Characterized by rolling farmland and fertile fields, Iowa may seem like an unexpected destination for outdoor adventures. But this Midwestern state is also home to gentle hills, dramatic ridges, and craggy bluffs, a result of the network of winding rivers, streams, and placid lakes that crisscross the state.
With 63 state parks and recreational areas, ample hiking trails, cycling trails, dense forests, and glacial lakes, you’ll be surprised by Iowa’s abundance of opportunities for outdoor recreation. Kayak to sea caves and explore the Upper Iowa River, the state’s most widely-recognized river that begins in southeastern Minnesota and eventually flows into the Mississippi River. Explore the pine-forested hills of the Driftless Area in northeastern Iowa, head to the south for its gentle plains, or hike along the dramatic ridgelines of the Loess Hills in the west.
Iowa is a place to go to experience the outdoors relatively uncrowded. And if you’d rather do that with a side of luxury, we’ve rounded up seven of the best cabin rentals across the state.
The Best Iowa Cabin Rentals
Vibe: Romantic Getaway for Two
Backed by rolling hills and enveloped by rugged limestone bluffs and meandering rivers, the Magnolia Cabin is the ideal remote escape for two. Take in sweeping views of the Driftless Area from the hot tub on the deck while bald eagles soar above, or lounge in a pair of Adirondack chairs set next to the fire pit. It's a cozy cabin, but inside there's a living room, full kitchen, air conditioning, and wifi.
Away from the property, go trout fishing, or explore the Upper Iowa River by kayak, canoe or inner tube. For a more laidback getaway, check out the breweries in Decorah, a short 25-minute drive away.
Vibe: 1800s Norwegian-American Log Buildings, Reinvented
Situated on an expansive family farm in Northeast Iowa, this rustic log cabin guest house welcomes visitors seasonally from April to October. Its exterior is classic friendly cabin, but its interiors are handcrafted from repurposed 19th-century Norwegian-American log homes, while salvaged wood headboards and planked wood ceilings give the place its vintage charm.
From here, take a trip to Decorah, a convenient seven miles away, go fishing and swimming in Trout River, or just stay and revel in the views of the verdant valley from the cabin’s porch.
Vibe: Country Living
With a foosball table in the game room, its walls coated in vibrant shades, and an interior decorated with textured rugs and bold-patterned couches, this 1920s log cabin brims with character. With three bedrooms, five beds, a full kitchen, and two full baths, this rustic-luxury cabin could be the setting of a small family reunion. Round up the group to forage for morel mushrooms on the two-acre property, or bicycle north to downtown Des Moines via the 16.5-mile Great Western Bike Trail, meandering through prairies and along wetlands along the way.
Vibe: Hilltop Hideaway
Check in at the Hill Top House for a convenient location in the Upper Iowa River valley and close proximity to the trendy restaurants of Decorah. The home’s rustic coziness is thanks to its use of natural materials like hardwood floors and wood plank ceilings, contrasted by pops of color in its furniture, which give this Airbnb vacation rental a modern vibe. This dreamy nature retreat is ideal for large groups with room for eight, and everyone can go trout fishing at Coldwater Creek or kayaking on the Upper Iowa River among limestone cliffs.
Vibe: Sweet and Simple Riverfront Retreat
This tiny vacation home on two acres of beachfront on the banks of the Missouri River is the perfect place to watch the sunset thanks to its big river views. You can go fishing and wildlife spotting without leaving the property, or have a bonfire in the fire ring with the wood provided. Then rest your head on the memory foam queen bed in the loft above, where the skylight invites you to fall asleep under the stars.
More outdoor activities are close by at the 344-acre Preparation Canyon State Park, located in Iowa's Loess Hills, where you can hike and picnic along dramatic ridges. Several trails wind their way through the rugged region, crisscrossed by winding streams and dotted with natural springs.
Vibe: Dreamy Lakeside Getaway
This waterfront cabin about an hour from Des Moines provides direct access to the southern end of Lake Cornelia. The private dock gives you a secluded setting to swim, fish, and watch the sunset, and the cabin brings the outdoors in, as its stylish interiors incorporate the use of natural materials, as seen in its stone shower and knotty pine walls.
As a year-round destination, you can spend summer days boating and jet skiing on the glacial lake and winter afternoons snowmobiling and ice-fishing. This cabin comfortably sleeps four, and is also a short leisurely walk to Lake Cornelia Park, home to a beach and a number of walking trails.
Vibe: Group Getaways
With room for 10, this 1,500-square-foot cabin is ideal for large groups. Surrounded by 200 acres of natural beauty at Whispering Meadows Resort, guests here have plenty of opportunities to play outdoors. Fish for catfish at the two-acre pond on the property, hike the surrounding trails, and explore the Maquoketa River.
The cabin’s roomy interiors are characterized by wood ceiling beams, hardwood floors, and knotty pine walls that give it its charm. A bench built around the trunk of a tree on the cabin’s main floor serves as the property's centerpiece.