Iowa Fall Foliage Train Rides (2024): A Complete Guide

Last revised: December 31, 2023

By: Adam Burns

Iowa is typically thought by many as home only to flat, open prairies and farmland.  However, the state is actually filled with rolling hills and small canyons.  Such is the case near Boone where the Boone & Scenic Valley operates part of the old Fort Dodge, Des Moines & Southern, which includes a magnificent high bridge spanning Bass Point Creek.

The heritage railroad continues to operate through the fall season, allowing guests to view the region's autumn splendor.  More information about the railroad may be found below.  Finally, if you are interested in viewing the fall colors elsewhere in the state these locations are top attractions.

The state's variety of trees, including Sugar Maple, Red Oak, Black Cherry, Hickory, and Dogwood come alive each September and October in vibrant shades of red, vermillion, yellow, and burnt umber.

Other Fall Foliage Attractions

  • Ledges State Park:  This beautiful state park offers some of the most stunning fall foliage views in Iowa. With its winding trails and towering sandstone cliffs, Ledges State Park is the perfect place to hike, picnic, and take in the beautiful autumn colors.
  • Pikes Peak State Park: Located in northeast Iowa, Pikes Peak State Park offers stunning views of the Mississippi River and the surrounding bluffs. The park's 11 miles of trails provide ample opportunities to view fall foliage, including the park's famous overlooks.
  • Maquoketa Caves State Park:  This beautiful state park is home to several caves and a beautiful array of fall foliage. While here, hike through the park's stunning forests and explore the caves, all while enjoying the beautiful colors of autumn.
  • Yellow River State Forest:  With over 8,000 acres of forest, Yellow River State Forest offers some of the most beautiful fall foliage views in the state.  During your visit you can hike, bike, or horseback ride through the forest's numerous trails, all while taking in the stunning fall colors.
  • Effigy Mounds National Monument: This beautiful park is home to over 200 mounds and a beautiful array of fall foliage. You can hike through the park's stunning forests and explore the ancient mounds, all while enjoying the beautiful colors of autumn.
  • Decorah, Iowa: This charming little town is known for its beautiful fall foliage. Visitors can stroll through the town's picturesque streets, take in the stunning views from the Decorah Fish Hatchery, or explore the nearby hiking trails.
  • Lacey-Keosauqua State Park:  Located in southeast Iowa, Lacey-Keosauqua State Park offers beautiful fall foliage views along the Des Moines River. Guests can hike through the park's stunning forests, fish in the river, or take a leisurely stroll along the park's picturesque trails.
  • Loess Hills Scenic Byway:  The Loess Hills Scenic Byway in western Iowa is a must-see destination for fall foliage enthusiasts. The scenic byway covers 220 miles and runs along the Missouri River. The rolling hills, prairies, and woodlands offer breathtaking views of the fall foliage. Check out one of the many lookout points to take in the stunning scenery.

Overview

Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad

(Boone)  The B&SV is one of only two places in Iowa that hosts public excursions.  The heritage railroad began in 1983 when the then-Boone Railroad Historical Society saved 11.3 miles of the old Fort Dodge, Des Moines & Southern Railway from the Chicago & North Western which was abandoning most of its trackage. 

The FDDM&S was a historic electrified interurban that ran from Des Moines to Webster City via Fort Dodge, a total of 104.83 miles. It also maintained branches to Lehigh (14.08 miles), Rockwell City (27.1 miles), and Ames (6.9 miles). 

While most interurbans closed by World War I, the FDDM&S found success as a freight line and survived until its 1968 purchased by the C&NW. 

Following this takeover the new owner abandoned most of its network. Each October the Boone & Scenic Valley hosts the Pumpkin Express Train for kids.  While this event is, of course, geared towards youngsters, it indirectly offers the chance to see the area's rich fall. 


Boone was situated at Milepost 42.4 along the FDDM&S, about halfway between Des Moines and Fort Dodge.  The B&SV tracks run as far north as Wolfe at Milepost 31.1. 

This is one of the most scenic lines you can ride in the Midwest; surrounded by rural farmland and patches of forest the train will cross the breathtaking 156-foot high bridge over Bass Point Creek just north of Boone. 

A bit further you will pass another photogenic location as rails cross Deer Creek and continue along this waterway before veering west near Fraser and terminating at the small hamlet of Wolfe.

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