This road trip covers 285 miles and has roughly six hours of driving time. While the trip could technically be done in one day, planning for two days will make it a more leisurely experience.
Wildcat Den State Park
The journey begins at Wildcat Den State Park in Muscatine. Wildcat Den State Park has an extensive trail system with plenty of wooded areas for leaf peeping, along with a view of 75-foot cliffs and rock formations.
Lake Macbride State Park
Next stop is Lake Macbride State Park. This park is a great place to view beautiful fall colors next to the quiet serenity of a lake. There are multi-use trails that wind around the lake for miles where you can enjoy the leaves, as well as wildlife and other natural beauty.
Palisades-Kepler State Park
Palisades-Kepler is a great place to look at the leaves. This enchanting park is full of rugged wooded areas, as well as hiking trails where you can wander around and enjoy all of the scenic beauty.
Wapsipinicon State Park
The beautiful Wapsipinicon State Park was one of Iowa’s first state parks. There are plenty of trees so you can enjoy a blanket of fall color. And, with limestone bluffs, you’ll have an amazing overlook where you can take in a panorama of the beauty below.
Maquoketa Caves State Park
Maquoketa Caves State Park is one of the most magical and beautiful parks in the state. With a canopy of trees, along with miles of beautiful hiking trails, you’ll be able to soak in the fall splendor. Just make sure not to trip while you’re looking up! There are also caves to explore if you want to spend some extra time in the park.
Bellevue State Park
Bellevue state park is along the banks of the Mississippi River, just south of Bellevue. With high bluffs and amazing views of the river, you’ll be sure to see plenty of amazing fall foliage.
Where to stay: Mont Rest Inn
When you get to Bellevue, you may want to call it a day and spend the night. Mont Rest Inn is an interesting and beautiful bed and breakfast in Bellevue. The building is a Victorian-style inn built in the 1890s, so you know it’s full of charm, historical details and quaint guest rooms.
Mines of Spain Recreation Area
Day two begins in Dubuque. With miles of trails, woods, prairie, limestone bluffs and scenic overlooks, you’ll love the fall scenery at Mines of Spain Recreation Area.
Pikes Peak State Park
You’ll continue your trip along the Mississippi River at Pikes Peak State Park. This park is definitely one of the most breathtaking parks in Iowa. You’ll see fall leaves all along the trail that leads to a scenic overlook, a 500-foot-bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, lined with beautiful trees in all of their autumn glory.
Effigy Mounds National Monument
A little further north, you’ll find the Effigy Mounds National Monument. This destination is as interesting as it is beautiful, with over 200 Native American burial mounds in the shapes of animals, as well as a 14-mile trail system lined with trees leading you through the area.
Dunning’s Spring Park
The final stop on the road trip is just outside Decorah, Iowa. This area is full of natural beauty, from rugged limestone bluffs to heavily wooded areas. Dunning’s Spring Park has trails leading you through a magical canopy of autumn beauty, as well as a waterfall. If you’re hungry at the end of your travels, be sure to stop in Decorah and choose from a wide variety of great restaurants, like La Rana or Mabe’s Pizza.