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Off the Beaten Path: Iowa’s Scenic Byways

The Iowa Scenic Byway Passport provides the routes you need to experience Iowa in a whole new way!

It’s free to sign up for the passport and the more locations along the Byways you visit, the more discounts and prizes you’ll earn! Plus, each month, one Byway traveler will win a prize package valued at approximately $200. 

Travel Iowa partnered with explorers and invited them to use the Scenic Byway Passport. They proved the Scenic Byway Passport unlocked some must-see stops and countless beautiful views along the way. 

Covered Bridges Scenic Byway – Look About Lindsey

“We were so surprised with the amount of things to do in Madison County, Iowa” said Minnesota travel blogger Lindsey Ranzau

The Covered Bridges Scenic Byway offers a journey into iconic America. Lindsey shared highlights of her trip including the Roseman Bridge featured in “Bridges of Madison County” and the baby goats at Howells Greenhouse and Pumpkin Patch. Her passport unlocked a free tasting at the Madison County Winery and an entrance fee discount at the Iowa Quilt Museum

“This rural county is full of hidden gem little towns and so much history. And its proximity to Des Moines makes it a great destination for many Midwesterners!”

Glacial Trail Scenic Byway – Pickles Travel

“The Iowa Scenic Byways have a ton of socially distant, family-friendly activities for any budget,” said Greta after spending two full days exploring the Glacial Trail Scenic Byway

This 36-mile loop travels through the rural towns of Peterson and Linn Grove. Along the way, the family visited the Sanford Museum and Planetarium to see the interactive dinosaur exhibit, Prairie Heritage Center to learn about and watch local wildlife, and historic Fort Peterson. Between all the sightseeing, they found some picturesque picnic spots including the Cherokee Depot with train cars, Kirchner Park at Historic Peterson, and Wanata Park which provides water access for boating, canoeing and paddle boarding. 

Iowa Valley Scenic Byway – The Iowa Gallivant

“It’s amazing how much of Iowa we discovered while exploring the Iowa Valley Scenic Byway … We experienced Native American, German, Belgian and Czech heritages in just one single 70+ mile loop,” said JayJay Goodvin.

This Iowan noted that he’s visited Amana for more than 40 years but never found these special attractions until he used the Scenic Byway Passport. Some of his favorite memories of the trip included visiting the little Czech town of Clutier and stepping into the historic two-cell jail. 

JayJay noted that the Meskwaki Cultural Center and Museum is a must-see to learn about the Meskwaki nation. He used the passport to get a two-for-one ticket to the Belle Plaine Area Museum and learned about the Germanic history of Amana at the Amana Heritage Museum

And of course, what is traveling without some food? His favorite spots included the Lincoln Cafe and the Ronneburg Restaurant that serves up some of the best breakfast in town. 

Driftless Area Scenic Byway – Wisconsinista 

The 144-mile Driftless Area Scenic Byway zigzags through the distinctive landscape of Allamakee and Winneshiek counties in northeast Iowa. Among panoramic views of limestone bluffs, forested valleys and winding river bottoms, seasoned traveler Chelsey Knuth enjoyed visiting some local stops.  

One of the first stops was the Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center to learn more about the unique terrain and wildlife. She also felt the cool rush of nature at the Dunnings Spring Waterfall and enjoyed what Outside magazine deemed Iowa’s best hike at Harpers Ferry

Loess Hills National Scenic Byway – Oh My Omaha

Western Iowa holds one of the rarest ecological landforms in the world – The Loess Hills. 

As a southwestern Nebraska native, Kim thought she was pretty familiar with the Loess Hills, but once she used the Scenic Byway Passport, she discovered additional attractions worth pulling over for.  

Stopping in Sioux City, the family enjoyed the Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center which is full of hands-on exhibits about native plants and animals. Some of their favorite hikes from the trip included stops at Preparation Canyon State Park, Waubonsie State Park and Murray Hill Scenic Overlook

Published August 27, 2021

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