Monday ยท June 24, 2024
Discover Stephens State Forest: A Premier Horse Camping Destination in Iowa
Author: Admin
Stephens State Forest Horse Camp in Iowa | Top Horse Trails

Stephens State Forest, located in south-central Iowa, is the state's largest state forest, encompassing more than 15,500 acres spread across seven units in five counties. Originally established in the 1930s with tree plantings by the Civilian Conservation Corps, Stephens State Forest today serves as a prime example of forest management for Iowa's woodland species and offers a backcountry haven for outdoor enthusiasts.

A Diverse Recreational Paradise

Stephens State Forest is a true outdoor paradise, offering a variety of recreational opportunities across its seven units. This forest is ideal for those seeking a rugged and less developed outdoor experience. Visitors can enjoy hiking, horseback riding, camping, and hunting throughout the year. With its vast expanse and diverse terrain, the forest provides a unique and immersive nature experience.

The Whitebreast Unit: A Haven for Equestrians

The Whitebreast Unit of Stephens State Forest stands out as a prime destination for equestrian campers. This unit features two stocked ponds, three equestrian campgrounds, and a group camp area, making it an ideal spot for horseback riding enthusiasts. With 20 miles of multi-use trails, visitors can explore the scenic beauty of the forest on horseback, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, or hiking.

Year-Round Camping Opportunities

Stephens State Forest offers year-round camping in its non-modern campgrounds located in the Lucas and Whitebreast Units. While these campgrounds do not have electricity, they are equipped with pit toilets either within the campground or nearby. Several sites are specifically designed for equestrian use, ensuring that horseback riders have a comfortable and convenient camping experience.

Why Choose Stephens State Forest?

Stephens State Forest is more than just a camping destination; it is a living example of sustainable forest management and conservation. The forest's extensive trails and amenities provide a genuine backcountry experience that is increasingly rare. Whether you're an avid horseback rider, a dedicated hiker, or a nature enthusiast, Stephens State Forest offers an enriching and adventurous retreat.

Plan Your Visit

Embrace the natural beauty and diverse recreational opportunities at Stephens State Forest. With its vast expanse, rugged trails, and equestrian-friendly campgrounds, this state forest provides a unique and memorable outdoor experience for all visitors. Pack your camping gear, saddle up your horse, and head to Stephens State Forest for an unforgettable adventure in the heart of Iowa.


Stephens State Forest offers the following facilities and amenities:

  • Equestrian trails
  • Picnic area
  • Equestrian campsites
  • Stocked ponds
  • Pit toilets


The Whitebreast Unit has two stocked ponds, three equestrian campgrounds, and one group camp area. This unit also has 20 miles of multi-use trails for hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, and equestrian riding.


Cost Details:

  • Call for details



  • Camp year-round in the forest’s non-modern campgrounds in the Lucas and Whitebreast Units. The campgrounds do not have electricity, but do have pit toilets either in the campground or in the vicinity; several sites are set up for equestrian use. 
  • Advance campsite reservations can be booked through the Parks Reservation System. One-third of the campsites are available for self-registration on a first-come, first-serve basis. Additionally, five backcountry pack-in campsites in the Woodburn Unit have picnic tables and fire rings at each campsite, along with a water hydrant available at the trailhead. 
  • There is no fee for these pack-in sites and they are first-come, first-serve. They do not have modern restroom facilities or electricity.
  • Contact Details: 641-774-4559 and 


If you want to discover and explore other campsites and horse trails, here are some of them that you may visit:

STEPHENS STATE FOREST - Whitebreast Unit Trail Loop



Chuluota Loop


Stephens State Forest does require reservations for overnight accommodations. Please visit their page here on Top Horse Trails - Stephens State Forest for more information