amenities & Facilities

Alongside electric hookups at their spacious campsites, this Decorah campground has several log cabins that can fit as many as 6-8 people.

The campground also has restrooms and shower facilities at the main house, and plenty of open space for children to run around and have fun.

What’s Close By & On-Site

Being close to the river, Hutchinson Family Farm has on-site kayak rental and shuttle services, making river adventures hassle-free! Rent a kayak, float downstream and then get picked up at the end of the day – perfect!

Children’s play and swimming areas are also available on-site, perfect if you’re visiting with the whole family.

There are also many opportunities to fish and hunt in the surrounding region if you’re looking for that kind of experience.

The Important Info

Rates: Regular campsites start at $15 a night while the cabins are $150 a night. There is a 2-night minimum stay, and you are required to bring your own sheets and pillows if you are using a cabin. 

Address: 2299 Scenic River Road Decorah, IA 52101

Photo via Unsplash+

4. Sunrise Cabins at South Bear Creek

If you’re not a big camper, but still want a fun outdoor experience with your family then Sunrise Cabins at South Bear Creek is located in scenic, north-east Iowa and could be the perfect spot!

This campground offers a luxury camping experience with vacation rental cabins. Each cabin comes with log framed beds, memory foam mattresses, and its own bathroom.

Additionally, the cabins have a fully furnished living space including a kitchen, dishwasher, charcoal grill, and more.

Amenities & Facilities

The scenery surrounding this place, coupled with your own cabin, allows you to experience nature within the comforts of modern living.

There’s a full kitchen, big living area, 2/3 bedrooms with a shower, and all of it is fully furnished. Bed linens and towels are also made available.

Outside, each cabin has a wrap-around deck and a fire pit for roasting s’mores! Free wifi, DVD player, and satellite TV are also included.

What’s Close By & On-Site

South Bear Creek and North Bear Creek are just a short trip away and offer world-class trout fishing.

If you venture 14 miles south you can visit the waterfall at Dunning Springs, or bike any of the trails at Palisades Park.

There are also restaurants, museums, and breweries in the nearby area. If you want a more in-depth adventure, take the scenic route to south of Spring Grove, where you can visit the famous Spring Grove soda pop factory.

The Important Info

Rates: There’s a 2-night minimum stay with rates ranging from $180 to $410 per night.

Address: 1342 Quandahl Road Decorah, IA 52101

Photo for illustrative purposes only: iStock.com/Peera Sathawirawong

5. Under The Stars at Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock Campground has a reserved and quiet atmosphere, and is also located at the scenic Upper Iowa River.

It offers a rustic camping experience for tents and RVs on a private farm with campsites right on the river’s edge.

This campground offers many places to fish, kayak, canoe, and hike. And it sits in rural surroundings perfect for stargazing at night and waking up to the sounds of nature in the morning.

If you want a truly relaxing Decorah camping experience in the heart of nature, this could be the perfect getaway.

Amenities & Facilities

Chimney Rock Campground has picturesque tent and RV campsites and is also home to cabins that you can rent.

There is a bathhouse, showers, dump station, and even a camp store. Despite being in a rural spot there’s many restaurants within walking distance of this Decorah campground.

What’s Close By & On-Site

Chimney Rock has kayak and canoe rentals and transportation, as well as tubes for those wanting to explore the river and have some fun.

Nearby places of interest include museums like the Billy Clocks Museum or the Porter House Museum.

Cresco Theater and Opera House, and Viking Theater Decorah are also a short distance away from this Decorah campground.

The Important Info

Rates: They range from $22 to $170 a night depending on if you are looking for a smaller campsite or wish to rent a cabin.

Address: 3312 Chimney Rock Road Cresco, IA 52136

Photo for illustrative purposes only: iStock.com/Vera Petrunina

6. Sampson Springs Campground

Sampson Springs is located just ten minutes east of Decorah, Iowa in a quiet and beautiful valley.

This campground is perfect if you’re looking for a relaxing atmosphere. It has spacious tent and RV sites and it’s also possible to spot many kinds of wildlife like deer and squirrels, as well as birdlife, from the comfort of your campsite.

If you want to experience peace with nature and study the stars in the night sky, this could be the perfect spot for you.

As an added bonus, this is one of the cheaper Decorah camping options too.

Amenities & Facilities

Each campsite is very spacious with water and electric hook-ups at 20, 30, and 50 amps. The sites also have fire rings and picnic tables so you can enjoy campfires and family dinners.

There’s also a fully furnished farmhouse available for rent if you want a more modern camping experience.

There are shared shower facilities and bathhouses that are kept clean by staff daily, as well as social areas to play horseshoes or volleyball if you want to be active.

