High Trestle Trail
Itinerary
High Trestle Trail
Details
Oralabor Gateway Trail
5.2 mi State: Iowa
Concrete
Gay Lea Wilson Trail
20.9 mi State: Iowa
Asphalt, Concrete
Neal Smith Trail
26 mi State: Iowa
Asphalt
Chichaqua Valley Trail
27 mi State: Iowa
Asphalt
Trestle to Trestle Trail
3.7 mi State: Iowa
Asphalt
Inter-Urban Trail (IA)
1.3 mi State: Iowa
Asphalt, Concrete
John Pat Dorrian Trail
3.4 mi State: Iowa
Asphalt
Waveland Trail
1.7 mi State: Iowa
Asphalt
Principal Riverwalk
1.5 mi State: Iowa
Asphalt
Meredith Trail
5.2 mi State: Iowa
Asphalt

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The James H. Andrew Railroad Museum & History Center

225 10th Street
Boone, IA 50036
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Admission to the museum provides access to exhibits and displays of railroad artifacts and depot history, a railroad theatre and library as well as a children's activity area. Museum is open from Memorial Day through October 31.

Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad

225 10th Street
Boone, IA 50036
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Offers train rides through the Des Moines River Valley, with options for picnicking and dining.

Iowa Arboretum

1875 Peach Street
Madrid, IA 50156
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On 378 acres, the Iowa Arboretum is a wonderful place to learn about Iowa's natural landscape and flora. It offers self-guided woodland trails and 19 different plant collections. The arboretum is open year-round, from sunrise to sunset.

Madrid Historical Museum

109 W. Second Street
Madrid, IA 50156
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This museum showcases the history of the Madrid area, ranging from the farms of the early settlers to the coal mines that operated from the late 1800s until the mid-twentieth century.

Trailside Rentals

326 W. 2nd Street
Madrid, IA 50156
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Large selection of bicycles, including recumbent trikes, hybrids, beach cruisers, kids bikes and even wheelchairs.

Cayanne's Café & Gifts

121 S. Main St.
Woodward, IA 50276
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Offering a breakfast menu as well as large selection of sandwiches, soups and pizza

The Flat Tire Lounge

304 South Madison St
Madrid, IA 50156
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alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, live music, and 800 square foot deck less than 12 feet from the High Trestle Trail

Picket Fence Creamery

14583 S. Avenue
Woodward, IA 50276
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family owned and operated dairy and creamery with products from milk that is !00% natural and free of artificial hormones and chemicals

Nite Hawk Bar & Grill

105 Greene Street
Slater, IA 50244
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Full-service and take out menu offering chicken, pizza, burgers and appetizers with changing noon and evening specials

Snus Hill Winery

2183 320th Street
Madrid, IA 50156
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Family-owned winery with live music events

Whistlin' Donkey

111 North Main
Woodward, IA 50276
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bar and grill catering to bicyclists; camping options also available.

Cole's Sandwich and Ice Cream Shop

103 6th Ave
Slater, IA 50244
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Ice cream and sandwich shop featuring pork tenderloin sandwiches.

Café Diem

2005 S. Ankeny Blvd.
Ankeny, IA 50021
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Coffee beverages with limited soup, salad and sandwich menu

Hotel Pattee

1112 Willis Ave
Perry, IA 50220
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Offers themed rooms featuring aspects of Iowa's history and culture

Two Bears Lodge Bed & Breakfast

1574 334th Road
Madrid, IA 50156
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includes customized breakfast, wi-fi, exercise room, pool table and ping pong table, fireplace and lots of room to relax

Swede Point Park

1601 322nd Ln
Madrid, IA 50156
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24 electric and 2 non-electric sites available for camping mid April to mid October

Hammond House B&B

101 Main Street
Slater, IA 50244
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1914 Victorian Bed & Breakfast just 6 blocks from the High Trestle Trail.

Courtyard Des Moines - Ankeny

2405 SE Creekview Drive
Ankeny, IA 50021
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Conveniently located between Des Moines and Ames along I-35

Linking the exurbs of north Des Moines to the rural community of Woodward, the 25-mile High Trestle Trail cuts a dogleg through Iowa farmland. Since opening in 2011, this pathway, connecting four counties, five towns and miles of farmland, has quickly become a popular addition to the 670-plus-mile Central Iowa Trail System. Flat and paved, with several access points along the route, it is a great trail for bike enthusiasts of all ages.

The High Trestle Trail (or the Ankeny to Woodward Trail) is named for the thirteen-story-tall half-mile-long bridge that spans the Des Moines River and is the highlight of the trail. The trestle stands as a magnificent work of art that pays homage to the region’s cultural and natural history.

Fly into the Des Moines International Airport, five miles south of downtown Des Moines. You will begin at the southern trailhead in Ankeny, approximately 20 miles from the airport. When seen on a map, the trail resembles an upside-down “L.” It is possible to do the 50 miles round-trip in a day as the trail is wide, flat and there are plenty of places along the way for food and refreshments. Keep in mind that the entire trail passes through numerous towns, and some sections may be busier than others. There are rest stops with benches and restroom facilities dotted along the entire length.

If you need to rent a bike, start the trail in Madrid after finding your bike of choice at Trailside Rentals. They have a variety to choose from, including recumbent trikes, beach cruisers and hybrids. Wheelchairs are also available for rent.

