Quality Time on the Sauk Rail Trail

The Trail

Located in northwest Iowa. the Sauk Rail Trail is about 2 hours away from the Des Moines metro.  It’s the first trail in Iowa to connect two state parks. The 33 mile asphalt and concrete trail travels north and south and has minimal grades except for hilly segments around Swan Lake.  The trail passes through prairie, wetlands and conservation areas.  Bridges with concrete decks provide smooth river crossings.  Five trailside communities provide cyclists with friendly locations for beginning/ending a ride, resting, or refueling.  Trail permits are required and available online or at trailheads.

Trail Map

Trail Information


The Ride

Quality time with my son is always a treat.  Spending time together on a bike ride is even better.  We started our ride in Breda which is the halfway point on the trail.  Our plan was to ride to Carroll ending our ride at Swan Lake State Park.

We unloaded our bikes and headed south from the old railroad depot in Breda.  Along with corn and soybeans, wind is also harvested in Iowa.  Just outside of Breda a crop of mammoth wind turbines made us feel quite small as we pedaled past.  

Reaching the Hazel Brush Wildlife Area we took our first break at a trailside shelter.  Hazel Brush is known for the beautiful views of native cedar trees and opportunities for bird watching.  My son ate a snack while I chatted with a fellow cyclist.  During our conversation, riders from Team Stray rode past.  Looking professional in their pink and black kits they waved hello.  

Numerous Bluebird houses are found long the trail resulting in the Sauk Bluebird Trail which was also the original name of the bike trail.

South of Maple River we stopped for some time out of the saddle and another snack.  I ended up not packing enough food to satiate a growing boy and was reminded frequently over the remainder of our ride.  

We met several cyclists out on the trail.  Many of them gave a smile and a wave seeming pleased to see a young rider out enjoying the trail.

Following the Middle Raccoon River into Carroll we enjoyed the fall colors on display in the city’s parks.  The challenging portion of our ride was the hilly section around Swan Lake State Park.  Thankfully this portion of ride was short. 

Our fall bike ride was a lot of fun and a great way to get some mother-son time in.  With it's minimal grades, interesting scenery, trailside benches and shelters The Sauk Rail Trail proved to be a great trail for my son to experience.  Next time we ride the Sauk Rail Trail we will check out the northern portion of the route, and pack lots more food!

Happy Riding!