Located in western Iowa, the T-Bone Trail travels 21 miles from Audubon to Dunbar Road (3 miles south of Interstate 80). Part of the American Discovery Trail System, the flat asphalt and concrete trail travels alongside the Nishnabotna River and Bluegrass Creek. Communities along the trail are no more than 6 miles apart with each having nice trailhead amenities.
The trail is named for Operation T-Bone, a campaign to transport beef to Chicago markets and bring publicity to the Iowa cattle industry.
It was a misty morning on my first visit to the T-Bone. I arrived in Brayton and parked at Old Glory Park. After unloading my bike and a quick change of clothes I headed north to Audubon excited to see what this trail had to offer.
Before leaving home I had looked at Google Maps satellite and anticipated riding out in the open along Highway 71 for the majority of the ride. I was pleasantly surprised to find a decent tree canopy providing a buffer from the neighboring highway.
North of Brayton a small farm lot was filled with a menagerie of equipment, vehicles, and animals. A couple of smart chickens had flown the coop opting to get out of the mud and into some green grass. In Brayton, the grass IS greener on the other side!
Plums were ripe for the picking. With so many trees along the trail it has to be a gorgeous bike trail to ride in the spring when the trees are in bloom. Also spotted were wild hops, something I had never seen growing along a bike trail.
A trail spur south of Exira lead me across the highway to Plow in the Oak Park. Found in a small stand of Burr Oaks is a tree a farmer leaned a plow against before leaving to fight in the Civil War. The soldier never returned and over time the tree absorbed the plow.
Entering Exira you’ll see a monument indicating a Blue Star Memorial By Way. The Blue Star has been a patriotic icon since World War II and honors men and women in the military.
Halfway between Exira and Hamlin the trail takes a short jaunt on gravel as it crosses the East Nishnabotna River. There is wooden decking for those wanting to take a break and and look across at remnants of the old railway bridge.
Seeing several farms and cattle lots while riding the trail indicated I was in the “cattle country” of western of Iowa. The biggest indicator was the huge Hereford that greeted me when I reached Audubon. Albert The Bull towered over me as I took a break and ate a snack. Holding the title of the worlds largest bull, Albert is over 30 feet tall and is made of concrete. Inside a picnic pavilion I found cool rendition of Albert hanging on the wall. You can read more about Albert here.
- Use caution when crossing busy Highway 71.
- Work was being done on the trail just north of Interstate 80. A short crushed rock detour guided riders around the construction.
Despite the weather being on the gloomy side I really enjoyed riding this trail. Next time I'll pick a pretty spring day to see all those plum blossoms and spend time exploring Audubon.