Best Scenic Drives and Stops in Iowa

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Do you want to road trip this summer? Maybe somewhere unexpected, somewhere that is full of beautiful sights and exciting events? And on this trip perhaps you would like to drive on roads that have breathtaking sites instead of the highway with the normal sights of fast food restaurants and semi’s? Believe it or not, Iowa has some of the best scenic roads in the Midwest.

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Iowa has some of the best scenic roads – image by

Having lived in Iowa most of my life, I have traveled extensively through the state, and these are my favorite in Iowa.

Great River Road

This network of roads hug the Mississippi river and is about 3,000 miles long. It goes from Canada all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. Obviously, the section of road that I know best is in Iowa, and just this piece of road is exciting to visit and can be made into a vacation that lasts a week or two.

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Iowa Great River Road – image by

All of the towns that are on this great road contain many historical landmarks, from Indian burial grounds, to historic Inns, to fantastic old buildings that have been renovated into antique shops and museums. Not to mention there are a ton of outdoor activities that would catch the eye of any adventurer. You can hike along the bluffs, fish the river, or take a boat for an idyllic drive.

You can take a boat for an idyllic drive – image by

Out of all of the towns on the road, my personal favorite has always been Marquette. It’s full of old antique shops, and wine stores that often hold wine tastings. The town also is unique in the way that it was built going up a bluff, so the sight of all the building going up the side of this bluff, is amazing.


If you are ready to take a spontaneous road trip, this road is the one I suggest taking.

Iowa Valley Scenic Byway

This byways is made up of several country roads, highways, and junctions in central East Iowa. It starts at the Junction of State Route 47 and Highway 30. It curves through the countryside, and along it’s road sit towns like Tama, Belle Plaine, and Marengo.

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Iowa Valley Scenic Byway map – image by

All small downs with great historical pasts. The most well known stop on the byway is the Amana Colonies. This historic group of towns are known for their wood crafts, and for their appliances. The towns maintain the historic feel of the past and do not allow large retailers to build. There is West Amana and Amana, whose main street attracts many visitors.

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The most well known stop on the byway is the Amana Colonies – image by

The shops consist of everything from candy, to wine, to antiques, and anything else homemade that you can think of. However, if you are looking for an Amish community to visit, this is not the place for you. The Amana colonies are actually the remnants of an old German colony, and the people that live there today have all of the modern convinces.

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Amana Colonies is so charming – image by

None of these ruin the charm of the little towns, and they are a great place to drive to and stay for awhile.

The Loess Hills Scenic Byway

This network of roads received recognition from the national government as a scenic byway in 2000. This road is nestled in the Missouri River, starting near Sioux City, Iowa and stretching all the way down to St. Joseph, Missouri.

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The Loess Hills Scenic Byway – image by

What makes this road unique is the fact that it sits in the middle of a glacier path, which is why it is called the Loess Hills Path, because of all of the loess debris left behind. There is only one such formation that comparable in the world and that is the Yellow Hills of China.

Amazing Loess Hills Scenic Byway – image by

Only in Iowa can you see a natural wonder such as this. The area is also full of rare species of flowers, trees, and animals, which are only native to Iowa. Another great attraction of the roads, are the many archeological dig sites along the road. The Mill Creek and Glenwood cultures lived in the area about 1000 years ago and left many ancient sites behind, including 800 year old earth lodges.

The area is also full of rare species of flowers, trees, and animals, which are only native to Iowa – image by

If you want to get lost in the beauty of Iowa and in the old civilizations that once called this great area home, the Loess Hills Path is the place for you.


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