2021 T-Bone Trail · Family Adventures · Outdoors All Year · West Central Iowa

Lewis & Clark Should Have Stayed Longer in Monona County, Iowa & So Should We

*Our third Loess Hills County this year and the scenery did not disappoint. The western border of Iowa is one of the most geographically unique in all the world and we were looking forward to being back on its green summertime trails. Our trip here was sponsored by Discover Monona County, Iowa and some of the meals, services, and products were complimentary. The views expressed in this blog post are of our own. Now, let’s Gallivant!

The winding rivers of Monona County that snake through the hills and prairies of this region are some of my favorite scenes in all of Iowa.

Monona County, Iowa

Onawa-2018 was our last Gallivant to this Loess Hills beauty. It was early June and we were there for a scouting RAGBRAI project that would be happening later in the summer as it does every July. Our last trip landed on the same weekend as the area’s annual Lewis & Clark festival as well. My oldest daughter and I loved our time there. We ate at Dan’s Pizza, had meatloaf at Fiesta grocery store, and explored the Missouri River. We learned that Onawa was the birthplace of the chocolatey ice cream treat known as the Eskimo Pie. And on that trip, like we’ve said after many other places, we saw so many other ways we could have enjoyed the area, but didn’t have the time. Then 2021 came around and we were already on an incredible expedition. It was our opportunity to trek through more of beautiful Monona!

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Preparation Canyon State Park and it’s powerful overlooks.

Near the town of Moorhead is one of Iowa’s most spectacular views. You’ll be hot on the old Lew & Clark trail when you arrive to Preparation Canyon. The trails, surrounding forest, endless landscape…It’s Iowa beyond your imagination. It’s right here and it’s ready for us all to enjoy. And when I say that it’s a geographically unique terrain to Iowa, I mean that. You would have to travel to China to see anything like the Loess Hills outside of Western Iowa.

This was absolutely going to happen. We needed this pic at the iconic overlook here in Preparation Canyon.
This overlook will reel you in and keep you anchored in the Iowa horizon.

There are so many classic overlooks in this country and Preparation State Park should rank up there as one of the best. It sparks the Lewis & Clark imagination and you wonder who in the Corps of Discovery might have gazed upon Western Iowa at this vantage point back in the early 19th century. Generations of Native Americans looked to the skies here as well and saw a beautiful landscape long before the modern day road trippers like us. I can feel the importance of this place when I stand here. The importance of every acre in the Loess Hills.

Roadside Attractions & History

We’re back! Lewis & Clark State Park for another historic stroll in Monona County!

The Corps of Discovery camped right where you can camp near Onawa. There’s no shortage of historic landmarks when it come to Lewis & Clark in Monona County. That group of US government funded explorers where kind of a big deal and this area the Monona folks keep that spirt alive. From the campsites, trails, the Missouri River, and inside the visitors center here at Lewis & Clark State Park.

You just might be a keelboat expert after your visit this state park.
This is a tradition I must take part in when a keelboat is in site. The classic Lewis & Clark pose!
Another overlook and this one’s on the lake from the observation deck here at Lewis & Clark State Park.

I like oddities when I travel. I’m always looking for a new place to camp as well. I can hit a lot of the checkmarks when it comes to points of interest on my quirky traveling destinations checklist at Huff-Warner Access Area. I can camp on the Missouri River, continue my own expedition on the Lewis & Clark National Trail, and observe huge barges carrying valuable cargo all day long. Hey! I like anything maritime related! Which is why Huff-Warner Access is officially on my future campsite list.

Not too far off of Interstate 29 is this Missouri River point of relaxation.
The interpretations don’t stop here either. Great place to get close to the historic Missouri River and roam its muddy banks.
There’s a lot of unique places to camp and this one demonstrates how we operate commerce on our major rivers. I find it hypnotic watching those operation. Enjoy the campfire and try to get the barges to toot that big horn while floating past you.

There’s times during our gallivants that we stumble upon something we had no idea existed within the area we’re in. It happens more than you’d think and on this Monona County gallivant we caught wind of some “corny” information. Have you ever watched the movie called Children of the Corn? Scared the corn nibblets out of you didn’t it? Well, much of it was filmed in the town of Whiting, Iowa including one of the most terrifying scenes. “The flagpole” is all you have to say to some folks who have seen the movie. Watch below…….

