12 Midwest Backroad Scenic Drives
Villages of Van Buren County, Iowa
The drive: On Iowa's 85-mile Historic Hills Scenic Byway (80 miles south of Iowa City), drivers slow down for little things: A misty river at sunrise. A potter's fingers on clay. The deliberate style of a local band playing "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain." To drive the entire byway, start on road T61 in Blakesburg and wander south and east over county and state highways to reach Donnellson.
Worth a stop: Hikers enjoy the quiet woods of Lacey-Keosauqua State Park (left) along route J40 and Shimek State Forest, which is bisected by Highway 2. Some venture to Fort Madison's restaurants in nearby Lee County. During the Scenic Drive Festival in the fall, towns like Keosauqua, Bentonsport, and Bonaparte (all along Route J40) swell comfortably with crafters and fur-trade reenactors. But even during high season, this pretty corner of Iowa works up all the bustle of a church picnic.
For information: Contact the Villages of Van Buren County. (800) 868-7822; villagesofvanburen.com