Loess Hills Scenic Byway
Length: 220.0 mi / 354.1 km
Time to Allow: Plan five hours to drive or seven or more hours to enjoy the byway.
The Loess Hills of western Iowa are truly an American treasure. The outstanding prairie and forest-covered bluffs draw people from around the world. With an impressive network of state parks, private preserves, and national landmarks, travelers to the byway have a myriad of opportunities to see and explore this natural wonder.
The unique land formation of windblown silt called “loess” extends nearly 200 miles in a narrow band adjacent to the Missouri River Valley. Although deposits of loess are found across the world, nowhere but China are those deposits higher than they are in Iowa. The Loess Hills encompasses over 640,000 acres of land with over 10,000 acres designated as a “Loess Hills National Natural Landmark.”
See many archeological sites where pottery, tools, and other artifacts have been left behind by the ancient Mill Creek and Glenwood cultures, who inhabited the area between 1000-1300 AD. In 2008, the State Archaeologist recorded over 1,500 inventoried archaeological sites in the Loess Hills. The Glenwood culture near the southern end of the Loess Hills has many 800-year-old earthlodges, and to the north is a small cluster of Mill Creek culture sites around Sioux City.
Autumn days may be cooling off, but bird watching is heating up along the Loess Hills Scenic Byway. Bring your guidebooks and your gear, and aim your binoculars skyward to spot hawks, eagles, and other birds of prey at the Hitchcock Nature Center during the annual migration between September and December.
Come explore the Loess Hills Scenic Byway’s natural wonders that have been in the making for thousands of years. Not only is there an enormous hoard of fossils, but glaciers have also passed through the area, creating silt deposit hills that are unique to the world, save for the Yellow Hills in China.
to Enjoy the Ride...
1-Day Trip: Loess Hills Prairie Tour
Spend the day in enchanting northwestern Iowa where the Loess Hills Prairie Tour takes you on a journey through several beautiful grassland...