Driftless Area Scenic Byway

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The most scenic state byway in Iowa, the 144-mile Driftless Area Scenic Byway zigzags its way across the distinctive landscape of Allamakee and Winneshiek Counties in northeastern Iowa.

As the last glaciers passed over Iowa, this corner of the state remained untouched, resulting in a striking region of gashed and furrowed terrain known as the “Driftless Area.” The panoramic vistas along the byway include views of the majestic limestone bluffs, forested valleys and winding river bottoms carved by the Mississippi, Yellow and Upper Iowa Rivers. As might be expected, these natural wonders also provide many outdoor recreation opportunities. You can hike miles of state forest trails, fish for trout in cold water streams, explore the rivers by boat or simply relax and enjoy the peaceful natural scenery.

Fall is an especially scenic time on the byway as the hardwood timbers blaze with color. While driving this rollercoaster road, you will discover historic gems nestled within the rugged land. Human settlement of the area began thousands of years ago. Just outside of Harpers Ferry, Effigy Mounds National Monument features a collection of animal-shaped mounds built by prehistoric Native Americans. The landscape is also dotted with evidence of all those who have settled in the area since that time.

You will find historic stone churches, pioneer cemeteries and unique bridges, as well as museums interpreting the heritage of the area, including the Vesterheim National Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah. The towns along the byway offer opportunities to shop, enjoy the hospitality of a bed and breakfast, relive history or dine on local cuisine, all while experiencing the exquisite scenery of the Driftless Area Scenic Byway.

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LENGTH: 100 miles

SURFACE: Paved, 14 miles of Gravel

See Iowa from a Whole New Perspective

Whether you're seeking rest and relaxation, outdoor exploration or family adventures, the opportunities are endless.