Iowa offers some stunning views during the fall months along with various ways to experience them. Whether you're on a bike or hiking trail, on the water or in a car, these locations offer some of the best ways to view the scenery and make memories with your loved ones.
FROM THE TRAILS
1. Hitchcock Nature Center
Hikers can get a bird’s eye view of the Loess Hills and fall foliage from the top of the 45-foot-tall observation tower at Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek.
2. T-Bone Trail
Part of American Discovery Trail, this paved route follows a former railway between Audubon and Pymosa and is almost 20 miles long, offering beautiful countryside views.
3. Rent a Horse
Enjoy Iowa’s beautiful fall colors from the back of horse or mule on a nearly three-hour long trail ride through Shimek State Forest near Farmington. Be sure to call for reservations.
4. Mississippi River Trail
Grab a bike or some hiking shoes and follow this trail for scenic views of the river, wildlife spotting, bird watching and great photo opportunities. The complete trail goes for almost 3,000 miles and passes through 10 states. Iowa visitors can hop on and off the trail anywhere along the river.
5. Yellow River State Forest
The “Backpack Trail” at Yellow River State Forest in Harpers Ferry was once named Iowa’s best hiking trail by Outdoor magazine. Open year-round, the trails range from relatively easy to moderate. The Paint Creek Unit includes more than 25 miles of marked and maintained trails.
6. Iowa Great Lakes Trail
This 14-mile trail takes bikers through the Iowa Great lakes region, offering scenic views of Spirit Lake, Okoboji, West Okoboji, Arnolds Park and Milford and Lake Park.
7. Pinicon Ridge Park
Known for its natural beauty along the Wapsipinicon River near Central City, the 966-acre Pinicon Ridge County Park has become a regional outdoor destination. From its campgrounds, water rentals, modern playgrounds and 12 miles of various park trails, fall makes this a vibrant color-changing destination.
FROM THE WATER
8. Upper Iowa River
The Upper Iowa River in Northeast Iowa is a popular spot for canoeing, kayaking and tubing. Accessible at landing points in Kendallville, Bluffton, and Decorah, this river was named by National Geographic Adventure magazine as one of the top 100 adventures in the United States. Rolling around U-shaped bends, the river reveals 330-foot-tall limestone bluffs while eagles and hawks soar overhead.
9. West Nishnabotna River Water Trail
This 27-mile water trail is great for canoeing, kayaking and tubing. The river’s wooded banks also provide perfect opportunities for wildlife spottings, sandbars for picnics and great fishing spots.
10. Scenic City Empress
There’s a reason Iowa Falls is known as Iowa’s scenic city. On the Scenic City Empress, visitors can cruise by limestone bluffs, a man-made waterfall, wildlife, a historic swinging bridge and, of course, beautiful fall colors. The 50-passenger, double-decker pontoon boat offers public cruises Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. June through mid-October.
FROM THE CAR
11. Historic U.S. Route 6
U.S. Route 6 is the longest highway ever created, stretching 3,652 miles from Massachusetts to California. Not to brag, but Iowa’s portion contains some of the best stops along the way, including the world’s oldest ice cream fountain, a smiling 16-foot-tall gas station man and countless mom-and-pop shops for food and lodging.
12. Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail
Follow in the footsteps of Lewis & Clark as they discovered and recorded the value of President Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase from Napoleon Bonaparte. Today’s route takes modern-day explorers to marinas, nature preserves and parks along this historic trail, offering a variety of sights and opportunities for wildlife spottings.
13. Glacial Trail Scenic Byway
When it comes to planning a rustic fall road trip, there’s no better place than northwest Iowa. This 36-mile loop takes some surprising turns through historic oak savannahs, changing prairie grasses, red and golden foliage and crisp blue skies, offering a perfect day on the road.
14. Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail
While the entire trail stretches across five state and follows the way the Mormons once traveled to escape persecution, Iowa’s portion offers a great way to see the variety of landscapes Iowa has to offer. From rolling hills and prairie grasses to limestone bluffs and farmland, this route provides some of the best Iowa scenery as well as a variety of historic sites.