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The Three Rivers Trail runs for nearly 40 miles from the small community of Rolfe—named after the early English settler who married Pocahontas—to just west of Eagle Grove. The mostly rural trail is named appropriately for the three rivers it crosses, including the West Fork and East Fork of the Des Moines River and the west branch of the Boone River, and is ideal for those seeking peace and solitude.
Starting in Rolfe at the small trailhead and parking area, you’ll head southeast on a flat route with little to no grade. For those wishing to bike, the town of Rolfe offers a bike-share program; look for the bike station at the J.B. Wilcox Shelter and Picnic Area at the trailhead. During the first 16.5 miles to Humboldt, you’ll head over the West Fork Des Moines River and through prairie and farmland, crossing many railroad trestles along the way. Just before the trail crosses Pilot Creek Road, look for a sizable historical marker denoting the site of a battle between the Winnebago and Sioux Indians in 1854 to control the area’s abundant resources. Here, you’ll also find a parking lot, a pit toilet, and a picnic shelter.
Be sure you stock up on water and snacks for your journey, as there are no food amenities or public water fountains along this stretch.
After Jerry Hatcher Road in Humboldt, you can curve left onto a separate, 6-mile spur trail that extends north to open farmland (note that there’s no outlet at the spur’s end) or south to Frank A. Gotch State Park, a 67-acre campsite, and the confluence of the East and West Forks of the Des Moines River. Back on the main trail in Humboldt, the trail continues southeast to Dakota City and passes the Humboldt County Historical Museum—a complex of historical buildings reflecting early life in the county—located at the southern end of the Dakota City Memorial Park & Campground. Most prominent is the 13-room mill farmhouse built in 1879. You’ll then cross the East Fork Des Moines River before continuing to more rural settings once again.
The trail continues through trees and farmland, crosses over the last of its namesakes, the Boone River, and ends abruptly about 1.5 miles west of the small town of Eagle Grove, at Calhoun Avenue. There are no amenities at this end of the trail, and trail users who wish to enter town must take local roads.
To reach the western trailhead in Rolfe from US 169 heading north, turn left onto 270th St., and go 11 miles. Continue onto 570th St. for 5 miles, and then turn right onto 290th Ave. Go 10.1 miles, and turn right onto 470th St. After 1 mile, turn left onto 300th Ave. Go 0.3 mile, and look for the small trailhead on the right (just before the road curves left and becomes Railroad St.).
To reach parking south of Humboldt from Fort Dodge on US 169 heading north, turn right onto 120th St.; go 2 miles, and turn left onto National Ave. After 2 miles, continue onto 100th St./280th St. for 0.2 mile, and then continue onto Lone Tree Road for 3.5 miles. Turn left into the parking area where the trail intersects the road.
To reach parking at the eastern endpoint from Webster City on IA 17, take IA 17 N for 13.5 miles. Turn left onto W. Broadway St., go 0.9 mile, and continue onto 270th St. Turn right onto Calhoun Ave. After 1.3 miles, look for a small parking area to your left, where the trail begins.
Trail is really great but could definitely use some more gravel in certain areas where the path is shaded and it doesn't get as much sun the sand can suck all the energy out of you. Of course that could just be in the Winter months.
We only walked a bit of the trail, but saw no one on it the whole 30-45 min we were on it.
Awesome biking trail! Very smooth packed gravel trail. Restrooms and air stations available in some areas. Plan full day and bring water/energy bars.
rode from Rolfe to Rutland. We saw few people except 2 trail maintenance guys who were mowing and removing down limbs. The Des Moines River was bankfull+ so the water was very close to the bridge bottom. Nearly rode over a garter snake and a 3' bull snake who was hugging the edge of the grass line. Just a really nice trail that is maintained. The toilets were closed, though, due to Covid.
I rode the section from Humbolt to Rolfe and back on Friday August 31, 2018. As others have posted, this is a crushed limestone trail but it is very smooth and in great shape, especially considering all the rain this area has received this summer. There were some small branches and leaves on the trail and there was one spot just west of Bradgate that was a little soft but other than that it was firm. I rode my Kona Rove with 700c x 35 mm tires and had no problems at all. I felt that the entire route was very scenic as it follows the Des Moines River. There are a lot of wooded stretches and glimpses of water. I even saw a Beaver near Bradgate.
If you take this trip, there's not much in Rutland or Bradgate to stop for, but there are nice picnic areas alongside the trail near both towns. There may have been restaurants in Rolfe but I wasn't really paying attention. Humbolt looked like a fabulous little town with a very vibrant Main Street and several restaurants. This is about an hour from my home, and so I plan to come back and ride the other direction to Eagle Grove. All in all, a great day.
I run this trail at least 4-5 times a week and I never get tired of it. My route usually consists of the miles between the trailhead in Rolfe and a few miles outside of Bradgate. It is a quite and easy run. There are cricks and rivers all along this route which provide many wildlife spotting.
I would highly recommend this trail to anyone!
I rode the last 5-6 miles at the west end of Three River Trail, up and back, from Bradgate to Rolfe (in my quest to bike in all 99 counties!). I found it peaceful/serene and beautiful. The crushed limestone rode very well and there several places for photo opps. Another plus is the R/R (restroom) availability in Melson Park half way between the two towns as well as the J&B Wilcox Shelter at the end of the trail in Rolfe. Bradgate has a very friendly park-art at a shelter where you can take a moment - and a photo! I definitely want to be returning to finish the trail someday!
We rode the trail from Humboldt to Rolfe. Most of our riding is on road bikes but for this day we took our 29ers. We were shocked how quiet this trail was for a nice Saturday. We only met 3 other bikes in 40 miles on the trail and only a handfull of runners/walkers. This trail is great and very well maintained with trailside rest stops in Rutland and Bradgate before arriving in Rolfe. We had lunch at the Community Pub before heading back to Humboldt. Very nice views along this trail! Look forward to going back and riding from Humboldt to Eagle Grove next time.
Looking for a new overnight adventure, we discovered the Three Rivers Trail. With no real reviews to read and only one picture, we were skeptical and not expecting much. Arriving in Rolfe shortly after lunch, we unloaded our bikes and began our trek eastward. The trail is very well maintained and consists of well-packed crushed limestone. We were pleasantly surprised to see the trail lined with bushes, trees and native grasses & wild flowers; as well as beautiful views of the rivers, birds, deer and other wildlife. There are also a number of rest areas & facilities provided along the way. If you are looking for a quiet, peaceful cycling day, you will enjoy this trail.
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