In April, I cycled the T-Bone Trail spanning Cass and Audubon counties, over 40 miles with 259 ft. of elevation on a paved, scenic trail.
LENGTH: 19.8 mi
TYPE: asphalt, concrete
History of the T-Bone Trail
According to mycountyparks.com, the T-Bone Trail is a former railroad right of way; purchased with the help of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. It was named for the T-Bone event that originated in the 1950s when Audubon farmers would load cattle onto a train to market in Chicago.
The trail took over fifteen years to complete. Funding for the T-Bone Trail was received through various grants and donations from organizations and agencies such as Statewide Enhancement Grants, the Iowa West Foundation, Schildberg Foundation, Audubon County Endowment Fund, Nishna Valley Trails, Audubon State Bank, Exchange State Band, Landmans Bank and Audubon Travelers. The trail has been designated as an American Discovery Trail.
Riding the T-Bone Trail
The T-Bone Trail spans 21.2 miles starting in Atlantic, Iowa with stops in Brayton, Exira and Hamlin before reaching Audubon. The bucolic trail is paved and runs north/south generally following Highway 71.
From its scenic views to the minimal distance in between towns, the almost entirely paved, flat T-Bone Trail is a great option for riders at all levels.
This blog highlights a few of the key sites and things to do on your visit to the T-Bone Trail.
List of towns along the T-Bone Trail
The southern trailhead near Atlantic, Iowa is easy to miss. Hidden along a gravel road without any signage, one could drive right by the T-Bone Trail trailhead (as I did). The exact location of the trailhead is here with three three parking spots. Currently, the T-Bone Trail does not fully connect to Atlantic and to get there you would have to take some gravel and paved roads.
After starting to ride, soon, you will arrive at an area known to locals as “The Valley” which is Exit 60, Highway 71, off Interstate 80. In the valley, you will find a gas station and a hotel. Next, you will cross Highway 71, to travel underneath I-80. You’ll continue to follow Hwy-71 north to the town of Brayton, Iowa.
After, around seven miles, the first town you will come upon is Brayton, Iowa.
MUST SEE: PLOW IN THE OAK (not pictured)roadsideamerica.com
Just before Exira (on the south side), look for a short trail on the west side connecting to “Plow in the Oak” park, where a horse-drawn plow leaned against a young tree in the 1860s has been gradually absorbed into a now large Burr Oak tree, a tree native to Iowa. The exact location of Plow in the Oak park is here. Read more about the site here.
Next, in another four miles, you will skirt the edge of Exira, Iowa. Within Exira, you can find both a Casey’s and a Dollar General store.
Upon leaving town, at 260th Street, you will cross back over to the west side of Hwy-71.
In another five and a half miles, you will pass Randi Jo Munch Memorial Park and then arrive in Hamlin, Iowa. One notable stop in Hamlin is Darrell’s Place, “Home of Iowa’s Original Tenderloin.”
Shortly after Hamlin, you will again cross Hwy-71 and continue on the east side of the road.
Finally, the trail ends (or begins depending on where you start) in Audubon, Iowa at around 19.8 miles. The exact location of the north trailhead is located here. When arriving in Audubon, the first thing to look for is Albert the Bull, more on him later. On my trip, I rode a little way into town and ate at The Bakery on Broadway, aptly named due to its location at 312 Broadway Street. They offer everything from sweet treats to smoothies to sandwiches and it was an absolutely adorable place to eat. At the end of Broadway Street, look for a butterfly mural that you can pose for a picture against by artist Jodi Wednt.
Also in Audubon: Casey’s gas station and restaurant El Adobe.
MUST SEE: ALBERT THE BULLroadsideamerica.com
Originally built in 1964, Albert stands 28 feet tall and weighs 45 tons. Albert is great for a photo opp. Read more about “the world’s largest bull” here.
Tips for riding the T-Bone Trail
I stumbled across the T-Bone Trail on AllTrails, one of my favorite sites to find new trails. Using it, you will see that the trail is slightly uphill from Atlantic to Audubon. I would recommend riding uphill or against the wind on the first leg of your ride when your legs are fresh! Then you can use the downhill or tailwind to your advantage on the way home.
I rode a total of 40.95 miles with 259 ft. of climbing from the southern trailhead north and back. View this activity on my Strava.