Gay Lea Wilson Trail

Trail Map

Trail Information


  • I broke this ride up into two segments using Copper Creek Lake Park in Pleasant Hill as my starting points. The park has some really nice facilities.  There is a path circling the lake where fishing is allowed.  A shady picnic areas, clean bathrooms and a fun playground area are all located on the northeast side of the lake.  An InfoHub displays maps and information about Gay Lea Wilson.

  • The asphalt trail has combinations of heavy to light tree canopy along with open areas.

  • The trail traveling into Des Moines is very flat, while the portion towards Altoona is punctuated with short hills.  Fun for coasting!


  • Even though you’re in the metro I had opportunities to get in touch with nature.  On this beautiful fall day there were lots of colorful trees to admire, ducks to watch at the lake, and countless birds and squirrels along the paths.

  • The section towards Altoona was noisy as it travels alongside Highway 65.


  • Sargent Park is Des Moines first natural playscape. This park doesn’t have your typical plastic equipment.  Instead they have incorporated large boulders, hollowed trees,and  bridges made rope.  There’s even a cave to check out!

  • Copper Creek Lake Park - A short stop for water, a bathroom break and a quick snack before heading out towards Altoona.


  • On the route to Altoona I passed the location of the worst train crash in central Iowa’s history.  It took place way back in 1877 and involved a flood and a circus train.  There’s a plaque that tells the story and marks this tragic event.


  • I brought along homemade trail mix of almonds, dates and sunflower seeds to snack on while taking a quick break.

  • After finishing my ride I made my way to Over the Top.  It is an amazing ice cream shop located about a mile east of the park off of University at 955 NE 56th St.  All their ice cream is homemade.  After much deliberating I chose  Knee Deep in Chocolate and for my free  “baby scoop”, Sweet’n Salty Pretzel.  Since it was such a beautiful day I took my treat out to their patio to enjoy.  Their name does them justice.  It was over the top!