*Header photo taken by Lance Brisbois

What exactly are the Loess Hills? These steep and shard hills are made up of windblown soils that formed into dunes towards the end of the last ice age. Today these hills are more than 60 feet in height and cover about 640,00 acres of land in western Iowa.

The Loess Hills are home to some of Iowa’s largest remnant prairies and rare plant and animal species that cannot be found anywhere else in the world! There is so much to explore and experience in the hills. Whether you enjoy hiking, biking, camping, or taking a scenic drive, you’ll love being here!  

The Loess Hills National Scenic Byway is 220-miles of paved highway that spans seven counties along the Missouri River. The byway is rated among the best in the nation and you won’t want to miss out on this one-of-a-kind trip!

The byway goes through several Pottawattamie County towns including Council Bluffs, Crescent, and Honey Creek. On top of some of the most amazing views in the area, the byway provides numerous hiking, bicycling, and camping opportunities for people of all comfort levels.

 

Hiking:

Whether you are looking for an all-day hiking excursion or a short walk to stretch your legs, there is something along the byway to suit your needs!

Lewis and Clark Monument Park: Council Bluffs

Seasoned hikers will love the challenging trails at the Lewis and Clark Monument Park! There is a little over 4 miles worth of trails that switch up and down the bluff.

Even if you aren’t looking for a tough hike, you will still want to stop by the Lewis and Clark Monument for one of the best views of the Council Bluffs metro.

Fairmount Park: Council Bluffs

Fairmount Park is located in the center of Council Bluffs in the Loess Hills. This city park includes trails that go through wooded areas, prairies, and restored oak savannas that overlook Council Bluffs and the Omaha skyline. You can catch a stunning sunrise or sunset at Lookout Point at the edge of the park.

Vincent Bluff State Preserve: Council Bluffs

Vincent Bluff is the only true urban prairie preserve in the entire state of Iowa. You can find this gem nestled in between residential neighborhoods, but it is one of the greatest examples of an Iowa prairie. The trail isn’t very long but it allows you to get up on top of the Loess Hills to look over the entirety of Council Bluffs.

Hitchcock Nature Center: Honey Creek 

Hitchcock is one of the best examples of the Loess Hills in the state. The park consists of over 1,000 acres of pure and uninterrupted nature. There are 10 miles of trails that all connect with each other so visitors can be creative and enjoy as long or short of a hike as they wish. Due to the nature of the hills, the trails vary from easy to difficult. There is also a boardwalk at the park that is perfect for a shorter and easier stroll.

 

Biking:

There are numerous bicycle trails in Council Bluffs that connect to the well-known Wabash Trace Nature Trail. This converted railway right-of-way takes you 63 miles through the countryside. Even though it is in the Loess Hills, the route is majority flat and useable for bikers of all skill levels.

 

Camping:

Hitchcock Nature Center is a great place to camp regardless if you enjoy a more rugged camping experience or prefer to sleep in the AC. There are 18 spacious electric RV sites, multiple tent sites, and seven backcountry camping sites. There is a shower house and restrooms available for all campers. All campsites are done on a first-come, first-serve basis. Visit their website for more information.

Unleash your wanderlust and head to the Loess Hills! Take in the breathtaking beauty as you make your way from town to town. After exploring the Loess Hills National Scenic Byway, you will never say that Iowa is nothing but flat cornfields again!

 

A travel guide for the Loess Hills National Scenic Byway can be downloaded at visitloesshills.org. For additional information, visit wanderloess.com

This post was originally published on July 7, 2020 on the Unleash Council Bluffs blog.