Iowa Great Lakes Trail


Iowa Great Lakes Trail Facts

States: Iowa
Counties: Dickinson
Length: 18.2 miles
Trail end points: 125th St. and 253rd Ave. (Orleans) and 225th St. and Q Ave. (Milford)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6031526
Trail activites: Bike, Inline Skating, Wheelchair Accessible, Snowmobiling, Walking, Cross Country Skiing

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Iowa Great Lakes Trail Description

The Iowa Great Lakes Trail was formerly known as the Dickinson County Spine Trail, and it is just that—the 'spine' of the great active transportation system in the Iowa Great Lakes region near the border with Minnesota. Included in this system are several on-road bicycle routes, nature trails, planned trails and a future rail-trail, almost all of which branch off from the Iowa Great Lakes Trail.

The trail runs for about 18 miles (including on-road portions) from just north of the small town of Orleans to its southern endpoint in the city of Milford. For much of its route, the Iowa Great Lakes Trail winds immediately adjacent to Okoboji Lake and Spirit Lake, providing beautiful views of the clear water. South of Orleans, the trail parallels a rail corridor that was active until 2009. Plans call for the corridor to be converted into a recreational trail, which will ultimately span from Sibley in the west to Superior in the east.

In the city of Spirit Lake, an interior loop connects more homes and a hospital to the trail. South of the city's downtown, be sure to stop to take a picture of (or just gaze out at) East Okoboji Lake from the separated pedestrian bridge near the marina. That bridge takes you to the quiet residential part of the city of Arnolds Park. For the rest of the route, the trail separates from the road and offers a more peaceful ride or run to the southern endpoint in Milford.

While most of the Iowa Great Lakes Trail is a multi-directional, paved off-road route, certain portions are on roads shared with cars. These on-road routes can be tricky to navigate; be sure to refer to the TrailLink map so you can anticipate these sections.

Parking and Trail Access

Parking lots for the Iowa Great Lakes Trail can be found in Spirit Lake at the intersection of 23rd Street and Lincoln Avenue and near the trail's midpoint at 175th Street and Stake Out Road. In Arnolds Park, consider parking where Dam Road meets Minnewashta Lake or at the lot on 202nd Street near US 71.

Iowa Great Lakes Trail Reviews

Road from the parking lot of Fareway around the entire loop except for 3 miles to Milford. Trail is mostly asphalt that is new this summer (2015). A huge improvement from the previous cracked concrete. The trail is tree lined in parts and beautiful. It goes across several bridges and has beautiful views of the lakes. The trail also takes you past multiple bars and resturants. There are a few areas where there is a bike lane on a lower traffic road. There are spray painted white arrows in some places where it is confusing which way to go. If you stay with the white arrows you will be fine. Fun trail!

Not a very well marked at all. Missed a turn and ended up running against traffic over a bridge with a tiny shoulder. It's every kind of surface and most are not that well maintained. A few small patches of new concert or asphalt but just a mishmash of all manner of walkway. Not a trail destination.

Biked on this trail on a rainy Sunday in May. No water or restrooms at the Trail Head, just a small gravel parking lot. The signage was very poor; never sure you're even on the trail which was all patched up & bumpy and switched between asphalt, concrete sidewalks & parking lots (weird they'd even call this a trail).

In Spirit Lake it seems to run mostly on narrow sidewalks. Riding the roads would have been better except some had lots of traffic & very narrow shoulders. The high point of the trail was a very nice Kiwanis park on the southern edge of Spirit Lake. Dickinson County: this "trail" needs major rehabilitation; the area is interesting but this isn't a destination trail.


Went to Okoboji this past weekend just to ride the trail. First day went around Spirit Lake. Did take the county highway, which is the Iowa/Minnesota State line, to make the entire loop. The scenery was decent. The trail isn't in the best of shape A LOT of patches. The worst thing is the lack of signage. You are constantly being sent on city streets or sidewalks and not sure if you are still on the trail or if you missed a turn. After a while we figured out to look for spray painted arrows on the street or sidewalks to point the direction. The second day we tried to do the loop around Okoboji lake but had to give up because after passing Arnolds Park Amusement Park we couldn't locate where the trail continued on. Disappointing. Signage could have made it a great weekend. As is I won't be back.

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