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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.
It's a great trail and can't add much more that what's already been said. The southern and western portion of loop is hilly with great scenery. The trail goes by downtown and close to several restaurants, bars, shops and ice cream places. I've ridden this trail in summer of 2020 and 2021 and most sections of this trail does not have shade trees and got quite hot in the afternoon. That is the only downside I can think of.
I learned about this trail around 5 years ago - me and a friend brought our bikes to Decorah with plans to do this and then visit Toppling Goliath afterward. We were blown away by the hilly nature of this trail, but it is incredibly beautiful as well. I've been back multiple times (most recently today, did the loop twice) and noticed large birds, smaller critters, deer running along the trail, and then a huge variety of flowers and other grassland/riverbed wildlife and plants. I am from Minnesota, and most of the trails I've ever been on in the state are more or less flat. This one is very hilly with some switchbacks for 6 miles, and then more or less flat for 5. It is an incredible trail - you need to be in fairly decent shape but it's worth. My favorite biking trail, and I don't see anything ever beating it (unless I take my bike out west or something).
This trail has so many amazing views along the way it’s a must do! We started at the hilly end and it was pretty intense for about 4 miles or so. After that it was a lot more level and enjoyable. The trout hatchery was a cool place along the way with trout of all sizes , some of them quite huge. There was also a gorgeous waterfall behind the hatchery! The trail meanders over bridges, along streams, and past scenic overlooks. Watch for the Decorah Eagles Nest which has signage on the trail.
This is a beautiful trail and Decorah is a lovely Iowa town. My husband and I enjoyed the challenge of the hills. After reading these reviews we also decided to do the hills first. We totally forgot about the challenge of the hills by the time we got to downtown for pizza and ice cream! However, we will never forget the beautiful Iowa scenery! A great day of riding!
I've ridden this before starting at trailhead on Rte 9 going clockwise but this time I went counter clock to do the hardest part (steep hills & curves) first. For such a short trail there is a nice variety of the scenery--hills, flats, riverside, urban, etc. I extended my ride by going to the end of the Freeport Trail which starts near WalMart.
Another extension I took was going out to Luther College on the northern edge of town. Very beautiful campus--too bad all the beautiful buildings were locked up due to the virus. I was able to make this into an almost 25 mile ride.
Although hilly and curvy, on an ebike this trail felt like heaven. We parked north of the Split rock CG and after talking to the rangers at the CG opted to do the hilly section first while we were still fresh and save the flat sections when we were dogged. The switchback straight out of the CG is challenging and then the fun starts on fast downhills, curves, bridges, tunnels and views. All paved too! It was a Saturday and coupled with the easing of the Covid lockdown, the trail was busy. So get there early and park in out of way lot b/c by midday, the THs are packed. A young doe crossed the trail in front of me adjacent to the highway which was really surprising. The last section with the river to one side and the cliff to the other, plus being on the shady side, was a pleasant relief. The ice cream store next to the bike shop was packed (as packed as one can be with 6' social distancing!). This trail is a do not miss. And if you really want to add miles go one way and then do it again the other way!
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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