Day Trip - Indianola and 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 south of 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

Indianola is a great place for combining biking, shopping, and eating.  Who doesn't like that combination?  The plan for my outing was to get a ride in, enjoy some coffee outside, and then spend some time exploring the town square.  

Before heading down the trail I needed some coffee!  I had intended to bring my thermos along, but had left poor Stanley back home on the kitchen counter.  Time to improvise.

Arriving in Indianola I drove through Mudslingers  and  ordered a small brew.  The accommodating baristas were kind enough to put it in a large cup.  It ended up fitting in my bike's bottle cage just fine with the coffee not sloshing out.  The only down side was it didn't stay warm.  The price I had to pay for my forgetfulness.

Only two days prior I had visited the Chichaqua Valley Trail .  Because autumn's colors were still hanging on there  I anticipated finding a similar palate along the Summerset Trail.   However, I was too late.  To quote Maxwell Smart:  "Missed it by that much!"  

My luck turned though with another turkey sighting.  3 hens were out gobbling corn from a recently harvested field. I stopped and watched for a bit thankful for the fallen leaves.  There's no way I would have spotted them otherwise.    

It was a quiet day on the trail.  Literally.  The shooting range in Banner State Park was closed so my coffee stop at the viewing platform was a peaceful one.  I enjoyed my coffee and took in the scenery.  Surprisingly enough there weren't any geese out on the water. 

After returning to Indianola I checked out the McVay Trail.  It's a short stretch of trail but deserves a visit.  Traveling behind neighborhoods it's flanked by trees and has a fun bridge to cross. 


The Field Trip

Indianola has one of my favorite Iowa town squares.  There are historic buildings, gardens, art and lots of interesting stores. 

My attention was immediately drawn to Pageturners Bookstore .  They have an impressive selection of new and used books.  This is a must-visit shop for bookworms.     Lots of used books are priced at less than $2.00!  There was no way I was leaving this store with out a treasure! 

Next stop was adorn.  This shop is filled with LOTS of cool gifts and decor for the home. I found the perfect birthday gift for my niece and the store's owner Erin carefully wrapped it for me.  This is a store I'll be sure to visit again and again.

After popping in at Canoe Sports Outfitters and checking out their selection of Jamis bicycles, I headed to Funaro's Deli and Bakery and ordered a Turkey Pesto sandwich to go.  Finding a picnic table on the courthouse lawn I enjoyed my lunch while admiring the sculpture Grandmother's Garden.   

My visit wrapped up with a walk around the square window shopping and admiring the RAGBRAI mural, Salem Court, and historical buildings.  

With the Summerset Trail close-by and a town square filled with specialty shops and small town friendliness Indianola is a great destination for a biking day trip.

Happy Riding!