Ledges State Park

Where is Ledges State Park

Park Address: 

1515 P Ave, Madrid, IA 50156

Ledges State Park is a popular state park located in Boone County, Iowa. The park is conveniently located in Central Iowa, just a few miles south of the City of Boone. However, part of Ledges State Park's popularity with locals and visitors is the proximity of the park to Iowa’s capital city, Des Moines. Ledges State Park is a mere 45 minutes’ drive north of Des Moines on IA-17 or I-35 N. 

A treasure within the Iowa state park system, Ledges State Park is also within driving distance of other major, Midwestern cities, such as Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago, Indianapolis, and St. Louis. 

Ledges State Park in the fall

How big is Ledges State Park

Ledges State Park is widely known for a sandstone gorge that is up to 100 feet deep in certain places. The gorge is a geological reminder of a massive sea that covered swaths of the Midwestern United States in prehistoric times. The steep cliffs along the gorge were carved by receding glaciers years later.

At 1,200 total acres of land, Ledges State Park also offers swimming, hiking, camping, and other activities all year long.

Ledges State Park sign

Ledges State Park Weather

While the state park is open year-round, the four seasons are truly on display each year in Ledges State Park. Winter, spring, summer, and autumn each have distinct weather and climate patterns. 

Winter in Ledges State Park is snowy and cold. The winter high temperature is often 30°F during the day, and the average mean hovers closer to 20°F and 22°F. There are roughly 15 extremely cold days each year, where temperature falls below 0°F. Snowfall is also frequent from November to February. Nearby Des Moines receives 33 inches of snowfall per year, roughly five inches more than the average for the United States as a whole.

Summer in Ledges State Park, in contrast, is hot and sunny. The average high temperature from June through mid-September is between 75°F and 85°F. However, it is common for a few days in July and August to surpass 100°F each year. While temperatures are high, summer is known for afternoon rain showers and several days of precipitation each month. Like many places in the Midwest, Ledges State Park is humid in July and August.

Ledges State Park Staircase

When did Ledges become a State Park

Ledges State Park was one of the first tracts of land in the state to be set aside for protection and designation as a state park. The land in central Iowa was first proposed as a state park in 1914, with the official deduction taking place in 1924. 

Beginning in 1933 members of the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed the trails, facilities, and other structures in the park, including Ledges’ famous Stonebridge. The Civilian Conservations Corps, or CCC, was a relief program created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to battle the impact of the Great Depression. Unmarried men between the ages of 17 to 28 could volunteer to help construct public parks, facilities, and infrastructure. Members of the CCC worked on roads, trails, bridges, and even National Park facilities around the United States. 

1933 members of the Civilian Conservation Corps

Things to do in Ledges State Park

Ledges State Park offers locals and visitors a number of reasons to get outside and be active. There are trails, swimming spots, and campsites throughout the park, and fantastic geographic features that draw people from across Iowa. The state park is known for activities and family-friendly options all year long. 


One of the first projects completed in Ledges State Park were a series of campsites. The sites were part of the years-long project taken on by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s and are still used today.


Regardless of the season, hiking through Ledges State Park remains a favorite activity for visitors of all ages. This state park has a four-mile-long trail system that offers hikes of various lengths and difficulty. Be on the lookout for those trails that lead to overlooks and views of Pea’s Creek canyon. There are two interpretive trails within Ledges State Park, which are wheelchair accessible. 

Hiking at Legends State Parks

Swimming & Wading

There are two creeks that run through Ledges State Park and offer hikers and visitors the opportunity to cool off. While most spots in these tributaries to the Des Moines river are only deep enough to wade, there are opportunities to hit deeper lengths, particularly good for children.

Scenic Drive

The route through Ledges State Park offers visitors a chance to see some of the park’s admired features, such as Peas Creek, sandstone cliffs, and glacial canyons. It is important to note that ice and snow accumulation in winter can block certain roads for days or weeks at a time.

When to go to Ledges State Park

Most facilities and activities are open all year in Ledges State Park. Yet, there is a definite difference in visiting the park during winter versus the summer high season. Central Iowa is known for snowy, cold winters. In January and February, the snow accumulation can lead to closed campsites, difficult trails, and even road closures. Therefore, most people choose to visit Ledges State Park during the summer.

From late May through September, Ledges State Park is a favorite destination for families across Iowa. The park’s campsites allow for overnight visits and there are also two shelters available for daily rental. 

Due to the construction of a dam across the Des Moines river in the 1970’s, parts of Ledges State Park can flood after a steady or multi-day rainfall. In 2018, the park had to close for several stretches, including during July, a very popular month for hiking and camping in Ledges State Park. It is important for visitors to check road, trail, and campsite closures ahead of a trip to Ledges.

Des Moines river in May

Must-Have things to bring to Ledges State Park

Parents and group leaders rejoice to learn that Ledges State Park is a mere 10 minute-drive from groceries, medical care, convenience stores, and gas stations in Boone, Iowa. However, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts visiting Ledges State Park must still come prepared.

Water and Water Bottles

The park facilities include drinking and clean water, but visitors should bring along a reusable bottle to fill before hiking or biking through the park. Campers will also want to ensure they have drinking water and water to extinguish a camp or cooking fire.

Des Moines river ice

First Aid Kit

While medical care and emergency services are available in Boone, Iowa, any outdoor enthusiast knows it is crucial to have Band-Aids, alcohol swabs, wraps, pain killers, and other first aid materials along on a hike or camping trip. As well, visitors will always want to carry daily medications and inhalers, if asthma is a concern.

Sturdy Shoes

Sturdy shoes are required for many of the popular activities in Ledges State Park. Whether you prefer hiking sandals or closed-toe boots, several of the trails in Ledges State Park are steep and require good footwear. 

Rain Jacket and Layers

While the summer and early autumn season usually have reliable, warm weather, even these temperate months have a good chance of rain on any given day. Storms can cross the plains of Iowa quickly, and visitors will always want to be prepared. If you are heading to Ledges State Park in winter, come prepared with multiple layers and winter gear.

Des Moines river rain jacket

Where to stay in Ledges State Park

Ledges State Park has 94 campsites available for tent and RV camping. The state park has both electrical and non-electrical sites, and there are even a handful of hiker-in sites that are accessible most of the spring, summer, and autumn. The facilities at Ledges State Park were renovated ahead of the 2019 high season, and the park has updated showers, restrooms, and dump stations for campers.

Groups and families may also be interested in the youth group campsite and campsite playground available within this Iowa State Park.

Food nearby Ledges State Park

While the metropolis of Des Moines, Iowa is not too far off for grabbing a meal before or after Ledges State Park, there are several great options within a closer distance. The nearby town of Boone, Iowa has plenty to offer a tired hiker or camper. 

The Whistle Stop Cafe and Colorado Grill are both highly rated and local options. The Whistle Stop Cafe is particularly known for great breakfast options and friendly service. Other options in Boone include Rooster’s Bar and Grille, Jimmy’s Barbeque Pit, and Belluci Pizza House.

Jimmy’s Barbeque Pit in Ledges State Park

Airports near Ledges State Park

One of the biggest draws for Ledges State Park is the location just north of I-80 and west of I-35. The park is driveable from several major cities in the midwest and is particularly close to the capital of Iowa, Des Moines. In fact, downtown Des Moines is a mere 45-minutes away. 

However, for visitors from out-of-state or further distance, the Des Moines International Airport is only 50 minutes away. Each year the Des Moines airport welcomes 2.9 million passengers and has direct flights on most major U.S. airlines, including Delta, American Airlines, United, Southwest, Frontier, and Allegiant.

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