The Historic Hills Scenic Byway winds around 110 miles of beautiful southeast Iowa scenery. As the first part of the state to be settled by pioneers, visitors will see Iowa's oldest courthouse, the beginning of the Mormon Pioneer Trail, Iowa's only Civil War battleground and more. 

We've outlined four ways to explore the byway - so no matter your interest, there's a road trip for you! Read below for the best bets along the byway for foodies, families, shopping and outdoor adventures.

1. Foodie Finds

Five Tasty Stops

Hinterland Dairy Ice Cream

Appleberry Orchard

Relive childhood memories with a trip to Appleberry Orchard, the oldest working orchard in Iowa. At Appleberry, you can pick your own apples right off the tree or shop the inside cooler where many different varieties of apples are ready for you to take home. For a real treat, have a cup of apple cider slush. Sink your teeth into fresh apple cider donuts or watch the caramel apple pies come out of the oven, all made fresh on site. And be sure to take home your pumpkins, gourds and squash for hearty fall meals. Open August through December.

Bonaparte Retreat

Bonaparte Retreat is known far and wide for hearty country cooking. Housed in a restored 1878 grist mill, enjoy home cooked meals in a unique, friendly atmosphere. You might even be waited on by the lady who is possibly Iowa’s oldest waitress at 94 years young. Bonaparte Retreat is a favorite of locals and travelers.

Milton Creamery

While in southeast Iowa you must stop at Milton Creamery, a Mennonite family owned business. Homemade cheeses are made with milk from small, locally owned herds with no artificial growth hormones. At the 2009 US Cheese Championship, Milton Creamery’s Prairie Breeze™ cheese won Best of Class in the Open Hard category. Pick your favorite cheeses at their onsite tasting, while watching cheese in the making. Before you depart, purchase your favorite cheese in the retail shop.

Hinterland Dairy Farmstead Cheese

Continue the cheese trail at Hinterland Dairy Farmstead Cheese in Donnellson. Peek into the cheesemaking window while snacking on made-fresh-on-the-farm cheese curds and ice cream. Afterwards, visit the herd of 140 dairy cows that produce the milk for all of Hinterland's products while learning about the family's sustainable agriculture practices.

The Red Shed

The Red Shed is a locally owned restaurant that offers a variety of made-to-order sandwiches all on fresh homemade bread with an offering of meats and cheeses. Watch handmade chocolates being created as you browse the cases full of chocolates, pies and pastries. The Red Shed also offers in-season, farm-grown produce. Relax in this homey atmosphere while enjoying lunch, or make this your one stop shop for your picnic needs.

2. Outdoor Adventures

Five Ways to Take it Outside

Shimek State Forest Equestrian Trails

Shimek State Forest

There’s nothing like hiking through 9,000 acres of hickory, oak and pine trees, or horseback riding on more than 25 available trails. Guided trail rides are available for you with the Westercamp’s Rent A Horse. Experience a real rodeo at River Valley Horse Camp. You can also find excellent wild turkey and whitetail deer hunting in season, or go fishing on small lakes for largemouth bass and channel catfish. Visit in the snowy months and enjoy cross country skiing. Explore the outdoors, then spend the night at one of the many cabins and campsites available for your use.

Des Moines River Water Trail

Des Moines River Water Trail is 41 miles through Van Buren County. Boats, canoes and kayaks have access to the river in Selma, Douds, Austin Keosauqua, Bentonsport, Bonaparte and Farmington. As you travel the Des Moines River, you will see the home to the largest underground limestone mine in Iowa, the “Church Tree” where the first church service west of the Des Moines River was held in 1835 and the site of the Mormon Crossing. Stop in several small, unique towns along the way and enjoy the hospitality and activities of these river towns.

Lacey-Keosauqua State Park

Hike the winding trails along the Des Moines River and see many different species of plants, trees and wildlife. Explore the history of the area by visiting the 19 Native American burial mounds of the Woodland Culture Indians located here. Lake Sugema, located at the park, is a 575 acre lake popular with anglers and has five boat ramps. This park has a lovely shaded campground with 76 campsites and modern restroom and shower facilities, or you can stay in one of six family cabins. Hunters are thrilled with the 3,000 acres of land filled with whitetail deer, pheasants and quail. And if you need some help, hunting guide services are available in the area.

Lake Wapello State Park

Lake Wapello State Park is known as the “Country Club” of Iowa’s state parks. It’s 289 acre “no wake” lake has a sand beach and beach house facility. You will find some of the finest fishing for bluegill, bass, crappie and channel catfish in Iowa. If a week’s stay is in your plan, you can choose from 14 family cabins and 89 campsites with modern restrooms and showers. The remodeled 1930’s beach building with seasonal restaurant and lake observation deck provides space to relax. Take a hike around the lake on the seven mile Lake Shore Trail.

Honey Creek Resort

There is something for everyone at Honey Creek Resort! Honey Creek is an 850 acre resort that sits on 11,000 acre Rathbun Lake with 150 miles of shoreline. You can swim, kayak, paddleboat, pontoon or fish using your own equipment the gear rented at the resort. Train and horse-drawn carriage rides give you a full tour of the property and surrounding woodlands. On a cloudy, rainy, or cool day, try out Buccaneer Bay Water Park, which includes a two-story water slide and a lazy river. If you are an up-and-coming golfer, try out the 18 hole championship golf course. 