You doing anything on July 17th of 2021? You can make your way to Whiting and watch an outdoors showing of Children of the Corn right here at the infamous flagpole intersection!

Let’s Eat Steak!

Time to take a Ute turn to Ute, Iowa! 103 West Main Street

It was time for Ada J’s Steakhouse to shine on the inaugural T-Bone Trail in Western Iowa! They had an incredible meal awaiting our arrival and it was loaded in many ways. Loaded with flavor, delicious ingredients and seasonings, heft, and a lot of care into the preparation and cooking. The Ada J’s crew was ready for a big night on the trail! Click here and watch our video of the meal we loved here!

And Gigi would say that these were the greatest onion rings she’s ever had. They were great and the owner’s mother is the expert on this recipe!
Just a closeup of the amazing meal at Ada J’s. Homemade Jell-O poke cake, fresh side salad with tons of veggies, juicy steak, and some of the most loaded gourmet hash browns in Iowa!
A garlicy butter melts over the huge char-broiled Ribeye. Texas toast and those famous hash browns that Ada J’s specializes in. Look at that beautiful picture!
They showed up to make a memorable meal and accomplished the mission. The history of amazing steaks needs to have this Ada J’s crew mentioned when the stories are told, my friends.

Ada J’s Steakhouse is a great detour to make when exploring the Loess Hills. The town of Ute is near the scenic byway and beautiful overlooks. The Ada J’s team was very passionate about their meals and it showed with every bite. They treated us with genuine kindness that we keep experiencing on the trail with every stop. This will be one of the best Ribeyes you’re going to find and don’t turn down those homemade hash browns. Plan your trip around Ada J’s and enjoy the Loess Hills after a delicious meal from this beefy Ute destination. The scenery looks so much better after enjoying what’s cookin’ at Ada J’s!


You’ll be in the heart of Monona County’s Loess Hills when you arrive to the beautiful cabin at RT Reese Homestead! 2271 Larpenteur Memorial Road, Turin, Iowa

Turin is a small community that grew right up from the soil of the Loess Hills and just down the road from the cabin. The hilly formations is in constant view as you drive through Monona and it’s always fascinating once you reach them. This cabin is a fantastic facility and blends into the landscape beautifully.

RT Reese fashioned the cabin with multiple bedrooms and bunks, full kitchen that’s supplied up, modern bathroom, and a living room with a flat screen TV!
They had all the Die Hard and Rocky movies on DVD! That could get me to stay for an extended period of nostalgic binging! Bring your own linens, pillows, and toiletries to give you some at home comfort during your stay. There’s even a little hiking trail and prairie preserver waiting for you to stay active while you’re here.

Bonus Beef

We stocked up on some fresh ground beef in Onawa and took advantage of the grill on the patio of RT Reese’s cabin. I like to load my cheeseburgers up with potato chips while Gigi tops hers with baked beans. BBQ in the Loess Hills at a remote cabin…Sign me up!
The morning came and we still had leftovers from the huge supper at Ada J’s the night before. We baked off some biscuits and threw in some sliced ribeye, hash browns, and eggs into a skillet and hot breakfast was ready fill. All cooked inside the cabin from that wonderful kitchen!

This was the ideal place for our summer break. Escaping from the busy city and landing in Western Iowa’s Loess Hills. RT Reese Cabin is just close enough to shops, grocery store, restaurants, and ways to supply-up in Onawa, and far enough to give you that wilderness feel. We don’t mind roughing it, but we also enjoy a place like this cabin with AC and easy ways to relax in total comfort. You can even play corn hole over by the fire pit! Stay tuned because we’ll have more to say about RT Reese Homestead down the road on TIG!

Something about a bug’s ear comes to mind when I look at this picture from the Loess Hills prairie.

What an incredible way to make a return trip to Monona County! Do you think we saw a lot of the Loess Hills? We just scratched the surface, my friends. The beauty of Iowa is out there and it’s showcased in spectacular ways out here in Monona County. We met another round of gracious and fun loving Western Iowa locals that always makes road trips supremely memorable. Lewis & Clark should have stayed longer and so should all of us!

Get information on your future stay at the RT Reese Homestead Cabin on the My County Parks website.

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Just a little drive on a winding gravel road in the Loess Hills of Monona County.

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