Day 1

In Ankeny, stay at The Courtyard Des Moines, four miles from the High Trestle Trail. Begin your morning with a strong cup of joe from Café Diem or goodies from the Ankeny Farmer’s Market (held every Saturday, May-September). The trailhead is nearby on Southwest Maple Street (under the water tower) and there is a Park & Ride parking lot. On the first stretch of the dog leg, south-north from Ankeny to Slater, you will roll through farmyards and fields, passing through the communities of Oasis and Sheldahl. This 12.2-mile section is fairly exposed so be prepared for the elements, including sun and wind.

The High Trestle Trail was historically a rail corridor serving two different railroads. The segment north of Ankeny was the first built in 1866 by the Iowa and Minnesota Railway. The Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad (better known as the Milwaukee Road) began work on the east-west section from Madrid to Woodward in the early 1880s. Throughout the rest of the 19th century and into the 20th, the railroad continued to extend its reach into America’s Breadbasket. Evidence of Iowa’s vast agricultural industry is still obvious on the trail today, and as you meander through miles of crop fields and farmyards dotted with grain elevators and livestock you’ll get a feel for it.

By the time you reach Slater, you might be tempted to put your feet up for a while and swap stories with your fellow riders. The Nite Hawk Bar and Grill (Greene Street) is a popular bicycle hangout offering a full service menu as well as noon and evening specials that change with the season.

Flat Tire Lounge

From Slater, the trail heads north, quickly doglegging west, to join the rail bed that was part of the old Milwaukee Road. This 12.7-mile stretch includes a number of small bridges and some wooded areas, as well as plenty of soybean and corn fields. Seven miles down the trail, the town of Madrid offers plenty more options for eating, resting and socializing. One that will be hard to miss is the Flat Tire Lounge, another popular stomping-ground for cyclists, as its deck is just feet from the trail and there are always rows of bikes parked outside. If passing through on a Saturday morning, consider popping in at the Madrid Historical Museum (open Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to noon) to learn more about the region’s farming and coal mining heritage. The museum showcases a life-size replica of a portion of a coal mine.

From the museum, it is only three miles to the spectacular High Trestle. The original rail route down the valley floor and across the river was steep and treacherous for rail cars and resulted in several train wrecks. In 1912, the railroad built the first trestle bridge spanning the Des Moines River. In the 1970s, it was replaced with a sturdier one, better fit to carry rail traffic on a Milwaukee Road line (the line was retired in the 2000s). The original piers from this second bridge remain to support the current pedestrian deck of the High Trestle Trail Bridge.

Today, the unique artistic features of this pedestrian bridge are indeed impressive. Designed to weave in the local mining history and regional geology, two 42-foot-tall towers stand at the entryway, with dark bands representing coal veins found in regional limestone deposits. Six overlooks, each with an interpretive panel, provide a place to pause and take in the beautiful views of the Des Moines River valley while learning a little more history. To top it off, 43 steel cribbings arch over the entire length of the bridge, artistically rendering the sensation of moving through a mine shaft. The arches are each lined with blue LED strips brilliantly lit after dark and making a night visit a must.

If you do return at night, be sure to bring a light as the trail is unlit and the closest parking lot is on QF Lane, a half-mile from the bridge. For accommodations nearby, check out the historic Hotel Pattee in Perry, eleven miles west of Woodward. They have 40 individually decorated and themed rooms featuring some aspect of Iowan history and it is located just a block from the trailhead for the 70-mile Raccoon River Valley Trail (should your biking legs be itching for more).

Woodward, and the end of the High Trestle Trail, is another 2.5 miles farther west from the bridge. If you are in need of repast before making the return trip, Cayanne’s Café and Gifts (Main Street), two blocks south of the trailhead, welcomes riders with bike parking, air conditioning and a large selection of sandwiches, soups and pizza. The Whistlin’ Donkey Sports Bar and Grill (North Main) also caters to cyclists and offers some camping options.

Day 2

Today, you have the whole trip to do again, in reverse! If you have time on your return journey, visit the Snus Hill Winery (you’ll see a sign directing you there a few miles after Madrid). Just over a mile detour from the trail, this family-owned business is pretty darn enticing— sit on their decks, relax and soak in the pastoral Iowa charm while sipping wine made from their French and American grape varietals.

Back in Ankeny, after you’ve cooled down and your legs don’t feel as if they are still pedaling, you will eventually start to think about wining and dining (again). Consider going to Des Moines for the evening, only a 10 minute drive. There are loads of great restaurants to choose from. If you have time, unwind with music from the Des Moines Symphony. In addition to their regular schedule, they perform a free Yankee Doodle Pops concert on the grounds of the State Capitol every July. Allow time for a leisurely stroll through the Pappajohn Sculpture Park at the entranceway to downtown Des Moines. Admission is always free and it is open until midnight.

From the High Trestle Trail in Slater, you can connect to the 32-mile Heart of Iowa Nature Trail for another day of biking.

Drive a short distance north to the Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad. The railroad enthusiast will enjoy a train ride through the Des Moines River Valley with options for picnicking and dining. The ticket price includes admission to the The James H. Andrew Railroad Museum & History Center which features railroad artifacts, a theatre and library, and railroad-related children’s activities.

In nearby Ames, architectural buffs can explore a 12-block area listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In this Old Historic District, architectural details of the late 19th and early 20th centuries are well-preserved and range from the brackets of the Italianate, the ornateness of the Queen Anne, to the horizontal lines of the Prairie style.

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Smithsonian National Zoo

3001 Connecticut Ave.
Washington, DC 2008
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Free admission and host of brand new exhibits featuring both abundant and endangered species from around the world. Don’t forget to drop by the Zoo’s most famous residents: giant pandas!

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