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Best Motorcycle Roads and Destinations in Iowa, United States

Best Motorcycle Roads and Destinations in Iowa, United States

1. Introduction

If you plan to head to Iowa or “the Hawkeye State,” you have probably been drawn to the many routes and loops that cut through this state’s gentle rolling hills, flat plains, and rich farmlands. Besides the sprawling green and golden landscape, you will also catch sight of the reflective surfaces of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. As you explore this region, you may come across plenty of roadside attractions, national landmarks, and historical sites.

This article will provide a brief summary of Iowa’s prominent motorcycle roads and destinations along with supplementary information on this state’s motorcycle laws and possible luggage options.

2. Roads and Destinations in Iowa

2.1 Northern Iowa River Run

Distance: 60 miles
Time: 1 hour 23 minutes
Start: Prairie du Chien, WI
End: Dubuque, IA

Traveling southward alongside the Mississippi River, the road will have plenty of twists and turns as you travel over the bluffs that make up the river valley. Outside of Marquette, you will stumble upon the Effigy Mounds National Monument. As you continue on your way, you may get to know the local wildlife at the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge Visitor Center.

If you stop in McGregor, you can learn about the history of the first Ringling Brothers Circus. You can also browse the shops along Main Street for souvenirs. If you climb up to Pikes Peak State Park, you should have a great view of all the rivers that run through Mississippi and Wisconsin in the distance. If you head to North Buena Vista, you should be able to admire the buildings that are built into the limestone bluffs.

Much of your surroundings will be old river towns in close proximity to the Mississippi River with barges and boats sailing along. There is also no shortage of quaint dairies and farms resting on the right-hand side.

2.2 The Hub of the Hills

Distance: 63 miles
Time: 1 hour 17 minutes
Start: Missouri Valley
End: Missouri Valley

As you go around this loop, you will pass through the Missouri Valley and the Loess Hills State Forest. While in close proximity to Missouri Valley, you can admire the natural scenery of the Desoto National Wildlife Refuge. Though you will only get a preview of the Loess Hills, you will get to see why this 220-mile route got its stellar reputation of scenic byways and loops.

If you head outside of Logan, you may get to see the Museum of Religious Arts which houses life-size wax figures hailing from all over the world. Proceed onward to Pisgah and you will find a place to eat and drink known as Dave’s Old Home Café. As you head out, you may want to stop by the Loess Hills State Forest Visitor Center to learn more about the wildlife, natural sites, etc. in the Loess Hills.

2.3 White Post Highway Tour

Distance: 54 miles
Time: 1 hour 12 minutes
Start: Adair
End: Clive

A bit west of Adair, you will ride beside the site of the first train robbery committed by the legendary outlaw Jesse James. While you are still in town, you could ride up to the Smiley Face Water Tower. As you eastward towards Menlo, the first marker you will come across will be the Gas Station Man Sign. If you are lucky enough, it will greet you by waving.

As you arrive in Stuart, you will be able to visit the Bonnie and Clyde Bank Robbery Site where the famous outlaws attempted their first bank heist. In Redfield, you can divert off the road to hike through the Raccoon River Valley Trail. Upon making it to Adel, you can learn more about the town and local area by visiting the Adel Historical Museum.

2.4 Iowa’s Old Lincoln Highway

Distance: 35 miles
Time: 50 minutes
Start: Council Bluffs
End: Magnolia

When you start at Council Bluffs, you can visit the Union Pacific Railroad Museum if you have a love for locomotives. You can also visit the Lewis and Clark Monument and Scenic Overlook if you wish to get a view of the Missouri River and the Loess Hills in the distance.

Just west of Crescent, you can see Fort Atkinson and the Fort Atkinson State Historical Park in the distance. If you are lucky enough, you may catch sight of re-enactors firing blanks with cannons at Fort Atkinson. You will find exhibits showing uniforms and rifles used during the period.

2.5 Northeast Iowa Loop

Distance: 54 miles
Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Start: Waukon
End: Waukon

If you wish to sample the local drinks in Waukon, a suggestion would be to head to the Empty Nest Winery. If not, you can immediately head out towards Lansing. As you get closer to the town, you may want to stop by Mount Hosmer Park. You will know you are getting closer if you spot Blackhawk Bridge which has an eerie, isolated look when it is lit up at night.

As you loop around, you will pass alongside the Waterloo Creek Wildlife Management Area, the Fish Farms Mounds Wildlife Area, and the Lansing Wildlife Management Area. Much of the scenery you will encounter on this route will be large rolling hills and gorgeous vistas in pristine valleys.

2.6 Poopy’s Triangle

Distance: 162 miles
Time: 3 hours 18 minutes
Start: Anamosa
End: Anamosa

This route cuts through both Iowa and Illinois. Named after Poopy’s Pub and Grub or “Illinois’s Biggest Biker Destination,” you start out in Anamosa where you can find the National Motorcycle Museum. If you see a curious looking tree with tons of rings along its branches, you have probably stumbled upon the Hula Hoop Tree.

