Dark Island Trail


10 Reviews

View Trail Map
View Map
Send to App

Register for free!

Register for free with TrailLink today!

We're a non-profit all about helping you enjoy the outdoors
  • View over 40,000 miles of trail maps
  • Share your trail photos
  • Save your own favorite trails
  • Learn about new trails near you
  • Leave reviews for trails
  • Add new and edit existing trails

Dark Island Trail Facts

States: Nebraska
Counties: Hamilton, Merrick
Length: 8.4 miles
Trail end points: US 30 between 13th and 14th Avenues (Central City) and Marquis Avenue between Railroad and Petersen Streets (Marquette)
Trail surfaces: Crushed Stone
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6873191

Dark Island Trail Description

Traversing just over 8 miles in central Nebraska, the Dark Island Trail runs from the small town of Central City to the even smaller village of Marquette. For those experiencing the trail by bike, wider tires are recommended.

The rail-trail opened in 2011, capping off nearly ten years of work by the Nebraska Trail Committee and Nebraska Trails Foundation on converting the former railroad corridor into a recreational trail. The centerpiece of the trail is undoubtedly its 1,072-foot long bridge, which was originally built in the 1880s by the Republican Valley Railroad. It spans the Platte River south of Center City and has been fully converted to pedestrian use with improved decking, handrails, and several bump-outs for enjoyment of the beautiful view.

Close to Central City, the trail runs through the middle of the Turtle Beach neighborhood and immediately adjacent to the lake which the community is built around. From Turtle Beach to Marquette, the Dark Island Trail runs uninterrupted for miles through Nebraska's famous verdant farmland.

Parking and Trail Access

State Route 14 runs through Central City and comes close to Marquette. Take the road to either endpoint and park on city streets. There are signs directing visitors to the Dark Island Trail in Central City and in Marquette. As always, be mindful of parking restrictions and respectful of the property of the towns' residents.

Dark Island Trail Reviews

Dark Island Trail - Central City Nebraska -Memorial Day weekend 2023

The first 4 miles of the trail going south from Central City is really nice. The long bridge over the Platte allows for excellent viewing of the river. The tree lined canopy traveling farther along was very pretty. Once riders cross HWY 14 and proceed on towards Marquette, the trail became increasing difficult to ride even with medium width bike tires. The trail surface of powdery fly ash was deep. It also appeared that new limestone/crushed rock gravel had recently been added to the trail but not graded, thus making it too difficult to continue riding. Perhaps fat tire bikes would be able to traverse this section but definitely not road or hybrid tire bikes. A very peaceful and pastoral trail to ride, but unfortunately the final 3 or so miles is too hard to really bike. Nice restroom facilities and picnic area at the trailhead in Central City.

Excellent biking/running trail

Surface is well maintained for the entire length of the trail, no loose piled gravel. Rode morning after thunderstorms, surface absorbed the moisture well. Encountered cross country runners and other bikers on the trail. Bader Bridge is a marvel!

Wonderful Trail with More still to Do

This is a beautiful walk with a little bit of each kind of scenery found in Nebraska. Past corn fields, ranches, and prairie, you'll want a hat for the sun, but there are also beautiful areas of forest with welcome shade. The surfacing still reaches no further south than SR 66. After that all the way to Marquette, you have to walk on old railroad gravel, a little uncomfortable to the feet, but to many, worth it for the views and serenity.
There is also a lot of wildlife to see along the trail. I saw hawks, deer, rabbits, chipmunks, butterflies, and numerous kinds of songbirds. Of course, the farm animals are present; don't miss the miniature horses that you can see from the trail near Marquette. In season, the wildflowers are a treat as well.
There was active preparation for lengthening the upgraded surfacing when I went through. The main down side to the trail at this time is walking on the big sharp gravel of the old railroad bed. Google Maps needs to catch up with the fact that it's no longer a railroad south of the country club into Marquette.

This will be a beautiful trail once it is finished.

Crushed white rock surface from the trailhead east of the high school to the Hwy 66 crossing, about two miles. Past that, even walking would be challenging. You might be able to ride a fat bike from Hwy 66 to Hwy 14 but that might even be tough. This is still a beautiful trail and the Bader Bridge is outstanding! Lots of work to be done. Who ever got it this far deserves a big round of applause! I hope the debris along the bridge can get pulled out before it takes out the bridge.


Upgrades coming

Limestone installation is not yet finished between 28th St in Central City and Hwy 66. A hard surface should be in place by mid-July pending acceptable weather. It's still not ready for bikes or strollers.

Bring a mountain bike

As of August 2014, the improved surface ends just south of the end of the bridge. Across the highway, the surface looks like the original railroad ballast. My recumbent with 26 x 1-1/2" tires handled the smooth dirt just fine, but the loose ballast surface (huge rock chunks up to 2" in size) south of the highway was just not possible for me, and I turned around there. Mountain bikers may be able to handle it, but I'd definitely recommend leaving the road bikes at home.

Good Trail

My wife and I hike dark island regularly. Park at HY 66 trailhead and 2.8 miles round trip to HY 14 and back. Excellent bridge over Platte River. South of HY 66 trail surface is rougher but interesting hike.

Great bridge over the Platte

A little bit of everything, from a walk in the woods, spanning over the Platte, quiet open country; a great trail to explore!

Bader Bridge

The walking bridge (Bader Bridge) over the Platte River has over 1,000 linear feet of great river viewing, complete with a dozen benches to sit on with friends and enjoy beautiful sunrises and sunsets on the Platte.

Nice ride for the kids!

Rode this trail June 2, 2013, nice, clean. Good views of the Platte River. It's a flat trail that has been converted from rail road track.

Nearby Trails

Go Unlimited Today!

  • FREE Account
  • View over 40,000 miles of trail maps
  • Post your trail reviews
  • Share your trail photos
  • Save your favorite trails
  • Learn about new trails near you
  • Get a free map in the app!
Register for FREE
Purchase Unlimited

Explore by City

Explore by City

Explore by Activity

Explore by Activity

Log in to your account to:

  • View trail paths on the map
  • Save trails to your account
  • Add trails, edit descriptions
  • Share photos
  • Add reviews

Log in with Google

Log in with Apple


Register for free!

Join TrailLink (a non-profit) to view more than 40,000 miles of trail maps and more!

Register with Google

Register with Apple


Your account has been deleted.