2021 T-Bone Trail · West Central Iowa

Exploring Pottawattamie County, Iowa Until the Cows Come Home

*We had another round on the inaugural T-Bone Trail and this in Pottawattamie County which kept me very active all day long in one of Iowa’s biggest counties. Our Gallivant was hosted by the Council Bluffs CVB and some of the goods, meals, and services were complimentary. The views expressed are always of our own. Let’s Gallivant!

Looking to the west in Western Iowa. Council Bluffs can produce some of the most memorable sunsets you can see in this beautiful region.

Pottawattamie County, Iowa

There’s never enough time when it comes to visiting this Western Iowa community. It’s Iowa’s second biggest of its 99 counties and quite possibly the most geographically unique. Pottawattamie is home to the historic neighborhoods and suburbia of metro Council Bluffs alongside all the entertainment it produces. The Loess Hills dominate much of the landscape like it does through most of Iowa’s western border with its breathtaking views that harken back to Lewis & Clark’s Corps of Discovery. Farmlands to woodlands. Hills to riverbanks. Overlooks to winding gravel roads. And the town of Carter Lake that sits west of the Missouri River that makes folks drive though a few miles of Nebraska in order to get there. This county is an absolute treasure for any road tripper’s fancy. Famous for obscure roadside attractions to hiking and biking trails, must-see views, tons of restaurants, scenic byways, and historic highways. We made it back to the area and naturally discovered more of this county once again. It’s another T-Bone Trail inspired Gallivant to beef up our time in Pottawattamie County!

Get Active

Take a picture like I did. There will never be another moment the view will be exactly the same.
A long and sunny walk with a comfortable breeze that joined in over the Missouri River.

The Bob Kerrey Bridge lets you cross the Iowa border without getting your feet wet in the Missouri River below. The site of this structure is a beautiful piece of architecture that connects the Omaha area with the Council Bluffs area. Enthusiasts of this great American river can spend the day photographing the many changes this patch of the Midwest and surrounding valley goes through everyday. Tourists and locals alike flock to Bob the bridge for a scenic workout or scenic overlook. You may be standing on a modern pedestrian bridge with two modern metro areas flanking it, but the watery pathway below is ancient. Jog, walk, or bike across and just plain enjoy the river while you’re there.

That’s not an “I’m worried face” when it comes to the trail ahead. That’s the “I’m a complete klutz” and my supportive wife is nowhere to be seen on this trip. Let’s give it a go!

I don’t care how many times I mention the Lewis & Clark Trail. It’s an expedition that keeps getting more interesting to me the older I get. I’ve been on this historic trail many times without planning on it. I’ve stumbled, and sometimes quite literally, upon the Corps of Discovery’s trek throughout much of my adult life in Missouri, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana. In multiple trips to Council Bluffs, I have never stopped at the Lewis & Clark Monument until the recent trip back. Am I walking in the exact spot the Corps of Discovery was? Is this where one of those iconic poses took place that you see on all those road signs and artwork? Who knows! I do like the fact that it’s very much possible, and that’s why I’m okay with taking the path in the picture above. That’s me going into a dark trail all alone and those rocky stairs won’t stop me!

Just off of Interstate 80 is one of Western Iowa’s true beauties. Arrowhead Park features a very wide range of ways to stay active and camp during your own Gallivant to Pottawattamie County!

The county park option should never be overlooked, especially when they are so easy to get to- like Arrowhead Park. Not too far from the town of Neola and just a few miles from the I-80 exit is this wonderful Pottawattamie County treasure. All the locals we talked to raved about this park and upon arriving we could see why. Think timber, picturesque lake, and that rural atmosphere that welcomes you in for an afternoon of gallivanting its wonders.

One of many options when it comes to hiking here at Arrowhead Park.
That lake isn’t gonna get up and walk around you! Take all the time you need and see Arrowhead from the miles of shoreline that headlines this county park. I like to practice my naturalist impersonations when I take long hikes around lakes like this.

Check-In

You know what’s great about spending the afternoon getting inspired by one of Iowa’s premiere county parks? Walking up the hill and checking into one of its cabins! And I’m not talking about a small hole in the wall that has the bare minimum when it comes to making it through the night. Nope! Arrowhead Park features a full-on and fully loaded glamping experience any style of traveler would enjoy!

Are you looking at this??? That’s not some fancy development going up in eastern Pottawattamie County. That’s still Arrowhead Park and your rural destination for a modern gateway.

