The Glacial Hills Scenic Byway gets its name from the rolling hills and rock-strewn valleys carved by ancient glaciers. The receding ice left behind a beautiful landscape and highly fertile farmland. On July 4, 1804, the Lewis and Clark Expedition celebrated the first Independence Day of their journey near what is now Atchison. Fifty years later, the Kansas-Nebraska Act opened the Kansas Territory and settlers were drawn to the area's rich soil and nearby rivers.
The Glacial Hills region also includes one of the most famous Pony Express routes as well as Fort Leavenworth, the oldest Army post in continuous existence west of the Missouri River. Abraham Lincoln delivered one of his most famous campaign speeches in the area in 1859, and years later people would watch Atchison resident Amelia Earhart grow up to be a renowned aviator.