Great Western Trail (IA)


Great Western Trail (IA) Facts

States: Iowa
Counties: Polk, Warren
Length: 16.5 miles
Trail end points: Grays Lake Rd. in Waterworks Park (Des Moines) and Inwood St. (Martensdale)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6015618
Trail activites: Bike, Inline Skating, Wheelchair Accessible, Walking, Cross Country Skiing

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Great Western Trail (IA) Description

The 16.5-mile Great Western Trail in central Iowa is built on a former rail bed for the Chicago Great Western, originally constructed in 1893. The trail crosses a few remaining remnants of prairie and wetlands that include some of Iowa's endangered plants and which are indigenous to this area.

Restaurants and restrooms are available near both trailheads (Des Moines and Martensdale) as well as in Cumming (the halfway point). You will find picnic shelters and water at Gear Street (north of Martensdale) and at Coolidge Street (south of Cumming).

Near its northern end, an expansion of Veterans Parkway will shift the route of the trail slightly. Construction of the new trail section paralleling the new roadway between Highway 5 and the city of Cumming is expected to be completed in 2019.

Parking and Trail Access

In Polk County (Des Moines), parking is available at the trailhead along Valley Drive/George Flagg Parkway, near Park Avenue. In Warren County (Martensdale, Cumming), parking is available at the trailhead on Inwood Street in Martensdale and where the trail crosses CR G14/Cumming Rd. in Cumming.

Great Western Trail (IA) Reviews

Great trail. Super wet from the melt. Was loking forward to lunch in Matinsdale but the Roadside is CLOSED for good.

We started a one day ride in 2014 from Kansas City to Des Moines. Riding the last 16 miles on the Great Western Trail was a nice break from the roads. It's scenic and in good enough condition to ride our road bikes on. We'll be back at it again this Saturday, 07/18.

This trail is beautiful! The pictures attached to it don't do it justice. It is much harder to go south than it is to go north, plus it is wonderful to end at Grey's lake after going through Water Works Park. I definitely recommend it!


We started in Des Moines and made stops in Cumming at the Tap and ended up with a great meal in Martensdale at the Roadside Inn. You have to travel east thru the town of Martensdale at the bottom of the hill. Nice trail with lots of wildlife and the leaves were turning. Not much traffic and those we met along the way could not have been nicer.

When I visit my in-laws in Iowa, I typically have to run the highways with no shoulder, run the country roads and risk being chased by loose dogs, or scrap my training runs all together for the weekend. My husband did a search and found this awesome trail. I started my run in Martensdale (only a 13 mile drive for me). The trail head there has decent bathroom facilities and water. The stretch I ran, 6.5 out and back, was mostly flat with only a few gradual, hardly noticeable inclines and a couple of small hills. If you are looking to do an interval or tempo run, this trail will work just fine. The trail was clear, i.e., no leaves or brush, and was nicely mowed on each side. It was a Friday, so I had it all to myself. The following day, my husband and I went for a 10 mile run on it late in the afternoon. Being a hunter, my husband really enjoyed seeing the deer. There was a little more use of the trail on this day.

Overall, this is a super nice trail. I'm thrilled that we found it and will definitely continue to use when we are back to visit. In fact, I hope to be able to run it all the way to Des Moines maybe next spring or summer.

Just rode this 6/28 for the first time. Very enjoyable and the road bed was in good condition the entire length. The Tap in Cumming is not visible from the trail, just turn off the trail where you see the Welcome to Cumming sign, go east a few yards and you will see it on the main street on the west side. The trailhead at Martensdale has some limited parking and restroom facilities.

This is a great trail to ride. Takes you through Water Works Park and Greenwood Park. A great place to stop to eat is Bambino's in Cummings if you are there in the evening. Also Orlando's in Des Moines is another great place to get a bite to eat, the trail runs right behind it and there are usually bikes parked out back.

The flooding damage was repaired in late 2008, and the trail was fully functional all 2009. There are a few parts of the trail where the blacktop is split and buckled and at the end of the 2009 season, many of those sections have been repaired. The trail is actually 16.7 miles long.

The Great Western Trail runs some from Des Moines. It is relatively flat but have a few rolling hills.

About 1/2 way on the trail is a little town, Cumming, when you get grab a beer at the Cumming Tap, right next to the trail.

The trail was severely damaged during the floods of 2008. About one mile south of the northern start is a section that is being repaired. at about mile 12 there are currently markers to keep riders away from the washed out section. last i rode, the last three miles were totally closed.

"I live only a few miles from this trail, so I tend to ride it often. It's fairly flat, but there are a couple of hills and gradual grades. It's very scenic and the ride through the tunnels as you near Des Moines is a blast. I often ride midday in the middle of the week and I encounter only a handful of other riders."

"This is a trail in transition. It used to be chipped limestone, but in the summer of 2000 it was paved. As such, there is alot more traffic. But, it's still a good trail.

In the winter/spring of 2000/2001, a 100 yard section of the trail between Des Moines and Cumming will be torn up as the DOT builds a four-lane interstae through the area. Plans are for a tunnel to go beneath the road. Suffice it to say, a very nice area of the trail will be forever gone.

Anyway, it's a short jaunt to the Cumming Tap (a big bicyclist hangout) as well as the town of Martensdale. "

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