Just look at that cabin! Not only can you have a getaway in these amazing cabins, you could find yourself wanting to live in one! Rustic Ridge and it’s counterparts that flank it look out over the lake with a beautiful view of much of the park. Sleeps up to 10 people with 3 queens, 1 full, and 3 twin bunk beds.

I wasn’t kidding about that modern and fully loaded part. And just look at that living room. You can tell I loved it during all times of the day.
Yes, these cabins have tons of bells and whistles, but you don’t want to forget your own bedding. I don’t know about you, but I always miss my favorite pillow anyway. Make sure to bring shampoo, soap, towels, washcloths, and everything you need to get by during your stay here. Let the scenery and Mother Nature surrounding you do the rest.

Just down the road from Arrowhead Park is a convenience store with Neola just across the interstate. That means you can rough it or “rough” it and never be very far from small-town Iowa and all the frills the Council Bluffs area provides. You’ll want to keep up with TIG and see what else we have to show you from this wonderful county park! Click here and watch our video from Arrowhead!

Roadside Attractions & History

Stumble into Downtown-Council Bluffs and you’ll be able to find your way back into rural Iowa just fine. You gotta love intersections like this!

There’s plenty of options to see Pottawattamie in a scenic and historic way. The Loess Hills National Scenic Byway, Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway, Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail, and Historic US Route 6 all find their way into this county. And they all have their own uniqueness when it comes to their paths through Iowa. Take these routes when you can and stop often!

There will always be that “one” thing I must stop by and see when it comes to certain communities. The Black Angel Statue at Fairview Cemetery sits at the summit of a historic Council Bluffs neighborhood that awaits its visitors. There’s never a bad time of year to photograph this mysterious angel and she’s not far from another one of Council Bluffs’ scenic overlooks just down the brick road.

We’ve all taken plenty of road trips and driven past plenty of pastures with cows roaming around. We observe them and move on for the most part. However, every pasture, cow, and piece of acreage you see has someone taking care of them. Just off of Highway 6 is a wonderful family that tends to some very popular cattle. Sometimes a visit to the farm makes your whole road trip. This is Vorthmann Limousin and we’re not talking about stretch limos here!

How would you like this view at work everyday? The endless Western Iowa skies go on forever here in the countryside near Treynor. That brown cow wasn’t leaving until she got a picture!

Iowa’s farms all have a story, and the T-Bone Trail has been one of the most fulfilling projects we’ve ever done on The Iowa Gallivant. Drive down the lane, walk up to the house, meet the family, and proceed into one of the most welcoming atmospheres you’ll ever be in. There’s not much more that’s better than that, and the Vorthmann farm specializes in making a city kid like me feel right at home.

Look at this team! It takes great folks like this to keep a strong business going. Vorthmann is well respected throughout the area and statewide.

Deb Miller was our go-to while seeing the Vorthmann farm, but you can’t leave out the rest of the gang when you’re here. We started at what Deb calls the “beauty salon” where they prep some fabulous looking Limousins for show. They specialize in breeding and it gave me a whole new perspective when it comes to putting a face onto the beef industry. I couldn’t get past the views from every vantage point we were at while here. That smile you see on Deb’s face wasn’t just for the photos. It was just about permanent and it showed how much she loved her farm. It’s a grin that I could tell is familiar to everyone who knows her, and this Limousin business is a huge passion for Deb, her husband, and the whole family out here. Deb and George even met me on their anniversary weekend! How’s that for showing off the farm! Click here and watch a short video from the pastures at Vorthmann Limousin!

Let’s Eat Steak!

Get ready for a Council Bluffs legend that’s been an absolute generational favorite to the locals! Wait until you see what was served to us at Pizza King!

When it comes to one of the most well known family restaurants in the area it’s best to call in some back up in case you need help with huge portions. That meant getting in touch with Max and Dorthy! Two of my dear family members and longtime resident of Council Bluffs. They weren’t turning down an invite to Pizza King!

