The High Trestle Trail is an ideal place for a relaxing bike ride with the family. It’s just long enough to provide a bit of exercise for you but short enough to keep little ones happy while hangin’ in the trailer, bike seat or riding their own two-wheeler.
Know Before You Go
- Hours of Operation: All hours.
- Cost: Trail access is FREE.
- Parking: FREE parking is available at a number of trail heads.
- Food: Outside food and beverages are permitted and there are a number of restaurants located along the trail.
- Restrooms: There are restrooms located at trail heads along the routes. Make sure to remind kids to go when they have the opportunity, as restrooms are located quite a distance between one another.
- Prior to your visit check out Iowa National Heritage High Trestle Trail and Bike Iowa for more information and maps.
The High TrestleTrail
The High Trestle Trail is a wide, paved path that runs for 25 miles through five Central Iowa communities (Ankeny Sheldahl, Slater, Madrid and Woodward). The highlight of the trail includes a 1/2- mile, 13-story high trestle bridge that spans across the Des Moines River Valley. There is plenty of shade, which on a warm sunny day helps keep the trail cool and since there’s no car traffic, you can relax and give the kids some freedom to pedal ahead on their own.
On our last trip to the High Trestle Trail, we rode our bikes from Woodward east (towards Madrid) to the Bridge and back. Round trip it’s about a five mile bike ride. We parked the car at the Depot in Woodward, which is located about 30 minutes northwest of Des Moines. The old Train Depot is located in Colton Park and has been renovated as a visitor’s center. There are also public restrooms, water fountains and a few picnic tables located here.
Once you’ve unloaded the bikes and saddled up, you’re ready to ride. The trail slopes slightly downhill on the way to the Bridge, so it really doesn’t take too long to get there. It takes us about 20-30 minutes to reach the Bridge from Woodward. It just depends on how fast you ride and if you stop or not along the way. Both of my kids ride their own bikes. My daughter is seven and she goes at a slower (read slow) pace. We also like to stop and look at the foliage and look for animals as we go. If a longer ride is in order, consider riding on to Madrid, which is a little over 11 miles round trip and is still a very doable ride with kids.
Crossing the Bridge is truly the highlight of the bike ride. We stop at most of the lookout points on the bridge and take in all of the breathtaking scenery as we cross. Once we’re on the other side we turn around and do it all again! The Bridge is really quite remarkable and I find myself wondering if we’re really still in Iowa when we’re looking down on the landscape below us. I also highly recommend reading as much of the information about the bridge as you can. It’s really quite fascinating.
Of course, you can also do this ride in reverse by parking in Madrid and riding to Woodward!
What Makes It Great
The High Trestle Trail is an ideal place to take the family for a leisurely pedal on this out-and-back, two-way paved path. Even though it’s about as safe as can be, please remember to teach the kids to stay on their side of the path in order to avoid head-ons with trail users going the opposite direction. Because of its popularity, the Trail can be quite crowded with walkers, runners, bikes and leashed dogs. Though it may get a little cramped, the visitors are courteous and respectful to both the trail and the other visitors.
At both the Woodward and Madrid location are restaurants that provide a great place to get a bite to eat and enjoy a cool beverage. The Whistlin’ Donkey is located in Woodward and the Flat Tire Lounge is located in Madrid. After our last bike ride we stopped by the Whistlin Donkey for drinks and snacks. They do have a Kids Menu and their patio is a great place to watch all of the bikers coming and going from the trail.
Riding at Night
The High Trestle Trail is a popular trail to ride at night, because cyclists and visitor’s want to see the Bridge’s lighted archways. If you do decide to ride at night make sure that you have lights on both the front and back of your bikes. The trail gets really dark fast. It’s also good to note that the Bridge lights have winter and summer hours. In winter, they are only on from dusk until 9:00 pm. In summer, they are on from dusk until midnight.
Have you gone on a family bike ride on the High Trestle Trail? If so, share your tips with us!