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The Trout Run Trail provides an experience unique to any other in Iowa, with a hilly landscape that reminds trail users of the meteorite that struck the area long ago. The trail actually loops all the way around the town of Decorah, and the northern portion follows along the Upper Iowa River.
Starting from the west side of Decorah off Fifth Avenue and Pulpit Rock Road, the trail follows along the water, curves right, and then heads left into two campgrounds; note the signage as you wind through. At the south end of the campgrounds, you’ll cross a small bridge and then have the option to continue east or cut a sharp right and head south.
Heading south, a brief switchback climb cuts through the rocky hillside and up to a small overlook with rock walls on either side of the trail. The route then heads back downhill along the highway (to your right) and then comes to a large intersection, where a newly finished trail overpass bridge glides you to the other side; here, depending on the season, you’ll be greeted by an abundance of wildflowers. Parking and a detailed trail map are also available.
The trail heads south and outside of town and then takes a sharp left turn—wiggling you through cornfields and up and down switchbacks. Continuing south, you’ll come to another sharp series of switchbacks through more cornfields at the southernmost section of trail; take some time to enjoy the beautiful and abundant hills that grace the route.
The trail curves northward through farms along Trout Creek and heads right past the Decorah Fish Hatchery and then left across Trout Run Road and over the creek. From here, you’ll follow the creek northeast until you reach the Trout Run Access Area and the Upper Iowa River, where the trail cuts northwestward. As you make your way around the northern loop segment along the river, the route passes several art installations, including a silver archway shaped like a swimming fish, and a trestle bridge picnic area.
Along the way, you’re likely to come across cows, wildflowers, and hiking paths venturing off the trail. After you pass a large school and sports fields, the trail and river veer left and head southward to where the loop began. Note that this part of the trail is prone to flooding.
Ahead a short way is Phelps Park with a playground and lots of green grassy spots. You’ll then come to a straight strip of trail that takes you along a rocky hill face—part of Decorah’s originality—and by a couple of sculptures before connecting back to the campgrounds.
To reach the northwest trailhead and parking from US 52 heading north toward Decorah, turn right onto Pulpit Rock Road for 0.6 mile. Turn right into the parking lot, which is located just before you reach Fifth Ave. The endpoint is located 0.1 mile east on Fifth Ave. just before the intersection with Riverview Drive to the north.
To reach the eastern trailhead/Walmart from SR 9, head northeast (a right turn if you’re heading west, a left turn if you’re heading east) onto Old Stage Road, and then turn left into the Walmart parking lot. The trail connection is at the western corner of the lot near the Upper Iowa River.
I rode this trail right after some heavy June rains so sections of the trail were either closed or muddy even though I navigated around or through. I went by the Eagle cam and fish hatchery. Also, rode a paved trail northeast of town--called Freeport trail to get in some extra miles. The hills were steep so my legs got a good workout.
Would like to have spent some time in the town itself . . . maybe next time. Well worth doing if you're in the area riding other nearby trails such as Prairie Farmer from Cresco to Calamar. There is a nice campground a little SW of Cresco with a connecting trail into town.
This is a beautiful, well groomed trail that takes you around the city of Decorah, which is equally beautiful and well groomed. We started on the west side of town at the intersection of IA 9 & US 52 and headed north. The first hill was managable; after a short stint on Oneota Dr. (a dead end; no through traffic) it was an easy ride along the Upper Iowa River. There are no substantial hills until you turn south at Trout Run Road & Siewers Rd. near the fish hatchery. To say that the hills are challenging is an understatement: even a seasoned bicyclist might pause or even hang back at some of these 6 & 7% grade, s-curve, switchback & hairpin climbs. Overall, a terrific trail.
I highly recommend this trail; it is one of the nicest that I have rode. The views are wonderful, and there are plenty of places to stop and take it all in. Yes there are hills, but the climbs are worth the effort. If you are in the area this one is a must do!
The Trout Run Trail is actually a big loop around the town of Decorah. The east and north sides are mostly flat, as it winds around the edge of town. But the west and south sides are nothing but up and down and up again. Many hills are switchbacks, so even when you get a downhill, you have to apply the brakes and carefully steer around sharp curves, so you don't even get to coast for as long as you'd like.
Despite the excruciating hills, it is an attractive well-maintained trail, with scenery ranging from residential to industrial to riverside bluffs to open farmers' fields.
Very nice trail, but long up hills. We ride a tandem & had to walk uphill a lot. It might be easier with a single bike. Usually we ride fast on the downhills, so we can make it up the hills. On this trail the downhills had U turns & S turns, so you couldn't really do that. Still, it is a very nice trail.
This trail has great scenery. It's all paved which is a excellent feature. There are plenty of resting areas (which are much needed in certain areas). Excellent trail side access. But...it goes around a bluff which presents with challenging climbing. There are no maps, descriptions or reviews that thoroughly describe the climbing the cyclist will have to do.
Challenging switchbacks in the beautiful countryside leading to vistas of Northeast Iowa bluff country with eagles, trout, and art installations along the 11 mile trail that sports an elegant bike bridge over the entrance to the city. Great restaurants and the Toppling Goliath Microbrewery with Taproom make this a great afternoon of biking or cross country skiing in season. You can spend the morning on the fantastic mountain bike trails at Van Peenen and Pallisades Parks on the edge of Decorah.
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