The Raccoon River Valley Trail runs along an abandoned railroad right-of-way that was first built in the 1870s to carry rail traffic between Des Moines and the Great Lakes region. The route encompasses a wide range of landscapes, from suburban neighborhoods in the southeast to wooded stretches, prairie, farmland, and small rural communities. Each town offers limited services and amenities.
The 'north loop' of the Raccoon River Valley Trail begins in Waukee and runs 19 miles northwest through Dallas County and the towns of Dallas Center, Minburn, and Perry. In Perry, the trail alters its course and runs due west for 13 miles through the towns of Dawson, Jamaica (entering Guthrie County), and Herndon.
The trail splits at a T-juncture in Herndon. The branch heading north extends nearly 13 miles through Greene County, passing through Cooper on the way to its end in Jefferson.
The trail heading south goes through Yale and Panora, then turns southeast through Linden and Redfield, then east through Adel, Ortonville, and Waukee to complete the loop. From Waukee, the trail continues east to Clive and the western edge of Polk County. In Clive, the Raccoon River Valley Trail links with the urban Clive Greenbelt Trail, which heads east toward Des Moines.
To use the Raccoon River Valley Trail, you must pay a nominal fee (only those over 18) per day, or you can buy a yearly pass. All proceeds go to the conservation boards in the three counties through which the trail passes, and the money is used for trail maintenance and improvements. You can get a permit in many offices and businesses along the trail (look for the signs), or you can put your fee in one of many lock boxes found along the route.
You can access the Raccoon River Valley Trail from many places along the route. In Jefferson, access and parking is at the restored Jefferson Depot, CR E53 (old Highway 30). In Waukee, you can park at the intersection of US 6 and CR R22. Trailheads are also found in Adel, Ortonville, Redfield, Linden, Panora, Yale, Herndon, Cooper, Dallas Center, Minburn, Perry, and Dawson. For more information view the trail map.