Iowa Department of Transportation


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Scenic Driving Routes

Scenic byway sign

In Iowa when people talk fall color displays the northeast section of the state is often mentioned. This is a tremendous area to visit, but the beauty of fall color can be found throughout the entire state.

There's no reason to feel rushed while enjoying the autumn landscape, try one of Iowa's less-traveled scenic byways. Click on the link for details and maps of each of the state-designated and national byways located in Iowa.

Writer and Clayton County Mississippi River Parkway Commissioner, M.J. Smith, submitted this article, describing in wonderful detail the highlights of an auto tour in northeast Iowa.

Travel tips

  • Make lodging reservations before heading out.  It's a very busy time of the year in rural areas, especially in northeastern Iowa along the Mississippi.
  • Do your viewing midweek, if possible.  There will be slightly fewer people around so you will be able to slow down and relax a little more. 
  • Be adventurous and explore the state's back roads. You'll treasure the vistas you find by chance.
  • Plan some time out of your car. There's nothing like a gentle hike, a canoe ride, or a spin on a bicycle to experience the crisp, sunny days.
  • Take your time. Rather than trying to cover the most number of miles possible, stop and picnic near a brook or at one the scenic spots.  Roadside parks filled with picnic tables are scattered all over Iowa.
  • Try viewing the foliage early in the morning and then again later in the evening.  The difference in the shadows that are cast can really be amazing.
  • Don't worry yourself about hitting the roads at the time of "peak" foliage.  Peak is a matter of opinion, and it can vary greatly even over short distances due to microclimates found around lakes and mountains.
  • Call 511 or 800-288-1047 while planning your route to check for possible construction delays.
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Iowa Department of Transportation