Only minutes from the Des Moines metro, The Chichaqua Valley Trail is a 20 mile out-n-back through a forested corridor traveling from Bondurant to Baxter. Originally the Wisconsin, Iowa & Nebraska Railway, this converted rail-trail is mostly asphalt, changing to crushed gravel outside of Mingo. It’s a flat trail with minimal grades. There are several stone bridges to cross built in the late 1800's by the former railway.
The Bondurant trailhead is located just off Highway 65 on NE 88th Street. Work is underway to extend the trail into downtown Bondurant to the new trailhead.
After a confusing false start in Bondurant (I thought the trail started downtown...eesh!) I chose to begin my ride in Baxter. Arriving at the trailhead I saw the wooden caboose. It’s over 100 years old and filled with historical artifacts from the surrounding area. Along the trail railway markers show the mileage to Kansas City.
About 3 miles from Baxter the trail turned to crushed gravel. I slowed down as the ride got bumpy fast. Ira teases you with it’s short segment of asphalt running alongside the city park. “Oh goodie! The trail is paved again...oh crap, it’s not…”
Mingo is the halfway point on the trail. It is also the start/stop point for the asphalt portion. Just before entering town I stopped on the bridge crossing the Indian Creek. This creek also runs only a few miles from where I grew up outside of Nevada. It has special memories for me. As kids my brother and sister and I would often ride our bikes on the gravel road to the creek to wade, explore, or just throw rocks into the water.
South of Mingo the trail travels through the Woodcock Wildlife Management Area and crosses the South Skunk River. The bridge had a huge log jam under it along with lots of liter. Proof of how challenging it is to keep Iowa’s waterways clean!
The trailside town of Valeria exists thanks to a romance between a farmer’s daughter (Edna Valeria) and a railroad engineer. Edna convinced her father to allow the new railroad to cross their land. He agreed as long as the new community would be named after their family.
Reaching the trailhead outside Bondurant I took a short break and ate a granola bar. I spotted the construction for the trail connection to downtown. It will be nice when the project is complete. The new trailhead in Bondurant is a beautiful facility and will be sure to be a popular spot.
My ride back was a challenge. I rode around Mingo looking for a convenience store for water and food. No luck. I pushed on to Ira where I found a water fountain. I got a long drink, filled my bottle, and soaked my bandana to keep me cool. I noticed a small refrigerator under the picnic shelter. It had been decorated and was keeping a collection of books safe and out of the elements.
40 miles by myself took for-ev-er!! When I finally reached the asphalt outside of Baxter I was relieved to know I was almost done. Packing up my bike and gear I decided that when I return to the Chichaqua I’ll either just ride the Bondurant to Mingo portion, or bring a friend for some company.
- The Bondurant trailhead has a kybo but no water, so make sure to fill up your water bottles before arriving.
- Riders choosing to begin their ride downtown Bondurant will need to navigate streets and country roads on their way to the trailhead east of town.
- Take it easy on the crushed gravel segment as it’s rough and bumpy, or just avoid it by beginning your ride at Bondurant and turning around in Mingo.