1. Devonian Fossil Gorge, Iowa City
The Devonian Fossil Gorge in Iowa City was created by the Flood of 1993 and expanded by the Flood of 2008 when water topped the emergency spillway. The overflow washed away tons of soil, huge trees, and part of the road. When the waters receded, the 375-million-year-old fossilized Devonian ocean floor was revealed. Visitors can now start their stroll back in time at the Entry Plaza, making their way down into the gorge to find thousands of fossils laid out at their feet.
2. Hitchcock Nature Center, Honey Creek
The Hitchock Nature Center consists of 1,268 acres located in the heart of the Loess Hills. The Loess Hills harbor some of the largest remaining prairie remnants in Iowa and provide refuge for plants and animals found nowhere else in the state. Hitchcock is open every day of the year for hiking, camping, picnicking, bird watching, snow sledding, star gazing, or simply enjoying nature.
3. Historic Motor Mill, Clayton County
The historic Motor Mill, located in Clayton County, is an old 1860's flour mill known for it's amazing architecture. They offer free tours, and the area is surrounded by a 155-acre park that offers hiking, kayaking, fishing, camping, bird watching, and more.
4. Decorah Ice Cave State Preserve
This cave in Decorah is frozen all year round due to the glacier it sits on, making it a great place to stay cool on a hot summer day!
5. Wabash Trace Nature Trail, western Iowa
The Wabash Trace Nature Trail is a gorgeous, 63-mile trail that runs through Council Bluffs, Mineola, Silver City, Malvern, Imogene, Shenandoah, Coin and Blanchard. Trail-goers will get the chance to walk the trail through the Loess Hills, and enjoy some of the finest scenery in all of Iowa.
6. Malanaphy Spring Falls, Winneshiek County
Located in Winneshiek County, Malanaphy Spring Falls is one of Iowa's most beautiful waterfalls. You can find this gem on the Upper Iowa River near Bluffton.
7. Sabula, Jackson County
Even if they've lived here all of their life, many people still don't know that Iowa has its own island. The island of Sabula, located in Jackson County, sits on the Mississippi River and is home to over 500 people. The island is also a popular summer vacation spot for people from Illinois.
8. Fenelon Place Elevator Car, Dubuque
The Fenelon Place Elevator Car in Dubuque claims to be the steepest and shortest railroad in the world. While this claim is up in the air, something that isn't disputed is the fact that you can get a pretty amazing view of the city when the train car reaches the top of the hill!
9. Clark Tower, Winterset
If you're ever in Winterset, check out the City Park. There's tons of fun stuff to see there, from a covered bridge to a hedge maze - and even this tower, which looks like something out of a fairy tale. Be prepared to do some hiking to get to it!
10. Siewers Spring, Decorah
One of Iowa's real hidden gems, Siewers Spring in Decorah runs along Trout Run Trail from the fish hatchery, so it's no surprise that this is a great spot to do a little fishing while you take in the amazing scenery.
11. Mahanay Bell Tower, Jefferson
The Mahanay Bell Tower in Jefferson is 14 stories tall, and has 14 bells that chime the time of day every 15 minutes. Visitors can ride the elevator up to the 120-foot high observation deck, and see the lovely scenery for miles.
12. Three Mile Lake, Afton
Three Mile Lake in Afton is a gorgeous, and pretty unknown, area that offers fishing, boating, swimming, camping, and more. This is a great place to spend a day with the family, enjoying the fresh air and the remarkable beauty of nature.