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Yellow River State Forest, IA

Status: Open year round.   Season Dates
Max reservation window: Sun Oct 04 2015   Later Dates


Yellow River State Forest is a perfect place to explore some of Iowa's best hiking trails. Located in northeast Iowa in Allamakee County, the forest is part of the "driftless area" that escaped the glaciers during the most recent ice age. The forest consists of 8,503 acres of hardwood and coniferous forest and is comprised of 6 units.

The Paint Creek Unit is of primary interest to the recreationist, with well-kept camping areas, equestrian accommodations, fishing, hunting, and over 25 miles of trails for hiking, equestrian riding, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.


The entire forest is open to hiking and cross-country skiing. However, the designated hiking trails are maintained only in the Paint Creek Unit and the designated cross-country ski trails are maintained only in the Luster Heights Unit. There are equestrian trails and snowmobile trails in the forest and several scenic overlooks in the Paint Creek Unit that are accessible by horseback, foot or auto.

The trails are open year-round and the degree of difficulty ranges from relatively easy to moderate. There is no charge or registration required for the use of the backpack facilities. There are two camp areas along the trail which are not accessible by vehicle that are large enough to support a large group or several small groups

Try your luck at catching dinner in the six miles of trout stream, which is stocked April to October, or in the marsh where bass and panfish may be taken. A trout stamp is required.

There are several picnic areas in the Paint Creek Unit that give you the chance to enjoy a quiet lunch in peaceful surroundings.


Campers can enjoy spending the night under the stars in one of the campgrounds in the Paint Creek Unit. Reservable campsites can be found in all four campgrounds. The Big Paint and Little Paint campgrounds are nonmodern and have nonelectric campsites and vault toilets. The Little Paint campground also has two sites which are for use only by chaperoned organized youth groups. The Creekside and Frontier equestrian campgrounds are nonmodern and have nonelectric sites with hitching rails and vault toilets. There is no drinking water located in the campgrounds at Yellow River State Forest but it is available at the A-frame information center located on State Forest Road near Big Paint Campground approximately four miles off Highway 76.

Nearby Attractions:

Be sure to take a scenic drive along the Mississippi River on the Great River Road when visiting Yellow River State Forest, which is only 5 miles from the river. Effigy Mounds National Monument is located between Waukon Junction and Marquette and has a visitor center and trails that take you around the figural mounds created by cultures native to the area in the past.

Nearby Towns
Harpers Ferry is 7.5 miles away, Marquette is 13 miles away and Waukon, IA and Prairie du Chien, WI are both 15 miles away.

Services & Amenities:

Within Facility
  • Bird Watching
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Mountain Biking
  • River
  • Toilet, Pit/Vault
  • Trash Dumpster
  • Walking
  • Wildlife Viewing
Within 10 Miles
  • Fuel, Vehicles
  • Town
Greater Than 10 Miles
  • Hospital
  • Medical Clinic
  • Motel
Alerts and Important Information
It is in direct violation of the USDA APHIS quarantine for you to bring firewood from quarantined states into Iowa. Any firewood brought in to this park must be used or left at the park.

The entire forest is open to hunting in season except for campgrounds.

Motor vehicle operation is permitted only on roads. ATVs are not permitted anywhere on the forest, trails or roads. Snowmobiles are only allowed on designated routes.

Equestrian riding is only allowed on designated trails, roads and campgrounds. Mountain bikes are allowed on equestrian trails.

Camping is allowed only in designated areas; there is no overflow camping allowed.

Attention Equestrian Riders: State regulations require horses, mules and donkeys being transported interstate (from one state to another) must have a current Certification of Veterinary Inspection (health certificate) and a negative Coggin's test (EIA). This paperwork must accompany the animal into the State of Iowa. Please refer to www.iowaagriculture.gov/animalindustry/horseadmissionregs.asp for more information. This law applies to equestrian camping, day-use and trail riding in any State owned Park or Forest.

Getting There:

GPS Info. (Latitude, Longitude):
43.15472, -91.24333
43°9'17"N, 91°14'36"W

The entrance to Yellow River State Forest is located on Hwy 76. The forest is located 15 miles north of Marquette on Hwy. 76. The entrance will be on the right side of the road. This road is called State Forest Road or B25. If traveling from the north the entrance is located 10 miles south of Waukon on Hwy 76. The entrance of the forest from Waukon will be on the left. There is also an alternative entrance located west of Harpers Ferry approximately. 2 miles from town on county road X42, again look for State Forest Road or B25 on the left side of X42. DO NOT TAKE THE DONAHUE ROAD ENTRANCE THIS ROAD IS A LEVEL B ROAD.

Contact Information:

Mailing Address:

Yellow River State Forest
729 State Forest Road
Harpers Ferry  IA  52146

Phone Number:

Project Office: (563) 586 - 2254