My childhood was spent going on holidays in a caravan. I’m used to ‘roughing it’ in the great outdoors so to speak and making trips to the nearest toilet block! When I discovered you could go glamping in Iowa AND it was in a town I was planning on visiting, I knew there was no other choice! Yes, I stayed in a yurt while attending a travel blogging conference! Here’s what you should know about staying in a yurt at McIntosh Woods State Park in Clear Lake, Iowa and other glamping sites in Iowa!
Yurts in Iowa
What is a yurt?
This question was actually asked at one of my work training days and I was one of the only people that put my hand up! The dictionary.com definition is:
OK, so the Clear Lake yurts aren’t made of felt or skins, but they are the traditional circular shape with a cone roof!
Watch the video tour!
McIntosh Woods State Park Yurts
🗺1200 E Lake St, Ventura, IA 50482, United States
McIntosh Woods State Park is home to 2 yurts that can each hold up to 4 people. One of the questions I was asked the most, is what was the bed situation like? You may be amazed to find out that there is in fact a proper bunk bed and a futon that folds out into a double bed…and it’s a decent futon too, with a big squishy mattress! You do need to bring your own bedding though, such as a sleeping bag and pillows (and an extra blanket if you are in ‘shoulder season’!)
One of my biggest concerns, shall we say, when looking at staying in the yurt, was ‘does it have plug sockets/power outlets’ and I can confirm that yes it does!! The Clear Lake yurts actually have an electric light and a fan and you do have to go crawling to find the plug sockets, I found 2 outlets under the table and chairs!
One awesome part of the yurt is that it has a see-through domed roof, on one night I could even see the stars from my bed (this may be different when there are leaves on the trees)! There are a couple of windows, but I never opened them and I can safely say that I saw ZERO bugs. I even had a stash of cupcakes and I was worried that they may be eaten by ants, but nope, I saw nothing.
When you book the yurt online, depending on the availability, you choose which of the 2 yurts you want to stay in. Yurt 1 has a full length ramp, making it accessible to wheelchair users, I was in Yurt 2 which had a few steps leading up to the door and I believe it looked closer to the lake!
Each yurt then has its own little ‘outside area’. As well as a small deck area, there are a couple of picnic benches, a fire pit and a grill (you will need your own cooking equipment though).
One thing I LOVED, is that the yurts don’t require a key! It is opened with an easy to remember key code, which is great because if you need the toilet in the night or you’re going in and out of the yurt, you don’t need to worry about forgetting a key! It’s also handy when it comes to checking in/out as they set the code before you arrive and you simply just drive up, punch the code in and you’re good to go!
So, toilets. The toilet block is a short walk from the yurt, close enough that you can make a midnight dash in the dark without needing a torch/flashlight as there is a light above the toilet door (I braved it one night!). One side of the building has a toilet, sink and a mirror, there was always toilet paper and the bin/trash can was emptied routinely. On the other side is a large shower cubicle (with plenty of hot water!), a bench and a mirror. There is only one of each which is shared by both yurts.
One of my absolute highlights was the access to Clear Lake. Now as far as I’m aware, you can’t swim from this area, but there is a staircase that zig zags down the bank and leads to a small jetty. On a warm day I could easily have spent hours just sitting on the jetty reading a book or something! The yurts are tucked away in a corner of the woods, away from the campground, beach and fishing area, so I’d imagine this part of the woods remain fairly private, even in summer.
McIntosh Woods State Park is fairly small and very walkable. There are a few trails through the woods (like the one from the yurts to the beach), or most places are connected by paved roads. I’d often take the woodland route to the beach and the road way back, change to shake things up!
The weather and glamping in a yurt!
I experienced 2 extremes while in Clear Lake! One night was warm with clear skies and the 2nd was thunderstormy and freezing cold! The yurts don’t have heating (or air con, just the fan as mentioned), so one night I did have to sleep with an extra hoodie on! Just like regular tents/camping, the noise of the rain on the roof is LOUD, very LOUD. Some people find it relaxing but as a light sleeper it’s something I struggle with!
The only other noises I experienced was a little bit of road noise, the odd train (but then I’m used to that as I live next to a train line) and splashing…which I THINK was from geese…what other animals would be splashing around in the night? I’m not sure I want to really think about it, especially when I was travelling solo! Haha!
If you were planning on cooking food/meat, also think about storage, as there isn’t a fridge in the yurts and I’d imagine they’d get fairly hot in the summer!
Departure day/checking out
You are expected to clear up yourself after your yurt stay. There is a departure checklist with things like: sweep the deck (I couldn’t because it was pouring with rain when I left!), sweep the inside of the yurt, put the futon back up into a sofa/couch position, wipe down the tables and chairs, empty the bin/trash, turn off the lights and fan etc…things that are common curtesy. A broom, disinfectant spray and paper towels are provided for this. When you leave, you then simply shut the door and drive away!
Things to know and tips for booking the Clear Lake yurts!
The yurts do book up in advance. At the time of writing, both yurts are booked up almost constantly for the whole summer. For my stay in MAY, I booked in FEBRUARY and already one yurt had been booked for one night of my stay and the other meant that I had to be out on Friday morning as the Friday and Saturday nights were already booked!
