MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Where to see fall colors in Iowa?

Where is a scenic drive/place in Iowa to see fall colors, including red leaves? - Nancy, Ames, Iowa

If you want red leaves, look for maples. There isn't a lot of hardwood forest in Iowa, but you'll find maples in parks and other cultivated areas. For example, the mile-long city park in Guttenberg, along the Mississippi River in northeast Iowa, is lined with sugar maples that turn a brilliant orange in fall.

You can see from this Nature Conservancy map that the uncultivated parts of Iowa mostly are tallgrass prairie, except for the prairie-forest border of the Driftless Area in northeast Iowa. That's the very hilly area that was missed by the last four glaciers.

Tallgrass can be very beautiful in fall, as are yellowing fields of corn and soybeans, whose tops create a wave of maroon. Many of the Nature Conservancy preserves include pockets of oak and hickory, as well as wildflowers.

Of course, any wooded Iowa state park will show good leaf color. Two of my favorites are Backbone near Strawberry Point and Palisades-Kepler near Cedar Rapids, which are lovely to visit year-round.

For a nice drive with lots to see and do, head to the far southeast corner of the state for the Scenic Drive Festival in the Villages of Van Buren County, the second weekend in October.

But probably the marquee place to see color in the fall is along the Mississippi River in northeast Iowa, between Lansing and Dubuque. In the bluffs above Marquette, Effigy Mounds National Monument is spectacular, and don't miss Pikes Peak State Park above McGregor.

Usually, you'll find peak fall color around the second weekend of October.

For more on that area, see One fall swoop.

Last updated on September 30, 2010