Look at that! Our first T-Bone on the T-Bone Trail and we have Pottawattamie County to thank for that! It’s not all pizza at Pizza King and this picture makes that pretty obvious. And folks…That baked potato was pretty big too. That’s how huge this steak was. Very juicy and just seasoned perfectly to not mask the natural beefy flavor of this cut.
Pizza King knows how to win me over in more ways than one. If you order Blue cheese dressing, for your dinner salad, you get an extra side of Blue cheese crumbles! Do you have a best friend, Pizza King? It seems like we could get along famously.
And then the Pizza King and I danced the Tiramisu together. We talked about steaks, sides of pasta with delicious tomato sauce, our favorite cheeses…

It was another packed house on the T-Bone Trail and the Council Bluffs faithful were flooding in to support this famous family operated restaurant. We even got to meet a couple of the family members that keep this popular establishment cranking out plate after memorable plate. They know how to bake a pizza pie, and they certainly know how to present a steak that’s cooked just the way I love it. T-Bones give everyone two courses in one steak and that’s the special thing about this cut. One half is the New York Strip with its long fat-cap that seems to melt goodness right into the meat. And on the other half is the lean Tenderloin . This gives you two spectrums of the steak world with extra flavor coming off the bone. Click here to watch our video from Pizza King!

Bonus Beef

Did you think the friends of ours at the Pizza King stopped the beef train at steaks? Well, they don’t because if you love a wicked awesome Hot Roast Beef Sandwich then you need to head for Council Bluffs. Graaaaaaaaaaaaaavy!
It’s a famous Friday lunch special in the town of McClelland! Wagyu Sirloin in all its tender glory at Dew Drop Inn Restaurant & Bar! Served piping hot on a fresh roll with steak fries and Mom’s homemade chocolate cake. I’m serious about that! Mom comes in and bakes off her recipe and that dessert automatically comes with your steak special. Have you ever experienced Wagyu beef? This would be a great place to introduce yourself to this juicy style of beef and it’s processed by Jon’s Naturals that’s right there in the neighborhood. Wagyu beef raised locally and cut into steaks that’s two doors down from where you’re going to eat it. That’s buying and eating local right there!
There’s always going to be plenty of ways to get a nice cut of beef in a large city like Council Bluffs. That’s why it’s nice to see the local butchers still making it happen. Rustic Cuts has an incredible selection of your favorites. This is my kind of shopping and I don’t need a grocery list. Just big’ol cooler and a lot of space to fill at home!
The small town locker strikes again! This isn’t the first time Minden Meat Market has made it onto TIG and I’m sure it won’t be the last. I’ve met a lot of folks in our travels and I’m proud to call the owner, Jeff Hodges, a buddy of mine. They always have amazing products and a hell of a good story waiting for me when I stop in. The locker life isn’t exactly glamours and folks here at Minden Meat Market know that firsthand. But they sure know how to make your visit entertaining and your future meals very delicious. Look at that truck bed above! That’s what I call a bundle of joy right there.
You can’t leave Pottawattamie County without the whole enchilada! Gress Locker is in the small town of Hancock is known for more than their custom service and tasty sausages. In July of 2004 this off the beaten path meat haven sold it’s 100,000th beef enchilada that they make right there at the locker. That was seven years ago so how many more have walked out the door since? We took some home and I’m telling you that these babies are the real deal. Could Iowa’s best beef enchiladas be available at a locker in rural Pottawattamie County? Get over to Hancock, bring’em home, cook’em up and taste for yourselves!

This T-Bone Trail idea is shaping up to be just what we though it would be. Plenty of ways to stay active and dive into Western Iowa’s tasty restaurants in one trip. It’s also showing us that we need to take advantage of the great outdoors more often and Pottawattamie County excels in making that happen. I met up with old friends and family members I haven’t seen in way too long. There’s much more to this long road trip through a welcoming region then just bringing awareness to tourism, great food, farming, and site seeing. It’s already shown me the importance of reconnecting to areas and folks you didn’t realized how much you missed. Now I get to wonder when I’ll revisit more of the great people of Pottawattamie I met during this recent round. That’s a wonderful feeling to have back as we Gallivant in 2021.

McClelland, Iowa knows how to produce my favorite kind of skyline.

Like Unleash Council Bluffs on Facebook.

Like WattaWay to see Pottawattamie County on Facebook.

Get information about planning a stay at Arrowhead Park on the Pottawattamie County Conservation website.

Like Western Iowa Tourism Region on Facebook.

Like the Iowa Beef Council on Facebook and keep up with info, updates, events, and promotions!

See everything we’ve covered on The Iowa Gallivant in the West Central Region of Iowa!

Be sure to like the T-Bone Trail-Western Iowa on Facebook!

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