Iowa Scenic Drives: Loess Hills Scenic Byway

Follow this map of Loess Hills Scenic Byway.
Follow this map of Loess Hills Scenic Byway.

The Lewis and Clark Trail, Oregon Trail, Mormon Trail, and California Trail all traverse the Loess Hills Scenic Byway in Iowa. Some of the natural features on the byway are only found here and one other place on the planet, on the opposite side of the world in China.

The Loess Hills Scenic Byway weaves through a landform of windblown silt deposits along the eastern edge of the Missouri River Valley. This unique American treasure possesses natural features that are found in only two places in the world: western Iowa and the Yellow River Valley of China. Travelers are intrigued by the extraordinary landscape of prairies and forest-covered bluffs.

The loess (pronounced LUSS) soil deposits were initially left by glacial melt waters on the floodplain of the Missouri River. These deposits were then blown upward by strong winds. The steep, sharply ridged topography of this area was formed over thousands of years by the deposition and erosion of the windblown silt. The rugged landscape and strong local contrasts in weather and soil conditions provide refuge for a number of rare plants and animals.

As you drive the western edge of Iowa, you pass through dozens of prairie towns. Larger cities such as Council Bluffs and Sioux City offer venues of recreation, culture, and history.

You will want to enjoy the many nature areas along the way as well. The Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center, the Hitchcock Nature Area, and the Loess Hills State Forest are just a few of the many places on the byway that are dedicated to preserving and restoring the native prairies of western Iowa.

Find more useful information related to the Loess Hills Scenic Byway:

  • Scenic Drives: Are you interested in scenic drives beyond Iowa? Here are more than 100 throughout the United States.
  • Iowa Scenic Drives: The Loess Hill Scenic Byway is one of many scenic drives in Iowa. Check out all the Iowa Scenic Drives.
  • Council Bluffs, Sioux City: Learn about these cities on the Loess Hill Scenic Byway.
  • How to Drive Economically: Fuel economy is a major concern when you're on a driving trip. Learn how to get better gas mileage.