The gorgeous Loess Hills are one of Iowa's treasures, and it's easy to see why. The rolling, rugged hills stretch roughly from Council Bluffs north to Sioux City. Along the way, enjoy numerous recreational opportunities like hiking, bird-watching, hunting and cross-country skiing, not to mention the beautiful scenery.
The region's topography was formed between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago, when the glaciers receded and left finely ground silt, clay and sand that blew into vast mounds. A visit to Loess Hills State Park is the best way to get the lay of the land on an 11,000-acre area comprised of prairie and hardwood stands of burr oak, red oak and black walnut trees. Start at the headquarters-visitors center in Pisgah off US-183 and from there, stop in at any of the park's four units.
One of the most popular spots is the Preparation Canyon Unit just north of Pisgah, which includes Preparation Canyon State Park on the northeastern end and a famous scenic overlook on its northwestern border. The park was once a Mormon town called Preparation; in 1853, an elder led 50 to 60 families off the Mormon wagon trails heading to Utah to settle here. Today, the park offers picnicking, hiking, fishing, backpack campsites, and spectacular views of the forest, Missouri River bottomlands and Nebraska from a massive deck at the overlook.