3. Unique Shopping

5 Locally-Owned Shops

Unique Shopping Historic Hills Scenic Byway

Bloom & Bark Farm and Local Artisan Market

Watch the unique art of glass blowing as Tim Blair shows you how glasses, vases and ornaments are made. Bloom and Bark Farm is home to the new Local Artisan Market where you can browse and purchase from a wide collection of creations by southeast Iowa artists.

Southern Iowa Produce Auction

This is an experience! The auction, held on Tuesday and Friday mornings April through June and mid-August through October, features farm-fresh produce, plants, hanging baskets, pumpkins, fall decorations, potted mums, greenhouse tomatoes and a wide selection of locally-grown products. Dates are added in July and August, but the auction is always on Fridays. Amish businesses bring large quantities of produce items to this open-air location. The auction is directed to wholesale buyers, but there are always some small lots. Biscuits and gravy, fresh donuts, cinnamon rolls and sandwiches are a bonus.

Dutch Country General Store

Dutch Country General Store, open six days a week, offers a wide variety of products in its spacious store. It features an extensive assortment of bulk foods, a meat and cheese deli where you can purchase a made-to-order sub sandwich, purses and wallets, locally made pies, jams, candies, cheese from Milton Creamery, rugs; fresh produce, locally raised products such as eggs and chicken. They advertise the largest selection of toys in southern Iowa including Melissa & Doug and Ertl farm toys. A large inventory of Amish-made furniture is on display outside the store and is available in 40 color options. Inside, you will find locally hand-crafted, hardwood furniture. Clean restrooms are available. Free ice cream cones are an added bonus at this fun stop.

Yoder's Indian Creek Furniture

Visit Yoder’s Indian Creek Furniture for quality hardwood furniture. The business offers a great selection of tables, chairs, hutches and bedroom sets built by residents of this local Amish community. Furniture is available in a variety of hardwoods such as oak, maple, walnut, hickory. Rustic furniture from pine is also available.

Dutchman's Store

For a truly unique shopping experience, stop by Dutchman’s Store. This old-time general store will have all the supplies you need. The Pennsylvania Dutch family-owned store has a wide selection of bulk foods, locally grown produce and foods preserved in the local Amish community. And if you are in need of some new shoes or craft items, you can find them at the Dutchman’s Store as well.

4. Fun for the Whole Family

5 Family-Friendly Attractions

Family Fun in the Historic Hills Scenic Byway

Harvestville Farm

No matter the season, there is always something fun happening at Harvestville Farm outside of Donnellson. In the spring, the family can enjoy the “new” of the season with “Potting Parties” and the chance to pick out your own seeds and seedling plants to begin the growing season. From July through October there are numerous play area activities for the kids, including oversized board games, jumping pillow, large trike track, human hamster wheel, and the ever popular GIANT corn pool. In the fall season, get lost in the 10 acre corn maze, pick your own pumpkin, build your own scarecrow, or enjoy a horse drawn or tractor wagon ride. Taste some of the locally grown produce at a “Farm to Table Dinner” prepared by some of the areas most well known chefs. In November this location turns into a winter wonderland with fresh trees, wreaths and holiday arrangements. When you come to Harvestville Farm there is no need to pack your lunch or venture offsite for food. The Pitchfork Cafe, located on site, has soups, salads, paninis, pizzas and to die for cobblers.

Westercamp's Rent A Horse

Discover the wildlife and scenery of Shimek Forest on horseback. Ride a mule or a horse, chosen according to an individual’s size and riding ability. Rides are guided by an experienced leader on a trail chosen just for you. This is a great way to enjoy the outdoors, see some of nature’s creatures and foliage, and breathe that invigorating fresh air. The trail riding program is offered daily, so just give a call and schedule. And be sure to bring all your friends because they can accommodate large groups!

American Gothic House

Combine education with fun. Learn about an iconic American art piece, while visiting the house that inspired the artist. The American Gothic House in Eldon is the home that inspired the famous artist, Grant Wood, to paint American Gothic, one of the most recognized paintings in the world. Visit the free museum and see the many ways American Gothic has been parodied, while also learning more about Grant Wood himself. Shop in the museum gift shop where you will find that memorable souvenir of your visit. The highlight of the day is donning costumes to pose in front of the American Gothic House and create your very own American Gothic photo (all free of charge).

Lake Wapello State Park

Let’s go fishing... and more! This is one of the finest locations in Iowa to fish for bluegill, bass, crappie and channel catfish. When you get tired of pulling in those fish, take a hike around the lake on the seven mile Lake Shore Trail. Take a break in the heat of the afternoon, when the fish are not biting, and go for a swim! The sand beach and beach house facility are available for your pleasure. As the evening ends, and the sun sets, relax at the remodeled 1930’s beach building with seasonal restaurant and a lake observation deck. There is no need to hurry home, there are 14 family cabins and 89 camping sites with modern restrooms and showers.

Honey Creek Resort

There is something for everyone at Honey Creek Resort! Honey Creek is an 850 acre resort that sits on 11,000 acre Rathbun Lake with 150 miles of shoreline. You can swim, ski, paddleboat, jetski, or fish using your own equipment the gear rented at the resort. On a cloudy, rainy, or cool day, try out Buccaneer Bay Water Park, which includes a two-story water slide and a lazy river. Want to go for a hike? Strike out on the Savannah Ridge Interpretive Trail, or participate in one of the nature hikes identifying trees and animals. Learn the basics of birding with the help of naturalists. Nature-themed crafts and games are also available. If you are an up-and-coming golfer, try out the 18 hole championship golf course. Aerobic activities, such as beach volleyball, bicycling, sledding and ice skating (in season) are also available.