The Driftless Area Scenic Byway, tucked into the Northeast corner of Iowa, provides an opportunity to escape the fast-paced world. You’ll find treasures such as bridges, historic churches, breathtaking landscapes, yummy ice cream, cheese curds and much more along the 100-mile route. The Byway provides a great day (or two) of adventure, good eats, great scenery, and a perfect way to just slow down.
Take a Drive
Start on the southern end of the Byway in Postville. The community includes small-town celebrations like craft shows and the Lions brat feed, a public swimming pool, and a bowling alley. Stop at Club 51 when you’re hungry, then, if you’re looking to get more in touch with nature, head to Stonebrook Park.
The Yellow River State Forest lies between Postville and Harpers Ferry. You can camp for just $9 per night, as well as enjoy hiking trails and scenic lookout spots. Wind your way up the bluffs, enjoying the canopy of trees which boast bright yellow colors in the fall. Make sure to get out of the car and enjoy the view.
A stop in Harpers Ferry allows you to get up close and personal with the Mississippi River. It is a great spot for the fishing enthusiasts in your family. Watch barges move through Lock & Dam No. 9, go fishing at the Harpers Slough Fishing Access and get a bite to eat at the Spillway Supper Club.
Apples, Wine & Ice Cream
On the way to Waukon, grab some apples from Peake Orchard or taste some Iowa wines at Empty Nest Winery. Waukon’s main street area boasts a variety of shops. Don’t miss stopping at WW Homestead Dairy, located just a few doors down, for some fresh homemade ice cream.
The next stop along the Byway is Lansing, where you’ll find a quaint downtown area, a bakery, Horsfall's Lansing Variety Store and more (including a delicious French Dip at Milty’s). Mount Hosmer City Park provides a great view of the river. Plan a stop at the Driftless Area Education & Visitors Center where you can learn the history of the area as well as the functions of the river. It’s a must-see!
The North End
As you head north to New Albin, you’ll travel along the Great River Road which runs parallel with the Mississippi River. Enjoy the views of the bluffs on one side and the river on the other. A stop at the City Meat Market is a must. The smoked meat scent will draw you in, but once there you’ll find a little bit of everything including Watkins products, cheese curds, beef jerky and old-fashioned candy. It’s a fun and unique stop that won’t disappoint.
As you head west out of New Albin towards Dorchester, you’ll wind through farms and bluffs. The fall color is sure to impress, but don’t miss the Mount Hope Church tucked into the side of a hill and almost hidden. This quaint, historic church is a neat stop along the way. (Note: the church is not open for tours, but the location is unique nonetheless and worth a stop.)
Shortly after the church, you’ll realize you’ve reached the end of the Byway. From that point, I recommend circling back to whichever town struck your fancy. (I would be going back for more cheese curds and ice cream.)
While most of the Byway is paved county blacktops and highways, there are portions that have gravel loops. Take the chance and cruise down the gravel roads as you never know what you might see. The small towns, friendly people, colorful leaves and beautiful nature are the heart of the Byway. Take a drive and enjoy.
Click here for maps and more information about the Driftless Area Scenic Byway to plan your trip!
Story and photos by Katy Flint