Most of northern Iowa's Trolley Trail is a straight line paralleling both 255th St./4th Ave. and the operational trolley tracks on the other side of the road. But what the Trolley Trail may lack in variety is more than made up for by its excellent functionality: The trail connects bustling Mason Citythe hometown of Meredith Wilson and the inspiration for his most famous work, The Music Man
with the beautiful vacation town of Clear Lake, where summer houses dot the shoreline. Aside from being gorgeous, Clear Lake is also famous as the site of the last concert of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper in 1959 before their tragic deaths in an event immortalized later by Don McLean as The Day the Music Died.
Is music history not your fancy? Then visit the Trolley Trail for its fascinating rail pedigree. The Trolley Trailas you might guess from its nameparallels an active electric trolley line. While trolleys on the line stopped carrying passengers in 1936, the Iowa Traction Railway continues to operate as the only surviving interurban railroad in the United States to regularly use electric locomotives to haul freight. A short section of the Trolley Trail close to Mason City runs immediately next to the tracks; train enthusiasts, be sure to bring your cameras. In Clear Lake, visit the Iowa Trolley Park, which is stationed next to the trail and offers information on the local trolley history and handcar rides on a circular track.
The Trolley Trail, along with the Winnebago Trail
and River City Trail, is a part of the larger River City Greenbelt and Trail System. The system links the parks and cultural attractions of Mason City and Clear Lake, although the trails are not directly connected. Be sure to bring your family and sense of adventure and check out all northern Iowa has to offer.
Clear Lake and Mason City are short drives from I-35, which makes travelling from both Des Moines and Minneapolis an easy affair. If you plan on visiting the Iowa Trolley Park, park in their lot on Main Avenue in Clear Lake (the trail's western endpoint). In Mason City, parking is plentiful on city streets.