Cycling the Wabash Trace Trail :: Iowa


After a peaceful overnight in Elmo, Missouri, we continued riding the quiet Missouri roads toward the Iowa border.  Our destination was the trail head for the Wabash Trace Trail, located in Blanchard, Iowa.  The trail would take us over 60 miles north to Council Bluffs, and only a few miles short of Omaha, Nebraska’s Amtrak station.

Ten short miles later we arrived in the sleepy town of Blanchard.  We found a sweet little pavilion area for cyclists, with access to campsites behind a community center, but the rest of the town was pretty dead.  There weren’t any signs of where the Wabash Trace Trail began so we stopped in at the post office next door to ask for directions but we found the office empty.  It was only by chance that we spotted a gentleman leaving a building down the street, the only person we had seen in town within a half hour’s time, and after introducing ourselves and asking for guidance, he pointed us in the right direction.  The trail was off of a no-name gravel road, which was off the main road running straight through town, and there’s no way anyone would know where it began without asking someone in town for directions because there are absolutely no signs indicating the existence of the trail.


The fine limestone trail was beautiful, smooth and fast.

View from Wabash Trace Trail Bridge

View from a bridge on the trail.

Although the last week gave us some spectacular riding days, the forecast indicated there was a snowstorm rolling through the next day, with temps in the low 30s. Without any hosts in the area and a lack of desire to camp and bike through the weather, we set a goal of reaching Shenandoah, Iowa, the only town within 60 miles that had a hotel.  We arrived to town late and after grabbing food at the local Hy-Vee grocery store we booked two nights at the lovely Shenandoah Inn & Suites and hunkered down for the storm.

Kai in Shenandoah Inn, Shenandoah, IA

We caught up on all things digital, did our laundry and enjoyed watching the snow fall from the warmth of our room.

Kai on the WabashTrace Trail

The day after the storm we bundled up, temperatures in the low 30s (F), and we hit the trail again, following it to Malvern, Iowa.

Malvern’s town square hosted various bicycle sculptures and we were impressed with the facilities and campsites that were specifically created for cyclists coming off the trail.  We were the only ones camping in Boehner Park that night, a few short blocks from the center of town.  Temperatures were expected to drop into the lower 20s (F) so we set up camp quickly, enjoyed a hot meal as the sun was setting and gathered wood for a pit fire.

Boehner Pond, Malvern, IA

Campfire, Malvern, IA

The fire kept us warm for most of the evening but we woke to a chilly morning, everything covered in thick frost.

Boehner Pond, Malvern, IA

We packed up quickly and headed in to town in search of a good Midwestern breakfast.  After warming up in C & M’s Cafe and stopping by the local grocery to pick up food for lunch we set our legs in motion again, bound for Council Bluffs.

Breakfast in Malvern, IA

View off Wabash Trace Trail

A view from an old rail bridge, now the Wabash Trace Trail. One farmer’s answer to soil erosion was to have old train cars laid along the river bed.

Silver City, Iowa

Silver City, Iowa

Twenty seven miles later we were at our host’s home and Tod was making us feel right at home.  After making ourselves presentable we headed to McFoster’s Natural Kind Cafe, a vegetarian restaurant in Omaha that had an extensive and impressive menu. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and our conversation with Tod, a cycling enthusiast and a major advocate for the Wabash Trace Trail.

McFoster's Menu

We met up with Tod’s friend, Linda, later in the evening and spent a couple of evenings chatting with them about all things related to cycling, travelling, politics, the world, and following your heart.  Thanks so much Tod & Linda for your generosity and the wonderful conversations – we really enjoyed our time with you!

New Friends in Omaha

O! is for Omaha!

O is for Omaha! (Kai, Sheila, Tod, Linda)


Next Stop: Amtrak to Sacramento, California




6 comments to Cycling the Wabash Trace Trail :: Iowa

  • LInda H

    Thanks for the beautiful photos of our neighborhood in Omaha/Council Bluffs. I feel like I’m pedaling right beside you. Be well. Stay curious. Thanks again for sharing the world online. Linda Hayek

  • Danny

    Wonderful report. I love your descriptions and pics. Glad to hear you’re heading for warmer climate. Safe travels!

  • Thanks for giving us some online love Linda and Danny! We feel you with us. 🙂

  • Marcia

    Thanks so much for sharing these experiences.. I grew up in Blanchard in the 50s (and know those unmarked gravel roads) and love those rusty bridges that we used to stand and spit off of as kids…stops my heart to see your photos.
    Still walk the Wabash trail when I return to see relatives–and we bought a memorial bench alongside it for my Mom who group up there. Also know the beautiful Shenandoah Inn you stayed at. Am truly inspired by your train video too..may take that CA Zephyr. Peace and luck to you–

  • Callie Jane Vickers

    My boyfriend and I are doing this trail soon and we are so excited! We are still planning some logistics- like where to camp. How was Boehner park in Marlvern, Iowa? was this a campsite you reserved? if so, could I have their contact info!

    • Kai

      As we detailed to you offline, we arrived very late in the season at this campsite, long after every other potential camper had snuggled down for the winter. We had the entire place to ourselves and didn’t plan anything in advance other than make sure we knew where it was located. The place was totally deserted and so we set up the tent, made some food, erected a massive camp fire, sat up while it burned and then tucked in for a frosty night. Temps dropped into the mid- to low-twenties so when we woke up the next morning, we packed everything up quickly and hit the trail. We might as well have been the only two people on Earth from the minute we arrived at the park until shortly after we’d departed (I think we found the first place open for breakfast and had a feed before continuing). Google the park for more info regarding the normal process. Thanks for your questions! 🙂

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