Continuing on your way, you will head out into the middle of the Mississippi River where you will find Iowa’s only island city, Sabula. While the city is relatively small, there is plenty to explore on the Island City Harbor.

After Sabula, you will enter Illinois and begin looping back around. Upon arriving back to Iowa, you will enter Dubuque. In Dubuque, you can take your ride to the Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens or the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium.

2.7 Indianola to Lake Red Rock

Distance: 33 miles
Time: 43 minutes
Start: Indianola
End: Lake Red Rock

While you are close to Indianola, you can admire the natural beauty of Lake Ahquabi State Park and Buxton Park Arboretum. If you have a love for hot air balloons, you may enjoy checking out the National Balloon Museum or the U.S. Ballooning Hall of Fame.

The way to Knoxville is pretty straightforward with your surroundings being full of rolling hills, sharp curves in the road, and quaint countryside scenic views. Upon reaching the town, you could head to the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum to check out older types of automobiles.

If you head up north, you will reach the lakefront of the largest body of water in Iowa: Lake Red Rock. While you are there, you can engage in fishing, boating, and many other aquatic activities.

2.8 Old Highway 141

Distance: 36 miles
Time: 44 minutes
Start: Ute
End: Sloan

Heading out of Ute, you will head straight north while following alongside the Soldier River Cutoff. When you reach the town of Mapleton, you should be able to hang out with other motorcyclists and get a good drink at the Hawkeye Bar.

After you get to Smithland, you should be able to spy on the Oak Ridge Conservation Area. As you continue west along the highway, you will make out the Owego Wetland on your right-hand side.

Because of how short the route is and that it travels through a quieter region of Iowa, your surroundings will mainly be farmland full of fields of corn and beans.

2.9 Des Moines To Council Bluffs Via Highway IA-92

Distance: 146 miles
Time: 3 hours
Start: Des Moines
End: Council Bluffs

If it is the right season, you may be able to check out the rides, stands, and festivities at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. If you have an eye for art, you can check out the Pappajohn Sculpture Park for abstract statues or the Des Moines Art Center for painting and similar exhibits.

If you get close to Greenfield, you can stop by the Iowa Aviation Museum & Hall of Fame to check out old airplanes. If you would like to spend time off of your motorcycle, try knocking down some pins at the Greenfield Bowl. There is no shortage of souvenirs you can get at the Eda & Eva’s and J’s Variety.

2.10 Donnellson To Keosauqua Via Routes 1 & 2

Distance: 29 miles
Time: 38 minutes
Start: Donnellson
End: Keosauqua

When you start out in Donnellson, you can visit plenty of places that produce natural produce such as the Harvestville Farm and Appleberry Orchard. If you decide to take a break in Bonaparte, you can get tasty meals at the restaurant known as the Bonaparte Retreat.

Upon reaching Keosauqua, you can enjoy the natural scenery at the Lake Sugema Fish & Wildlife Recreation Area. If you want to see glass blowing demonstrations, you can spend time at the Bloom and Bark Glass Blowing Studio & Natural Farm.

As you circle around the loop, you will pass by or through Shimek State Forest, White Timber Area, and Lacey Keosauqua State Park. You will also cross over the Des Moines River. Most of your surroundings will include rolling hills, rich farmland, and a consistently curvy road.

2.11 Dragoon Trail Runner

Distance: 81 miles
Time: 1 hour 57 minutes
Start: Boone
End: Boone

Named after the 1st U.S. Dragoons, the infantry unit that marched into the Des Moines River Valley shortly after the Black Hawk purchase of 1832, most of your surroundings going around this loop is full of cornfields, limestone cliffs, and twisting roads.

As you start in Boone, the landmark you will first notice is the Kate Shelley High Bridge. Besides motorcycles frequenting this town, you will also notice the Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad. Even if you do not plan to ride it, you cannot help but be impressed by the speeds it can reach.

As you circle around the loop, you will pass by or through Boone Forks Wildlife Management Area, Holiday Creek Area Park, Dolliver Memorial State Park, Skillet Creek Indian Mounds Wildlife Management Area, or Holst State Forest.

2.12 The Looking-Glass Prairie Loop

Distance: 46 miles
Time: 1 hour 3 minutes
Start: Decorah
End: Decorah

This route passes through both Iowa and Minnesota. Beginning in Decorah, you can take a look at the local wildlife living in the Upper Iowa River by stopping by the Decorah Fish Hatchery. If you wish to take in the natural scenery, you can visit Dunnings Spring Park and the Malanaphy Springs just outside of the town.

You only linger a little bit in Minnesota and pass through the town of Mabel. There are no notable attractions in Mabel so you can just take the opportunity to fill up on gas if need be.

When you come back to Iowa, you will stop in Burr Oaks before finally coming back to Decorah. The only notable site is the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum which honors the life of the settler, shows relics of the town, and gives a preview of life during this period of settlement.

