It’s no secret that I love road trips. And now thanks to Travel Iowa’s Iowa Scenic Byway Passport it’s easier than ever to plan an adventure along the state’s backroads.
Did you know that Iowa has 11 state-designated and three nationally-designated scenic byways? That’s hundreds of miles of small towns, diverse landscapes, local history, delicious restaurants and so much more to explore.
Keep reading to learn how you can download your own Iowa Scenic Byway Passport and discover what you can expect along a few of the state’s scenic byways to get your next adventure started.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Travel Iowa. However, all opinions are my own.
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How to Use the Iowa Scenic Byway Passport
The Iowa Scenic Byway Passport is free to sign up for and easy to use.
Getting started is quick and easy via the Iowa Scenic Byway Passport website. Once you’ve submitted your information, you’ll be texted and emailed a link to download the pass to your mobile device.
After signing up, you’ll be able to check in at stops along each byway and may even be eligible for deals and discounts at attractions included on the digital passport. Just open your pass when you arrive and click “Check In” to record your visit. Plus, each check-in to a location on the passport earns you one entry into the program’s monthly sweepstakes drawings.
Explore Iowa’s Scenic Byways
Covered Bridges Scenic Byway
A drive along the Covered Bridges Scenic Byway is beautiful no matter the season. Take in the iconic Bridges of Madison County while exploring the small town charm of Winterset and its neighboring communities. With 82 miles of scenic countryside to explore, this byway is an especially pretty drive in the fall when the leaves begin to change.
There’s lots to see along the Covered Bridges Scenic Byway, but some of my favorite stops include:
- Winterset City Park: Not only is Winterset City Park a great place to stretch your legs (and see another covered bridge). But it also has a hedge maze, bocce ball courts and the Clark Tower. This 25-foot-tall limestone tower is well worth the trek and has one of the best views you’ll find of the Middle River valley.
- Iowa Quilt Museum: Even if you aren’t a quilter, this Winterset museum is worth a visit. The museum changes exhibits on a regular basis so there’s always a new type of textile art to admire. Every time I visit I’m constantly surprised by the incredible and intricate pieces here.
- Roseman Covered Bridge: While a visit to any of the Bridges of Madison County is a treat, the Roseman Covered Bridge is possibly the most iconic. This picturesque bridge played a major role in both the book and movie adaptation of The Bridges of Madison County. So stop by and pose for a photo in the same spot as Meryl Streep!
Find More Secret Iowa Places
Want to explore even more offbeat places around Iowa? Even at some of the state’s most well-known places, you’ll discover hidden histories and unique stories that are not often shared. Order your copy of the book, Secret Iowa: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure today!
Glacial Trail Scenic Byway
The Glacial Trail Scenic Byway may be one of the state’s more remote thoroughfares. But it’s definitely not short on unique things to see. This byway is made up of a 36-mile loop that traverses Buena Vista, Cherokee, Clay and O’Brien Counties.
Along the Glacial Trail Scenic Byway, you’ll find some amazing highlights including:
- Prairie Heritage Center: Located in Peterson, this well-equipped nature center is an amazing place to learn about the area’s natural history. Plus, there’s miles of restored prairie perfect for hiking and a herd of bison that are a lot of fun to watch as they roam.
- Dog Creek Grain Bin Cabins: Have you ever wanted to spend the night in a grain bin? Now with these fully modernized cabins at Dog Creek Park in Sutherland you can!
- InnSpiration Vines & Wines: Sample Iowa wine made from grapes grown locally in northwest Iowa. This scenic spot is the perfect place to relax, enjoy a glass of wine and take in the scenic view.
White Pole Road Scenic Byway
When you drive the White Pole Road Scenic Byway you’re traveling a piece of history. This route was Iowa’s first certified route under the Iowa State Highway Commission, and the 26-mile scenic byway is the perfect way to get off the interstate and experience some of Iowa’s small towns.
Originally, the White Pole Road opened in 1910 and followed the Pacific Railroad from Des Moines to Council Bluffs. Today, there’s still plenty to see even though the route is a bit shorter. Some highlights of your drive along the White Pole Road will include:
- Slayton Rock: If you’re in need of an offbeat photo op, consider braking for the Slayton Rock. At a whopping 500,000 pounds and more than 16 feet tall, this big boulder has become a sight to see because of its size alone.
- Jesse James Historic Train Robbery Site: Did you know that the first robbery of a moving train took place in Iowa? Visit the spot that commemorates the day that the infamous Jesse James Gang pulled off a railway heist on July 21, 1873.
- White Rose Friendly Gas Station Man: Vintage neon signs are some of my favorite roadside finds to stumble upon. And the Friendly Gas Station Man in Menlo is no exception. Snap a photo with this local landmark as you pass through town!
Let's Be Social
Want even more offbeat adventures, roadside attractions and world's largest things? Follow Olio in Iowa on your favorite social media platforms, and tag #OlioOnTheRoad when you have quirky adventures of your own.
Share Your Thoughts
I would love to hear from you! Have you driven any of Iowa’s scenic byways? Which route is your favorite?