Turns out that Iowa isn’t as flat as you think. Although it’s technically the 18th flattest state according to most sources, it certainly carries a large number of rolling hills, which can occasionally get the local nickname like:
- Thrill Hills
- Tummy Ticklers
- Butterfly Hills
- or Rollercoaster Road
Here’s my list of the best rollercoaster roads in the state of Iowa. Granted, I haven’t traveled every road across the state, but these are the most common replies when you ask about the best rolling hills. The list is certainly not comprehensive. If you have other roads to add to the list, please go ahead and add them to the comments section below, I’d love to hear about other locations that I need to explore.
Rollercoaster Road in Allamakee County
Google map location: Rollercoaster Road north of Waterville, Iowa
Yes, the actual name of this road is Rollercoaster Road, it’s not a nickname, it’s the real deal. The photo above was taken at the intersection of Elon Drive and Rollercoaster Road, looking south down Rollercoaster Road. Yes, this photo was taken with a zoom lens – but it’s also important to note that the distance from the place where the photo was taken to where the last hilltop is 1.4 miles. This means there are 7 hilltops in just 1.4 miles of gravel.
Oakland Farms Road in Dubuque County
Google map location: Oakland Farms Road near Dubuque, Iowa
If you asked me to identify the *best* rollercoaster-ish road in the entire state – my pick is Oakland Farms Road. The problem is this: It’s beautiful and it’s dangerous. I’ve been warned by first responders and locals that this stretch of road is a problem, as a number of individuals have died trying to “catch air”. As for myself, it’s the view that I’m seeking, not the ride. The challenge on Oakland Farms Road is that there really isn’t a shoulder to the road, so it’s not really a location that you can pull over to easily take a photo.
260th Street, aka Rippey Dumps in Madison County
Google map location: 260th Street in Madison County, Iowa.
A long time ago, a Dr. Rippey lived on the road (which is now 260th Street). Dr. Rippey was driving his horse and buggy on this stretch of road and when the horse became upset, the buggy tipped over and dumped all of his belongings onto the road. Hence, the name Rippey Dumps. Of course, I have no way to validate that this story is true – but its a lovely tale that gives us some explanation as to how the road got its nickname.
There is some speculation that Rippey Dumps makes a brief scene in the movie Bridges of Madison County. I’ve watched the movie and there are certainly some hilly scenes in the movie, but it’s hard to confirm if it’s actually Rippey Dumps.
In recent years, several youths have died driving too fast on Rippey Dumps. In 2014, local Glen Anderson approached the county supervisors and volunteered to provide right of way to cut down the hills. At the time, it was estimated to be $365,000 to reduce the hilltops and I don’t believe they ever moved forward with the project.
Rollercoaster Road in Dubuque County
Google map location: Rollercoaster Road in Dubuque County
Although it does carry the actual name of Rollercoaster Road, it certainly isn’t the hilly road in the state. From what I heard from locals, the road was named appropriately when it was still a gravel road. When the state/county came through to pave the road, they made the decision to reduce the tops of the hills. The road still carries its original name, but the hilltops are not as grand.
Popcorn Road in Decatur County
Google Maps location for Popcorn Road in Decatur County
M Avenue, Denison, Crawford County
Google Maps location for M Avenue near Denison, Iowa.
7 Hills Road, Coggon, Linn County
28th Street in Sioux City, Woodbury County
If you’re from Woodbury County, you’ll likely remember “Rollercoaster Road” as the unofficial title of an extension off 28th Street that ran east out of Sioux City. It appears that the most dangerous part of the road was closed down back in the 1980s.
According to the Sioux City Journal back in 1981, the road had “claimed a half dozen lives in recent years.” Most deaths were due to “hill thrilling” or catching air off the hills which led to accidents and rolls taking the lives of the drivers and passengers. In Feb of 1981, the Woodbury County Sheriff and the board of supervisors had a special meeting to discuss the “pressing problem of closing rollercoaster road”.
From what I can tell, the section that was closed is east of 28th Street – here’s the Google maps location for the section of road that now appears to be closed.
Do you know of another Rollercoaster like road in Iowa?
Use the comments section below to let me know of other rollercoaster-ish roads that we should explore.