May 13, 2019

14 Unique Trails In Iowa

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).

Exploring the county that's know as the Trail Capital of Iowa - A look at the 10+ trails in Pottawattamie County, including a water trail, a wine trail, historic trails and more! Of course there are trails for active adventurers seeking hikes, biking or paddling in Iowa.

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!

14 unique trails in Iowa - The Loess Hills Scenic Byway
Fall would be a great time to drive the Loess Hills Scenic Byway, but that’s not to say the vistas are bad in early spring.

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.

14 unique trails in Iowa - Loess Hills National Scenic Byway takes you through a picturesque region of Iowa. One of the parks in the Loess Hills is Hitchcock Nature Center.
Hitchcock Nature Center is one of the closest parks with trails that take you into 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!

14 unique trails in Iowa - What in the World?: On the Trail for Stranger Things includes stops for curious sites or curious activities, like goat yoga
It’s perfectly acceptable to take a selfie or cuddle a baby goat during goat yoga sessions at Honey Creek Creamery in Honey Creek, Iowa.

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.

14 unique trails in Iowa - Wine Your Way Through The Hills Trail takes visitors to wineries, farms and galleries to purchase wine-related items
The Painted Camel is a gallery in Macedonia, Iowa featuring variety of paintings, pottery, textiles and more made by local artists.

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:

14 unique trails in Iowa - Lewis & Clark Trail
Lewis & Clark Monument & Scenic Overlook is in Council Bluffs. In addition to offering a view of the Missouri River and Omaha, the park has some short but nice trails to hike.

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.

A look at the 14 trails that have made Pottawattamie County the Trail Capital of Iowa - Trails include water ways, "stranger things" trail, historic trails, and one that's all about burgers and beer

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Comments

  1. You forgot to include the Iowa Pork Tenderloin Trail that goes across the state of Iowa. You get a passport to mark off restaurants you’ve ate at and there are prizes if you go to so many!

  2. I love the goat yoga idea. Does it hurt your back? Also loving the wine trail idea. It would be a fun parents day out.

  3. I love goat yoga! I’ve done it in Palo just outside of Cedar Rapids and in Sheffield!

  4. The Watta Way to Enjoy Burgers and Beer trail sounds good to me too!

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