May is National Bike Month, so if it’s been a few months since that bike saw the outside of your garage, now is a great time to tune it up and welcome warmer weather with a family bike ride. We’ve rounded up a few local trails we think are relatively kid friendly, meaning…they’re paved, have some tree coverage for shade and restrooms are fairly convenient (Altough, most are not currently open).
Depending on which trail you choose, it might be a good idea to bring along a first aid kit, a tire patch kit or extra tubes, and bug and tick spray. Find additional tips for a family bike ride here. You may also be interested in our article about riding the High Trestle Trail with kids.
Here are our top picks for the most family-friendly bike trails in the Des Moines area:
Clive Greenbelt Trail – The Greenbelt Trail, including all of the connections to nearby Clive neighborhoods, is 11.3 miles in length. This is a great trail for kids because there are several places where you can stop and take a break along the way. The path is paved and well shaded but can get pretty narrow in spots.
Chichaqua Valley Trail – A great flat wide paved trail, start your ride in Mally’s Park near Berwick and ride east to Bondurant. We usually stop in Bondurant for a bite to eat and then turn around and head back to the car. (It’s a little over 12 miles round trip.) If you’re up for a longer ride, the trail will take you as far as Baxter.
Gay Lea Wilson Trail – Trailheads for the Gay Lea Wilson trail are located in Ankeny, Des Moines, Pleasant Hill and Altoona and they all make a good starting point. This is a shaded, scenic paved ride through much of urban eastern polk county.
John Pat Dorrian Trail – This urban trail starts in Pete Crivaro Park and takes you along the east bank of the Des Moines River. It’s a fairly short trail at 3.4 miles, but ties into the much longer Neal Smith Trail. This is a fun ride for kids as it takes you by many downtown attractions like the Brenton Skating Plaza and Botanical Center.
Jordan Creek Trail – The entire trail runs 15.5 miles along large sections of the Creek. Part of the trail loops around Raccoon River Park, which would either make a good destination or resting spot for the kids.
Neal Smith Trail – Depending on which part of the trail you ride, I would say that this trail is more of an intermediate trail (for kids). It’s paved and shaded, but it can get windy and rolly in certain parts of the trail, especially once you get close to Saylorville lake.
Raccoon River Valley Trail – We typically jump on the Raccoon River Valley Trail at the Waukee Trailhead. You can either head north to Dallas Center or go west to Adel. Both trails are paved and relatively flat easy rides.
What’s your family’s favorite bike trail in the Des Moines area?