Kid-Friendly Weekend in Madison County

For me, Madison County with its romantic Covered Bridges perfect for a movie set, John Wayne fans and a famous winery always felt tailored for adults. However, our family was delighted with a Kid-friendly Weekend in Madison County to Winterset, the City Park, Clark Tower, Pammel State Park and a visit to a covered bridge!

Kid-Friendly Weekend in Madison County


Winterset Town Square

Winterset Town Square - Kid-friendly Weekend in Madison County


Confession time! I guess I didn’t really understand what a town square was…maybe that’s a sad commentary on today’s society. Visiting Winterset Town Square at  112 N 1st St, Winterset, IA 50273 was so much fun!

Winterset Town Square - Kid-friendly Weekend in Madison County


Our first stop on our Kid-friendly Weekend in Madison County was to the Winterset Town Square and The Madison County Chamber of Commerce. This is a great little place with helpful volunteers. We picked up trail maps, got directions to the City Park and saw a mini replica of the Hedge Maze. I tried to keep the kids from seeing the replica because I wanted them to be surprised!

Next we circled the whole courthouse and the kids found an unlocked tool shed door along the outside which they thought was a dungeon! The courthouse was closed when we were visiting but I would love to take a tour in the future.

The Madison County Courthouse sits in the center of the square with lawns and walkways all around the grand building. Across each lawn are stores, restaurants and businesses.

Winterset Town Square Madison County Courthouse - Kid-friendly Weekend in Madison County

Winterset City Park

Winterset City Park, located at S. 9th Street on SE corner of town,  is amazing! There is a stone bridge (like the Ledges State Park), a campground, covered bridge, shelters, playground, hedge maze, monuments, historic exhibits and Clark Tower.







We were impressed with this obviously popular park. There was a wedding party taking photographs, a family reunion and visitors of all ages.

Winterset-City-Park-hedge-maze - Kid-friendly Weekend in Madison County


After Clark Tower, our favorite part of Winterset City Park was the hedge maze. Chasing daddy through the maze increased the children’s joy and this activity was repeated multiple times.


Clark Tower

Clark Tower in the Winterset City Park deserves its own spotlight! This amazing three level, 25 ft high monument sits towering on a hill overlooking beautiful Iowa countryside.

Clark Tower WInterset - Kid-friendly Weekend in Madison County


A long one-direction dirt road leads up to Clark Tower. Vehicles longer then 20 ft are not allowed. There are no restrooms or drinking fountain at the tower.


Clark Tower is a monument honoring early pioneer settlers Caleb and Ruth Clark. Dupont Castle lists some interesting historical information.

For young kids – the castle is an escape into their imagination and a fairytale that comes alive! Kids can be explorers through the woods, stumbling upon an old abandoned castle, fight dragons (a.k.a daddy) and take pretend play to a whole new level!

Clark Tower WInterset -Kid-friendly Weekend in Madison County

Clark Tower WInterset

Don’t forget your camera! Photo ops are endless here!

Clark Tower WInterset

The views are beautiful. Clark Tower Winterset is just overall fabulous and makes such an awesome Kid-friendly Weekend in Madison County!

Covered Bridges

Madison County is home to five remaining covered bridges. Use the download map provided by the Madison County Chamber of Commerce to help you find all the bridges.

We were fortunate to visit Cedar Bridge before it was tragically destroyed by arson. The children really enjoyed this visit and we are sorry that this bridge is no longer available for families.

Sillhouette of kids and dad on Cedar Covered Bridge in Madison County - Kid-friendly Weekend in Madison County


Pammel State Park

Pammel State Park in Winterset is full of rich history and lots of family fun! It all starts off with the only highway tunnel bridge in Iowa as the entrance to the park. (maximum clearance is 12′-6″). If you are bringing a large RV, then you have to take some back roads in from the south side of the park.

Pammel State Park


After you pass through Harmon Tunnel, turn right into the Middle River Ford parking lot. It’s a very short walk (less than a city block) from the parking lot to the tunnel.



Middle River Ford seemed to be the local teen hangout. You can walk through barefoot but I would recommend water shoes. Sandbars are accessible if the water is low enough. There is no sand beach here, but there is a small sandy area which little ones would enjoy with a pail and shovel.



Pammel State Park hosts hiking trials and something I had never heard of before, water trails (for canoeing). Hiking the Lodge Trail was enjoyable but parts of the trail are washed out and had some obstacles like fallen logs across the trail.



We also hiked Backbone Trail from the campground to Middle River Ford and back…this was about an hour-long trip because we stopped to play at the ford.

The main trail is nice and easy for any age, but we chose to go down the steeper hillside which would be more challenging for younger hikers.

Pammel State Park


Enjoying a sunset hike going down Backbone Trail to Middle River Ford.  FYI – There are no bike trails in this park or in the Winterset area. They would like to work on connecting to the other major routes in Iowa. Check back with them for future availability.

More To Do

While enjoying a Kid-Friendly Weekend in Madison County, stop by Howell’s Dried Florals & Gift Barn. The pumpkin patch is open in the fall along with lots of kid’s activities including the Mud Pie Kitchen. Our kids played for over three hours at this farm in the fall. 

Don’t forget to give tribute to John Wayne and visit the museum right in Winterset. 

We had a wonderful Kid-Friendly Weekend in Madison County and hope your family does also! 


Kid-friendly Weekend in Madison County



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