Trolley Trail (Clear Lake/Mason City)


Trolley Trail (Clear Lake/Mason City) Facts

States: Iowa
Counties: Cerro Gordo
Length: 6.2 miles
Trail end points: Main Ave. west of N. 35th St. (Clear Lake) and S. Benjamin Ave. at 19th St. SW (Mason City)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6435676
Trail activites: Bike, Inline Skating, Wheelchair Accessible, Walking, Cross Country Skiing

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Trolley Trail (Clear Lake/Mason City) Description

Most of northern Iowa's Trolley Trail is a straight line paralleling both 255th St./4th Ave. and the operational trolley tracks on the other side of the road. But what the Trolley Trail may lack in variety is more than made up for by its excellent functionality: The trail connects bustling Mason City—the hometown of Meredith Wilson and the inspiration for his most famous work, The Music Man—with the beautiful vacation town of Clear Lake, where summer houses dot the shoreline. Aside from being gorgeous, Clear Lake is also famous as the site of the last concert of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper in 1959 before their tragic deaths in an event immortalized later by Don McLean as The Day the Music Died.

Is music history not your fancy? Then visit the Trolley Trail for its fascinating rail pedigree. The Trolley Trail—as you might guess from its name—parallels an active electric trolley line. While trolleys on the line stopped carrying passengers in 1936, the Iowa Traction Railway continues to operate as the only surviving interurban railroad in the United States to regularly use electric locomotives to haul freight. A short section of the Trolley Trail close to Mason City runs immediately next to the tracks; train enthusiasts, be sure to bring your cameras. In Clear Lake, visit the Iowa Trolley Park, which is stationed next to the trail and offers information on the local trolley history and handcar rides on a circular track.

The Trolley Trail, along with the Winnebago Trail and River City Trail, is a part of the larger River City Greenbelt and Trail System. The system links the parks and cultural attractions of Mason City and Clear Lake, although the trails are not directly connected. Be sure to bring your family and sense of adventure and check out all northern Iowa has to offer.

Parking and Trail Access

Clear Lake and Mason City are short drives from I-35, which makes travelling from both Des Moines and Minneapolis an easy affair. If you plan on visiting the Iowa Trolley Park, park in their lot on Main Avenue in Clear Lake (the trail's western endpoint). In Mason City, parking is plentiful on city streets.

Trolley Trail (Clear Lake/Mason City) Reviews

Took the trail from Newman High School to Clear Lake and back. The trail condition is good. The trail runs along a busy highway. It is relatively flat and an easy ride. The trail does continue around the lake but much of it is on the road around Clear Lake that is marked ""shared road" but does not have a dedicated bike lane. Lots of bike friendly signs but no safety markings on the road. Lake view is often blocked by houses. Streets are busy.

My husband and I have ridden this trail a couple of times. We usually camp at Clear Lake and ride the trail around the lake. We have ridden over to Mason City once but once in Mason City it is hard to follow where the trail goes to because it is on city streets. The trail around the lake is very nice and the city of Clear Lake is a seasonal vacation town with lots of summer houses on the shore.

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