Do you ever feel like the peace and quiet of the open road would set everything right? Iowa may not be widely known for its scenery, beyond cornfields, but there’s a surprising diversity in terrain, here. These back roads will take you on the scenic journey you long for.
1. Historic Hills Scenic Byway
At 105 miles, this is a nice long drive. The southeast corner of Iowa is rich with history. Along this drive you'll be close to Iowa's oldest courthouse, the state's only Civil War battle site near Croton, and the beginning of the Mormon Pioneer Trail. Stop in historic Bentonsport, and enjoy the southern Iowa forests, renowned all over the world for excellent white-tailed deer hunting.
2. Grant Wood Scenic Byway
This eastern Iowa road offers a rolling landscape dotted with limestone structures. This area of Iowa inspired the famous artist Grant Wood's work. The drive begins south of Bellevue at the Mississippi River on Jackson County Road Z-15.
3. Smokey Hollow Road, north of Marquette, Allamakee County
From Effigy Mounds National Monument on Highway 76, take Smokey Hollow Road north. You'll pass amazing scenery, including the famous Hanging Rock. Go right on Luster Heights Road and follow it as it curves left. At Great River Road, take a left to Highway 76. From there, go south back to Effigy Mounds.
4. Tree in the road
The teeny tiny town of Brayton is located within Audubon County along the East Nishnabotna River. It’s accessible by means of Highway 71, 3 miles north of I-80. This stunning cottonwood tree stands at almost exactly 100 feet. What's perhaps most extraordinary is that the tree doesn't even interrupt traffic flow. Drivers simply yield to it in the same way as they would a roundabout. That tree is growing RIGHT through the center of the 350th and 710th street intersection.
5. Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway near Tama
This road from the Mississippi River in Clinton to the Missouri River in Council Bluffs, is part of the first coast-to-coast "modern" highway, established in 1913. The main streets of 43 Iowa communities are connected by this route.
6. Highway 52 south along Bellevue
Highway 52 is 166 miles long. It starts in the small island town of Sabula and goes north to Dubuque. Just north of Dubuque, the route turns west. IN Luxemburg, it goes north to Guttenberg. From Calmar to Decorah, the scenery is truly special.
7. Eagle Point Park Dubuque
The landscape here is truly unique. It is located in the Paleozoic Plateau; and area of the state that wasn't laid flat by glacial activity. This is an incredible drive.
8. Highway 92 between Winterset and Council Bluffs
You'll see it all on this road trip. Farm country, amazing horizons, rolling hills, several quaint small towns, hills, creeks, and forests grace this long stretch of road through the heart of western Iowa.
9. Donnellson to Keosauqua
This is a shorter road trip, but it's not a busy route, so take it slow and soak up the scenery. The curvy road lined with rolling hills and farms goes through the stunning Shimek Forest, Indian Lake Park and the White Timber Area, and ends up close to the beautiful Lacey-Keosauqua State Park.
10. Little Loess Hills Loop
On this drive, you'll see the best view of the famous Iowa Loess Hills from Murray Hill Scenic Overlook. Start in the town of Missouri Valley, take Highway 30 east to Logan. Enter Highway 127 until you get to Loess Hills Trial. Turn right toward Highway 183. Another right on Highway 83 heading north leads to Pisgah. Go left on F20/Easton Trail to Murray Hill Lookout. From there, you'll continue to Vine Street in Little Sioux then on to River Sioux. K45/Austin Ave to Mondamin and then left on Highway 127 going east takes you to Loess Hills Trail and back to Missouri Valley.