Why 800 Miles of Connected Trails are Better Than Mountains and Oceans Anyways

Skip the salt water and treacherous mountain inclines in favor of Iowa’s idyllic rolling hills along scenic rivers, prairies and woodland trails. If you’re a recreational rider who wants to experience the great outdoors, get a little exercise and maybe enjoy a burger and a beverage while you’re out and about on a sunny afternoon, then the 800 miles of connected trails in and around the Greater Des Moines (DSM) area have nearly limitless options to keep you entertained while you explore the city on your bike.  

If you don’t believe that Iowa’s trail system is better than other state’s trails, here are five reasons why DSM’s 800 miles of connected trails are better than mountains and oceans anyways. 

#1. Our Inclines Won’t Kill Your Quads 

Mountains look beautiful, but have you ever tried to pedal up one? Unless you’re training for an elite event, biking up a steep mountain incline (or zooming back down), isn’t at the top of the average biker’s wish list. Don’t get us wrong, Iowa has plenty of challenging climbs. Ask anyone who’s done RAGBRAI — Iowa is not flat. What you will find here are miles and miles of trails that are manageable for the recreational rider. 

#2. Iowa Trails are Family Friendly

With such an extensive network of trails throughout the Des Moines metro area, it’s easy for families to connect from their neighborhood trails to a larger network of bike trails. Whether you start out biking a couple of miles near your home or you’re pulling the kids in a Burly bike trailer for hours, there are trail options for every family.  “There are so many trails to choose from across the state, and they are really accessible to all levels of riders,” says Kelly Sheldon O'Byrne, a local biking enthusiast. “As a mom to a 6- and 8-year-old, I feel comfortable taking my kids on most trails, and it's such a great way to get my kids out in nature in Iowa.”

#3. Stop to Eat and Drink Along the Way

Iowa’s trail system not only connects neighborhoods and communities within the Des Moines region, it also extends far into the rural countryside and connects bikers to a series of small towns along the way. A favorite pastime of avid trail riders is to plan a day trip to reach their favorite restaurants and watering holes along bike routes. No matter which direction you’re headed there are delicious destinations waiting for you. Here are a few ideas to get you started if you’re headed:

NORTH: Take the High Trestle Trail to Nite Hawk Bar and Grill in Slater.
SOUTH: Take the Great Western Trail south to The Chicken or The Cumming Tap (or both!).
WEST: Take the Raccoon River Valley Trail to The Handle Bar in Dallas Center.
EAST: Take the Chichaqua Valley Trail to Founders Irish Pub or Reclaimed Rails in Bondurant.

#4. Visit Scenic Overlooks Around Des Moines

It’s true — we don’t have ocean views in Iowa. But we do have rivers running through and around the state, which offer some pretty stunning vistas. “Definitely, the most scenic trail is the High Trestle Trail,” says Sheldon O'Byrne. “It has the most magical and surreal view of the Des Moines River. My kids love spending time on the High Trestle Trail bridge!”

Another favorite scenic trail is the Neil Smith Trail, which begins in Downtown Des Moines (DSM), winds around the banks of the Des Moines River, and leads to Saylorville Lake and Big Creek near Polk City. In addition to views of the river, Saylorville Dam and Saylorville Lake, this scenic journey takes you through shaded woodland areas and native prairie landscapes. Pro Tip: Take this trail through the Red Feather Prairie area by Saylorville Lake in September to witness a mesmerizing sea of native flowers in bloom. 

#5. Iowa and Des Moines Are Committed to Bike Trails

Biking is a great way to balance the time spent at your desk. If it’s important to you to have an active way to spend your free time, finding a community that has a robust trail system is a must. Fortunately, the Des Moines area and communities across the state continue to invest in trails and amenities to serve trail riders. While RAGBRAI (the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) may bring bikers from all over the country to Iowa for one week, it’s the state’s continued support and expansion of the trail system that makes Iowa the perfect place for you to enjoy a bike ride all year long.   

Greater Des Moines (DSM) is where locals find adventurous yet affordable lifestyles, meaningful careers, connected communities and a place to call home. Learn how you can be bolder and live greater here, too. 

Let’s connect!