What’s Close By & On-Site

Sampson Springs Campgrounds is perfect for hiking, fishing, and nature-watching as there’s plenty of trails to try and wildlife to spot.

It’s a short distance to the Trout River, which is a great spot for fishing. During hunting season, you also have the option to hunt turkey and deer at Sampson Springs, something that is popular among locals.

The Important Info

Rates: They start at $17 a night and range upwards to $30 per night. If you choose to stay at the farmhouse, the rate per night is $120.

Address: 2244 133rd Ave Decorah, IA 52101


Decorah Camping: The Best Time to Visit

Ultimately it’s up to you when you are comfortable going camping. Although we recommend visiting any of these spots during late spring through fall to really experience the outdoors in all its glory and have good weather to enjoy it all.

However do check out upcoming events on Decorah’s official website for things you may want to see or do while in the area.

The local food fair, farmers market on Saturdays, and the 5k beer run are just a few examples of local activities you can experience during your time when camping in Decorah.

Photo for illustrative purposes only: iStock.com/AnjoKanFotografie

The Rules Around Dispersed Camping In Decorah & Iowa

DISCLAIMER: Below we give general advice, but we always recommend staying in an official campsite. If you choose to go wild camping/dispersed camping, then make sure you do so with someone who already knows the area where you’re planning on camping for your own safety.

Around the U.S., dispersed camping tends to be allowed on Bureau of Land Management areas and in National Forests. Unfortunately Iowa has none of these areas, which makes dispersed camping in Decorah and Iowa problematic.

Indeed the Iowa Department of Natural Resources makes clear that ‘camping is permitted only in designated areas’. That means you much camp in either private campgrounds or designated rustic campsites and campgrounds that the state have created in state forests and other areas.

If you camp outside of these areas you could find yourself in trouble, and even fined.

However the reality exists that some people continue to go dispersed camping in Iowa outside of the allowed areas.

If you’re planning on doing that, and can’t be swayed to stay in a campground instead, then here are a few tips to ensure you’re a considerate camper.

  • You should camp in the same place for one night only, and pitch your tent discretely and in a remote place. Therefore don’t camp in or near settlements, someone’s farm or on cultivated land. If you think you’re on private land, always seek out the landowner and ask permission.

  • Campers should set up their tent at dusk, and take it down at dawn. A tent that is discreet and pitches quickly is best. Therefore a lightweight walking and hiking tent like this one would be a great investment for someone planning to walk and camp in Iowa and the surrounding area.

  • If you are walking a main hiking trail you should camp away from the path as a matter of courtesy. 

  • When dispersed camping in Iowa and the surrounding area you must never make a campfire due to wild fire risk. Instead it may be worth looking at using a stove or storm cooker – but check local laws first to see if they’re allowed. The Swedish brand Trangia make great camping storm cookers that are safe and virtually indestructible.

  • When going to the toilet you should do it far from water sources, such as rivers and lakes. Make sure to use a trowel (like this folding one) to bury any human waste – don’t just leave it out in the open.
Photo via Unsplash+

Camping In Decorah, Iowa: Bear Safety

Like many areas of the U.S., there are a few bears roaming around Iowa, and there have been bear sightings in Decorah in recent years. While encounters are extremely rare, you must take steps to avoid attracting bears to your campsite. 

With that being the case we advise:

  • If you have a vehicle nearby, store food there rather than in a tent.
  • Use a bear box or bear canister to store food, rubbish, and anything with a scent.
  • Don’t pitch your tent near where food is being stored.
  • Never approach any bear, regardless of its size.
  • Don’t spray anything with a scent – that can attract bears.

Why You Should Go Camping In Decorah

Camping is a great opportunity to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature and your surroundings. The health benefits are plentiful for both adults and kids, more so than many people realize.

Getting a digital detox and reacquainting yourself with nature is like no other experience and Decorah, Iowa, is a fantastic place to do it.

There is such beauty in this region and it’s ideal for all outdoor activities. Decorah’s great weather, beautiful scenery, and endless outdoor activities provide you with a relaxing atmosphere and plenty of options for fun, whilst still being close to the amenities of city life.

Photo for illustrative purposes only. iStock.com/Matthew H Irvin

Camping In Decorah, Iowa: Scavenger Hunt Game!

If you’re looking to keep kids amused while camping in Decorah – or you fancy having some fun for yourself – then we’ve created a printable scavenger hunt game!

Save the image and print it out, then tick off what you find and achieve during your camping holiday.

The game encourages players to get out and discover wildlife and nature, as well as make new friends and do fun camping activities. Enjoy!


  • Wandering our World

    Hi and welcome to Wandering our World! This article was written by one of the Wandering our World team - a team of travel enthusiasts who live around the globe.