Whether you’re on the hunt for hamburgers, a sweet wine or perhaps a water trail, there’s a trail in Iowa for it. There’s even something for someone on the hunt for something a little “strange.” You don’t have to drive all over Iowa to find these trails, though. In 2019, Pottawattamie County (the nearest Iowa county to Omaha) was named the official Trail Capital of Iowa, so I decided to investigate what that means.
Disclosure: I was invited on a media tour to visit some of the stops included in various tours in Pottawattamie County. Other than complimentary lunch and a cookie, I was not compensated for this post. (I did gain about a pound learning about the trails, though).
Loess Hills National Scenic Byway
If you’re not completely sure what the Loess Hills, they’re pretty unique to the region. The hills are formed by a fine windblown soil at the end of the last Ice Age. You’ll only find loess like this in two places: Along a stretch of 200 miles from Sioux City, Iowa to St. Joseph, Mo., and China!
Driving through the scenic hills can be pretty amazing, if you time the seasons right. I particularly like stopping to hike through some of the parks in the Loess Hills.
Wabash Trace Nature Trail
The Wabash Trace Nature Trail is a great crushed limestone trail made out of an old railroad. So it’s flat. One of its end points is in Council Bluffs (the other is down south in Blanchard). It’s 63 miles long, and while I can only account for about 20 miles of it, it’s a nice trail for families to bike (or walk or snowshoe or whatever).
It’s also home to the Taco Ride, a super fun ride on Thursday nights. Since a lot of people imbibe in some booze at some point during the Taco Ride, take caution on the route, especially at night. It’s not a lit trail at night.
Also, it’s good to note that there is a $1 daily fee or a $12 annual pass to ride the trail. Please pay it since it helps pay for the upkeep of the trail.
What In The World?: On the Trail For Stranger Things
The name of this trail just really gets my attention. I’ve actually done one thing on the list already – goat yoga. You can find it at Honey Creek Creamery and Does and Dairy. It’s a seasonal thing because, well, baby goats are a spring thing. When I did a session at Honey Creek Creamery, we spent more time cuddling the kids and taking selfies, but still, I highly recommend it!
Some of the other stops include The Black Angel and Squirrel Cage Jail in Council Bluffs.
Wine Your Way Through The Hills Trail
Pre-kids, I had a goal of visiting every winery in southwest Iowa. I’d sample some wines, maybe buy a bottle, and then just admire the views. If you feel like “wine-ing” your way through this trail, you’ll visit wineries like Loess Hills Vineyard & Winery in Crescent, Breezy Hills Vineyard & Winery in Minden and Prairie Crossing Vineyard & Winery in Treynor.
Related post: Wineries near Council Bluffs
Other stops are related to wine (or sometimes a stretch) but aren’t wineries. They include places to get meats and cheeses, as well as galleries like The Painted Camel in Macedonia, where you might be able to find unique serving glasses or trays.
More trails in Iowa
I only went into detail about a few of the trails in Pottawattamie County. Additional trails that might interest you include:
– B&B Trail: Watta Way to Enjoy Burgers and Beer – This trail sounds particularly good to me. You can bet Iowa is going to have good hamburgers, but guess what? The beer is good too!
– California Trail – Trace part of the California Trail, an emigrant trail that crossed the state.
– Freedom, Faith and Fellowship – Historic Country Churches Trail – It’s exactly what it sounds like. Learn about the faith of the county’s farming forefathers.
– Lewis & Clark Trail – U.S. history buffs, this one’s for you. This trail route in Pottawattamie County takes to some of the spots visited by the historical figures.
– Lincoln Highway Heritage Trail – The first transcontinental highway passed through Iowa, and you can trace the route as it passes through Pottawattamie County.
– Mormon Trail – Yep, that trail passed through Iowa.
– Pioneer Trail – The Manifest Destiny sent pioneers trekking across the country, and their trail passed through this part of Iowa.
– Railroad Highway Multi-Use Trail – This trail takes you through smaller communities in the county.
– Stars and Bronze Tribute Trail – Throughout the county, you can find tribute projects honoring veterans and public figures, including the “Eagles of Honor” statues and Freedom Rock. Quite a few of the stops are in Council Bluffs, including one that honors Deputy Mark Burbridge, who was killed while on duty in 2017.
– West Nishnabotna River Water Trail – I want to canoe this 27-mile trail someday (probably not all at once). This water trail is suitable for kayaks and tubers, too. There are several access points into the river, so you can make your trip as long or short as you want. Find access points in Avoca, Hancock, Oakland, Carson and Macedonia.
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