3. Motorcycle Laws in Iowa

3.1 Iowa Motorcycle Helmet Laws

Iowa is part of a minority of regions in the United States that does not possess motorcycle helmet laws. As such, there is no minimum age restriction nor is it mandatory for motorcyclists to wear protective headgear while operating their vehicles. However, as motorcycle fatalities in Iowa have gradually risen in recent years, it is best to have a motorcycle helmet on to prevent severe or fatal head or neck injuries.

An approved motorcycle helmet must have been made by the Snell Memorial Foundation and satisfies the safety standards set by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The two types of motorcycle helmets that follow these criteria are three-quarter and full-face helmets.

  • Has a Department of Transportation (DOT) sticker
  • Can be fitted around your head snugly
  • No visible signs of damage
  • Has a face shield with no scratches (Full-face helmet only)
  • Requires separate eye protection with no scratches (Three-quarter helmet only)
  • Has a hard and durable outer shell that is shatter-resistant
  • Gives you a clear, peripheral view
  • Can be fastened with a neck- or chin-strap
  • Allows airflow without fogging up
  • Can allow you to wear sunglasses or goggles underneath

3.2 Iowa Motorcycle Passenger Laws

In Iowa, your motorcycle must have equipment specifically designed to seat an additional person if you wish to transport a passenger. At minimum, your motorcycle must have a designated passenger seat and adjustable footrests. The passenger seat can either be positioned at the back of a large enough driver’s seat, towards the rear as a separate saddle, or fixed to the side as a sidecar.

Much like with the motorcycle helmet laws, Iowa lacks a minimum age requirement for motorcycle passengers. However, there are measures you must take to ensure the safety of the passenger. Though your passenger is not required to wear a motorcycle helmet either, you should urge him/her to have it on at all times. Make sure that your passenger is capable of understanding your directions, following your movements, and can reach the adjustable footrests.

3.3 Iowa Motorcycle Safety Features

While carefully examining and providing maintenance for your motorcycle may be a boring task, it is integral to your responsibility as a motorcyclist. Due to a combination of debris accumulating, the passage of time, and machinery breaking down, the primary components that allow your motorcycle to function may start to fail. This could be bad if your motorcycle experiences mechanical failure while moving at high speed on Iowa’s roads. In the interest of preventing this, you should take some time to fix up any damage to your motorcycle by either doing the repairs yourself or taking it to a repair shop to be seen by professional mechanics.

In Iowa, a motorcycle must be outfitted with the following equipment so that you are visible to other drivers and can react quickly to danger:

  • Horn
  • Wheels
  • Tires
  • Handlebars
  • Front and rear brakes
  • Controls
  • Headlight
  • Tail light
  • Stop lamp
  • Reflector(s)
  • Exhaust system
  • Muffler
  • Rearview mirrors
  • Turn signals

3.4 Iowa Lane Splitting Laws

It is illegal for motorcyclists to engage in lane splitting while in Iowa. This means motorcyclists are forbidden from attempting any form of lane splitting such as lane filtering or lane sharing.

You cannot ride on top of the dividing lines or in between traffic even if other vehicles are slowed or stopped. You are also not allowed to overtake another vehicle ahead of you in the same lane unless it is another motorcycle. Finally, you cannot ride side-by-side with another vehicle if you are both driving in the same lane.

4. Motorcycle Luggage for Iowa Motorcycle Tour

Regardless of whether the Iowa motorcycle road you travel on crosses dozens or hundreds of miles, it is always best to be prepared for anything. If you come across a beautiful spot in the wilderness, you may want to switch from riding gear to hiking attire. If your motorcycle starts to break down, you may have to take out repair tools while pulled over on the side of the road. If you are in an isolated region with no restaurants in sight, you may have to sustain yourself with provisions. Having a reliable means to carry and store the essentials you will need for an Iowa motorcycle trip could save you a lot of trouble.

Listed below are examples of motorcycle luggage that can be easily installed, have enough storage space, and are made of weather-resistant materials. As they function more or less the same, you should pick the version with the size, color, and design that suits your tastes:

5. Parting Words

While you may be eager to get on your way to Iowa, there are plenty of factors you should keep in mind before and during your extended motorcycle tour.

Firstly, you should meticulously plan out the direction of your route and decide which destinations you want to visit. Knowing ahead of time where you would like to go will ensure you use your time efficiently. You may want to see attractions that are familiar to you or try to catch a glimpse of something entirely new.

Secondly, double-check, even triple-check, the list of items that you plan to take with you on your journey. Make sure to think about the scenarios you can get into during your Iowa motorcycle trip. It may help you consider which necessities you should have with you just in case. Just make sure that they can all fit with the space provided and that the motorcycle luggage can be tied down without issue.

Lastly, become familiar with Iowa’s motorcycle laws to help ensure the safety of yourself and other drivers you may encounter. Depending on which state you call home, the rules of the roads for motorcyclists may differ greatly in Iowa. Plus, the local law enforcement will not accept being an out-of-state tourist as an excuse for failing to ride your motorcycle responsibly.

Just remember to keep all of these in mind and your motorcycle trip through Iowa should be a memorable riding experience.

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