You could spend days on any of Iowa's designated scenic byways. But if you're short on time, here's what you can't miss.

Loess Hills National Scenic Byway

Hitchcock Nature Center, Honey Creek

Location: Western edge of Iowa

Distance: 200 miles

Scenery: Catstep hills, farms, villages, Missouri River Valley.

Must Do: Climb the observation tower at the Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek. The 45-foot-tall tower provides an expansive view of the surrounding Loess Hills. The fine loess soil deposits of these hills are the largest in the United States.

Iowa Great River Road National Scenic Byway

Flatted Fifth Blues and BBQ, Bellevue

Location: Eastern edge of Iowa

Distance: 328 miles

Scenery: Mississippi River, national wildlife refuges, locks and dams of the Mississippi River, some of Iowa’s oldest towns.

Must Do: Dine at Flatted Fifth Blues & BBQ in Bellevue. Housed in a 170-year-old restored grist mill, the restaurant’s menu is described as a mix of the South’s great traditions of soul food and BBQ and includes ribs, jambalaya, pulled pork and gumbo. 

Covered Bridges Scenic Byway

John Wayne Birthplace Museum, Winterset

Location: South central

Distance: 82 miles

Scenery: Covered bridges, rolling countryside.

Must Do: Say hello to “The Duke” at the John Wayne Birthplace Museum in Winterset. The only museum in the world dedicated to the legendary actor features an outstanding collection of artifacts and memorabilia from his career.

Delaware Crossing Scenic Byway

Manchester Whitewater Park

Location: East/Northeast

Distance: 36 miles

Scenery: Barn quilts, rolling hills, bluffs, beautiful countryside.

Must Do: Kayak or tube the Manchester Whitewater Park in Manchester. Iowa’s largest whitewater park stretches 800 feet and includes six drop features. 

Driftless Area Scenic Byway

Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center, Lansing

Location: Northeast

Distance: 100 miles

Scenery: Winding hills, forests, farms, limestone outcroppings.

Must Do: Tour the Driftless Area Education & Visitor Center in Lansing. Displays in the building cover geology, archeology, river town industries, Native American cultures and more. The multiple observation decks provide views of the Mississippi River.

Glacial Trail Scenic Byway

Grain Bin Cabins at Dog Creek Park, Sutherland
Photo Courtesy O'Brien County Conservation Facebook

Location: Northwest

Distance: 36 miles

Scenery: Kames, kettles, glacial till, hanging valleys, catsteps carved out by glaciers.

Must Do: Stay overnight in a grain bin at Dog Creek Park in Sutherland. The converted grain bin sleeps 12 people and includes electricity, a microwave and refrigerator, cable TV, heating and air conditioning. 

Grant Wood Scenic Byway

Maquoketa Caves State Park

Location: East/East Central

Distance: 75 miles

Scenery: Rolling hills, limestone structures, rounded haystacks, cornstalks.

Must Do: Go spelunking at Maquoketa Caves State Park in Maquoketa. Some caves are several feet tall and easy to explore while others may require crawling to navigate them. Dress accordingly and carry a flashlight.

Historic Hills Scenic Byway

Milton Creamery, Milton
Photo Courtesy Milton Creamery Website

Location: Southeast

Distance: 105 miles

Scenery: Rolling hills, extensive forestland, Iowa’s first courthouse, horse and buggies.

Must Do: Purchase award-winning cheeses from Milton Creamery in Milton. The family-owned shop sources milk from local Amish dairy farmers. Their Prairie Breeze is a former Best of Class winner at the U.S. Cheese Championship.

Iowa Valley Scenic Byway

Rube's Steakhouse, Montour

Location: East Central

Distance: 77 miles

Scenery: Amana Colonies, Iowa’s only Native American settlement, Iowa River Valley.

Must Do: Grill a premium, hand-cut steak over an indoor, open-hearth grill at Rube’s Steakhouse in Montour. Every steak served supports local farmers within 150 miles of the restaurant.

Jefferson Highway Heritage Byway

Historic Park Inn, Mason City

Location: Border to Border, north to south

Distance: 460 miles

Scenery: Historic hotels and landmarks, river crossings.

Must Do: Stay at the Historic Park Inn Hotel in Mason City. The historic property, the last of six hotels Frank Lloyd Wright designed, is completely renovated and restored with brick and terra-cotta façade and art glass windows.

Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway

Lincoln Hotel, Lowden

Location: Border to Border, east to west

Distance: 460 miles

Scenery: Some of Iowa’s smallest towns and largest cities, historic landmarks, original bridges, brick paving.

Must Do: Stay at the Historic Lincoln Hotel B&B in Lowden. Built in 1915, the hotel originally hosted workers and travelers on the Pacific and Northwestern Railroads and the Old Lincoln Highway. 

River Bluffs Scenic Byway

Elkader Jail House Inn

Location: Northeast

Distance: 109 miles

Scenery: Hamlets, small towns, three different rivers.

Must Do: Spend a night in jail at the Elkader Jail House Inn in Elkader. The former 1870s jail and sheriff’s home boasts three suites with amenities like soaker tubs, scenic views and a full breakfast.

Western Skies Scenic Byway

Milk and Honey, Harlan

Location: West Central

Distance: 142 miles

Scenery: Long vistas, terraced hillsides, Danish villages, the edge of the Loess Hills.

Must Do: Enjoy breakfast or lunch at Milk & Honey in Harlan. The family-owned restaurant serves entrees created with locally grown or sourced ingredients. 

White Pole Road Scenic Byway

Drew's Chocolates, Dexter

Location: West Central

Distance: 26 miles

Scenery: Small towns, historic landmarks.

Must Do: Indulge a sweet tooth at Drew’s Chocolates in Dexter. Started in 1927, Drew’s still uses the original recipes and equipment to create delicious chocolates. It is the only candy shop in the country that daily fork dips each piece by hand.