There is a 2 NIGHT MINIMUM for bookings. Check in is from 4pm and check out is at 11am. Each yurt has parking for 2 cars, with the spaces being next to the toilet block, so be prepared to carry things a little way to and from the car to the yurt!
The yurts cost $35 per night or $210 for a week (plus tax). They also require a $50 cheque for damages which has to be sent to McIntosh Woods State Park a week before your stay. If all is good on departure, they return the cheque, either you collect it in person or I requested mine to be sent back to me in the mail as I had to leave early on my morning of departure. (My cheque arrived home in just a few days.)
I can’t be too sure, but there was a gate that looked like it blocked access to the woods and the road to the yurts between the hours of 10.30pm and 7am. I arrived and left before and after these times so I’m not sure if it actually closed and I wasn’t going to play with fire and risk being locked out! The main campground has access 24hrs and there is a park warden that lives on one of these sites for ‘out of hours’ problems.
You can book a stay on the Iowa DNR website.
Nearby – Things to do in Clear Lake Iowa
McIntosh Woods State Park is located in the small town of Ventura but the larger town of Clear Lake is just 4 miles away where you can find many restaurants, grocery stores and other facilities. You’ll also find the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake. This music venue originally opened in 1933 but is especially known for its connection to ‘the day that music died’. It’s the last venue that Buddy Holly played before he died in a plane crash. The roads around the Surf are named after those that died on the plane and opposite, there’s a big record player like sculpture that talks about Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper.
Some places in Clear Lake that I particularly liked, was a house that looked like a pyramid (I’ve seen it listed on AirBnb!), Cabin Coffee and seeing the Lady of the Lake paddle boat, which was docked up on the lake front (90 minute lake cruises available from Memorial Day).
Driving Distances to Clear Lake
Mason City, IA – 14 miles (25 mins)
Des Moines, IA – 114 miles (1hr 40)
Minneapolis, MN – 133 miles (2hrs)
Dubuque, IA – 185 miles (3hrs 10)
Sioux Falls, SD – 217 miles (3hrs 10)
Omaha, NE – 250 miles (3hrs 30)
Pod Cabin at Spook Cave & Campground
🗺13299 Spook Cave Rd, McGregor, IA 52157, United States
Disclosure: My visit to Spook Cave and Campground was hosted. However, as always opinions are 100% my own!
Spook Cave & Campground has a couple of different glamping options, available between May – October. ‘The Hut’ cabin comfortably up to 3 people or they have a selection of larger cabins sleeping between 6 – 10 people. The latest addition is the ‘Cabin Mansion’ which sleeps up to 27 people! I stayed in The Hut, which sites alongside the Bloody Run Trout Stream. This is closer to the camping area and the cave.
The inside is bigger than it looks, with: a double and a single bed, 2 chairs and a table, a mirror, a fridge, a microwave, a coffee pot (with coffee, sugar and powdered creamer), salt and pepper, paper towel, a stick lighter (for the fire pit), heating/AC and plenty of power outlets! It doesn’t have toilet or shower facilities within the cabin, however the toilet block is just a short walk away! There’s also free WiFi around the campground.
Outside of the cabin is a fire pit and a barbecue. Firewood can be purchased from the ‘camp host’ for $5 per bundle. 2 bundles lasted us late into the evening…and the following morning the embers were still warm enough to cook pudgy pies for breakfast!
It is nice having basic glamping accommodation but still have a microwave and a fridge included in the price. This meant that we were able to make sure that our meat for dinner was kept cool, and had a 2nd option for having hot food (I also took a microwavable oatmeal bowl and noodles!). Just like the yurts in McIntosh Woods State Park, you are expected to empty the trash before you leave and give the cabin a sweep up.
The larger cabins are closer to Campground Lake where you can fish or swim. There’s also a playground on site and the unique Spook Cave boat tour. The tours last around 30 minutes and cost $13 for adults (13yrs and up) and $9 for children (4-12yrs). The boat tour office also has a camp store, where you can purchase drinks, ice creams, bags of ice and a small range of camping supplies. From here you can also rent golf carts for $50 a day. The campground property is on 93 acres of land. On top of the bluff, hidden in the woods, is ‘Paula’s Pines and Pub’. It’s not a real pub but it’s a pretty fun area to check out!
The Hut requires a 2 night minimum stay. Sunday to Thursday the rate per night is $80, Friday and Saturday is $90 per night.
Nearby – Things To Do Near Spook Cave & Campground
Within a 20 minute drive on Spook Cave & Campground are Pikes Peak State Park and Effigy Mounds National Monument. Both offer various hiking routes. The nearest town is McGregor which has gas stations and a couple of restaurants and bars.
Driving Distances To Spook Cave Iowa
McGregor, IA – 9 miles (13 mins)
Prairie Du Chien, WI – 12 miles (17 mins)
Decorah IA, – 38 miles (47 mins)
Dubuque IA, – 62 miles (1hr 16)
Madison WI, – 112 miles (2hrs 8)
Red Cedar Lodge
🗺1880 Gilbert St, Charles City, IA 50616, United States
Staying it a yurt is definitely what I would call glamping…it’s like camping but I step up because you have electricity, real beds and you don’t have to set anything up or take it down. If the yurts are still a little too much like ‘roughing’ it and you are looking for a more luxurious glamping in Iowa option, look no further that Red Cedar Lodge, just down the road from Clear Lake in Charles City!