Taking My Time on the Summerset Trail

The Trail

The Summerset Trail is a National Recreational Trail traveling 12 miles from Indianola to Carlisle.  It is also a recognized destination by Rails To Trails Conservancy.   The asphalt trail provides a variety of scenery. In Indianola you travel through industrial areas, then through neighborhoods.  Next it’s the wooded sections through the state park area followed by open prairie and farm fields as you approach Carlisle.

The Indianola trailhead is located in the 300 block of N 5th Street.  Parking, restrooms and water are available along with a picnic area.  At the trail’s halfway mark is Banner Lake State Park.  There you can ride the loop around one of Iowa’s trout lakes that was formerly a coalmine.  The trailhead in Carlisle is along Highway 5, just past the town's last stop light.  It has parking, a shaded spot to rest, and is conveniently located next to an ice cream and sandwich shop.

Trail Map

Trail Information


The Ride

I had a weekend all to myself.  What was I going to do to fill the time?  A bike ride of course! Arriving at Banner State Park I was surprised to pull into an empty parking lot.  The last time I was here it was packed with folks trying their luck at catching trout.  I unloaded my bike and headed out to the park loop.  After a quick stop for a picture I was back on the bike when out of nowhere I’m passed by a cyclist.  What the?? No call to pass, no greeting, just a “whoosh” of wind as he passed by.  Apparently I was wrong thinking I was the only one at the park.

Nature’s confetti of colored leaves were gently falling from trees and sprinkling the trail.  A frog hopped it’s way across the trail and beaver gnaw marks on trees all caught my eye.  What else would I find?  

During my ride back in April I saw the nest of either a Bald Eagle or Hawk off in the far distance.  I also came across the remnants of a raptors lunch, but never spotted the bird.  On this visit I was lucky enough to see it flying over the trail. A Bald Eagle was making it’s way back to the nest in the trees along the Middle River.  

Making my way to Carlisle I thought about how the views from the trail change during the seasons.  Thanks to all the foliage I wasn’t feeling exposed and out in the open on the portion of trail that runs alongside the country roads. Back in April it was a different story. 

Reaching Carlisle I ventured over to Fiss’ for a treat.  It was busy inside.  Cheerleaders and their coach were packed around a table enjoying a lunch away from the high school cafeteria.  I ordered vanilla cone and took it outside to enjoy.   

The remainder of my bike ride was more of a ramble than a ride.  I stopped at the viewing tower, watched the waterbirds out in the marsh, and then meandered through the state park area enjoying the fall colors.  Why hurry?  I had all the time in the world.