back to articles | August 31, 2023 | Moses Mwangi

Categories: Useful Automotive Information

11 Breathtaking Places to See the Fall Colors While on an Iowa Road Trip

Iowa has no shortage of beautiful wooded areas and stunning state parks, providing a perfect place to see fall colors. A road trip through Iowa in the fall season will take you through distinct and vibrant oranges, yellows, red, and gold colors of fall.


The changing fall colors in Iowa begin in mid-September in the Northeastern side of Iowa to late October. In central Iowa, you will see the fall colors from mid to late October. On the other hand, you will see the vibrant fall colors from the third week of October in South Iowa. Here are some breathtaking places to see these fall colors while on your Iowa road trip.

1. Pikes Peak State Park

The Pike Peaks State Park is a must-visit place for fall color viewing in Iowa. It is located on the northeast side of Iowa and is one of the most popular destinations because of its native woodlands, magnificent bluffs, and impressive views.

This state park is located on a 500-foot bluff that overlooks the Mississippi River and the confluence of Wisconsin. A fall view from the Pikes Peak State Park is simply breathtaking.

2. Wildcat Den State Park

The Wildcat Den State Park is one of Iowa's most photographed and unique parks. It boasts the preservation of historical structures, outstanding trails, and plenty of natural beauty. This state park has extensive wooded areas, making it ideal for leaf peeping.

There are also several rock formations and foot cliffs. The Wildcat Den State Park is perfect for photo taking, where you will get a chance to enjoy both nature and history. Therefore, if you are searching for the best place to enjoy a serene environment as you see the gorgeous fall colors, Wildcat Den State Park is one of the best destinations.

3. Yellow River State Forest

The Yellow River State Forest boasts over 8,000 acres of wooded beauty, facilitating an incredible place to see the fall colors pop. It is located in Northeast Iowa and promises a picturesque sight during fall.

The best thing about making a stop at the Yellow River State Forest is that there are plenty of outdoor activities that you can partake in during the fall season. Some of these activities include kayaking, canoeing, trout fishing, mountain biking, camping, and hiking. You can also see the beautiful red, orange, and yellow colors shine for miles in the comfort of your own car.

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4. Driftless Area Scenic Byway

On this route, you will encounter a rocky terrain filled with deep river valleys, steep hills, and lush forests. The Driftless Area Scenic Byway is simply gorgeous during fall. It stretches for about 100 miles and provides a dramatic geology with panoramic spots.

The lush forests in the Driftless Area Scenic Byway will give you a magical sight of orange, red, yellow, and gold. When road-tripping through the Driftless Area Scenic Byway, make sure to stop at the Effigy Mounds National Monument in Harpers Ferry and the Black Hawk Bridge in Lansing.

5. Dubuque

Dubuque is an incredibly popular place during fall. It is located alongside the Mississippi River and attracts tourists from all over the nation because of its scenic beauty, cozy charm, and unique culture that surrounds this area.

During the fall season, Dubuque bustles with several pumpkin patches and fall festivals. The best way to experience the fall colors in Dubuque is by taking a road trip to the outskirts of the city, where there is an abundance of fall foliage and colourful leaves. Dubuque is a must-visit place while in Iowa.

6. Jester Park

You will find Jester Park in Granger, outside of Des Moines. This park boasts 1,675 acres of land with panoramic views of the fall season. It also features several trails to ride through as you relish the magnificent fall colors.

You can also take horse-drawn wagons or horse rides that lead to Jester's pumpkin perches. Jester Park provides tourists with 168 camping and picnicking sites where you can make stop and participate in camping activities.

7. Loess Hills Scenic Byway

Loess Hills Scenic Byway is one of the longest scenic routes in Iowa. At this scenic byway, you will spot a mixture of native prairie grasses and hardwood forests that transforms into a magical sight during the fall season.

This byway stretches for over 200 miles and provides picturesque views of several geological features, including rolling hills, narrow ridges, wooded bluffs, and steep ridges. For the best fall color view, go to Honey Creek and visit the Hitchcock Nature Center's observation tower. You can also drive to Pisgah for breathtaking fall views at the Preparation Canyon State Park.

8. Ledges State Park

Ledges State Park boasts miles of hiking trails where you can make stops and see the beautiful fall colors. This region allows you to walk through areas filled with the rich colors of fall, ensuring one of the best experiences possible.

One of the best hikes for fall color viewing is Pea Creek. The best thing about Pea Creek is that it is ideal for hikers of all ages and provides hikers with an incredible chance to see the canyons that run through it. You will find the Ledges State Park in Boone.

9. Dolliver Memorial State Park

Dolliver Memorial State Park is located on the northwest side of Iowa. It boasts 594 acres of land and offers a spectacular landscape. Dolliver Memorial State Park is ideal for fall color viewing and features unique sandstone formations and limestone bluffs.

This state park overlooks the Des Moines River Valley and provides an ideal area for camping and hiking. The best highlights of the Dolliver Memorial State Park include the historic Native American Mounds, Copperas Beds, and Boneyard Hollow.

10. Lake Macbride State Park

If you are an outdoor enthusiast, Lake Macbride State Park is the place to be. This state park will present you with not only magnificent sights of the fall colors but also an incredible place for boating, camping, hiking, swimming, picnicking, and fishing.

Lake Macbride State Park boasts 2,180 acres, where you can enjoy your fall season and quiet serenity. There are also several trails where you can drive and enjoy miles of spectacular fall colors, wildlife, and other natural beauty. If you are an avid hiker, you can indulge in fall foliage by walking through Lake Macbride State Park.

11. Dunnings Spring Park

Dunnings Spring Park is a prime location for viewing the changing fall leaves in Iowa. It features several secluded spots ideal for picnicking, miles of trails, and a spectacular waterfall. This park is a great place to explore, relax, or sit back as you enjoy the fall season. Dunning Spring Park is also surrounded by Limestone cliffs, which offer an incredible place to stop and breathe clean air.

The bottom line

A road trip to Iowa during fall promises one of the best adventures. This region boasts several parks and byways ideal for fall color viewing. Furthermore, Iowa has no shortage of stunning places to see the changing colors of fall; these are only a few breathtaking places in this picturesque area.