The Raccoon River Valley Trail - A Ride to Minburn

The Trail

89 miles of opportunity makes The Raccoon River Valley Trail a great trail for putting some significant mileage in.  Trailside towns are less than 10 miles apart and provide good options for where to start/stop a ride or to take a break.  The newest segment runs between Waukee and Perry with the towns of Dallas Center and Minburn in between.  This link of trail is very flat and in excellent condition. Between Waukee and DC it is more out in the open but once past Dallas Center trees flank the trail for the remaining ride. Riders 18 and up are required to a user fee of $2 a day or $10 for a year.  Strong boxes are located at trailheads for purchasing trail permits.

Trail Map 

Trail Information


The Ride

With the Waukee trailhead only a few blocks from home "The Raccoon" is my go-to trail.  I’ve ridden it so many times this year I’ve lost count!  My plan for this ride was to start from home and travel Northwest to Minburn.  I was curious to see how the trailhead development was...developing.  

Just outside of Waukee I was disappointed to find vandalism to one of the trail stop signs.  Putting my disgust aside I made my way down the trail.

It was a pretty morning on the trail.  Wild plums were ripening, the Iowa corn fields were in their glory, and a flock of geese was splashing around in a farm field puddle.

I stopped in Dallas Center and couldn't resist leaning the Iron Giant against one of the grain towers for a photo op.  It did a good job putting the enormity of Iowa’s skyscrapers into perspective. How many Iron Giants would it take to reach the top?  

North of Highway 44 I greeted a fellow trail user.  Finally!!!  I had come across someone slower than me!

The trailhead project in Minburn was coming along nicely.  Despite it being Sunday, a gentleman was doing some brickwork on the old depot that had recently been moved closer to the trail.  MInburn has over $1m planned for their trailside contribution to The Raccoon River Valley Trail.  Not too shabby for a town with a population of 400.

Pedaling to Perry

The Trail

With it’s 89 miles of trail The Raccoon River Valley trail is a great trail for putting significant mileage in on the bike.  Trailside towns are less than 10 miles apart and provide good options for where to start/stop a ride or to take a break.  The newest segment runs between Waukee and Perry with the towns of Dallas Center and Minburn in between.  This link of trail is very flat and in super condition. Between Waukee and DC it is more out in the open but once past Dallas Center trees flank the trail for the remaining ride.

Trail Map

Trail Information


The Ride

The plan for the afternoon was to bike from Waukee to Perry, take my time and  just enjoy the ride.   

A thunderstorm had come through the night before leaving some debris on the trail.  Not to worry though, because only a short distance from Waukee an employee from Dallas County Conservation was sweeping the trail with a blower from the bed of his truck.

As many times as I’ve ridden the link from Waukee to "DC" you’d think it would get boring.  Nope! There’s always something to notice along the trail.  The changing seasons always provides the scenery with a new look and the different times of day shines light on things that had previously gone unnoticed.  For example, the truck abandoned along the trail was up to the wheel wells in weeds and the blue and white paint boldly stood out against the surrounding greens.

Another example of new sights along the trail was a newly constructed hog confinement.  This trailside addition will prove to be interesting on days where the wind is coming from the wrong direction!

Riding through Minburn I was pleased to see work on the the trailhead was underway.  The 100 year old depot will be moved and renovated to house a cafe and museum.  Great news for this little community!  Minburn is always fun to ride through because I get a kick out of waiving to the angler trying his best to get a bite.  Sure enough, he was still at it as I rode past.

Right before reaching Perry I took the trail spur to the Forest Park Museum and Arboretum and spent some time looking at the displays.  Read about my visit here.  

After getting my fill of local history, I decided it was time for a snack.  Downtown Perry I stopped in at Firehouse Ice Cream and was excited to see a soda fountain and jukebox inside.  

My trip to Perry went as planned.  It was a lot of fun visiting new places and enjoying another Iowa bike ride!

Happy Riding

 

Considerations

  • Cyclists 18 and up are required to purchase a user fee of $2 a day or $10 for a year.  Strong boxes are located at trailheads for purchasing trail permits.
  • Use caution when crossing 4 lanes of highway when reaching Perry.
  • Keep an eye open for green painted trail arrows on sidewalks downtown Perry.

A Ride to Kennedy Station

The Trail

The Raccoon River Valley trail is one of Iowa’s premier trails.  With 89 miles of trail and 15 communities to visit it provides lots of route options for cyclists in central Iowa.  Each trailside community has it’s own trailhead.  Most are renovated train stations.  'The Raccoon'  provides a variety of scenery ranging from open farmland to tree-lined tunnels of wooded areas.  This ride traveled the asphalt trail from Waukee to Kennedy Station.  It runs flat other than the grade east of Adel.

Trail Map

Trail Information


The Ride

A dry afternoon after lots of rain called for a bike ride.  Without any specific ride plans I checked the air in my bike’s tires, threw money, id and my phone into my seat bag, grabbed a water bottle and headed west on the Raccoon River Valley Trail.  

Thanks to donations from local businesses, the gravel road crossings between Waukee and Adel are now smooth concrete.  No need to worry about fish tailing in the the sand or dodging big rocks!  

It had been raining...and raining...and raining over the prior days and the Raccoon River was bulging at the seams!  Water was still in between the banks but looked to be only feet away from touching the bottom of the bridges.  The last time I had ridden through Adel there had been hardly a trickle!

The periodical cicadas were making themselves heard. Luckily they were staying in the trees so I didn’t have to contend with any flying into or onto me.  The creepy looking bugs are pretty big and it would likely hurt if one flew into you while riding your bike.  I was glad to be wearing my helmet.  Eeek!  I can’t imagine having one of those things caught in my hair.

I stopped at Kennedy Station for a water break before heading back towards Waukee.  Kennedy Station can be easily missed with only an information plaque and a railroad sign as it’s landmarks. Prior to the 1900’s Kennedy Station had a post office, train depot, stockyard, blacksmith and several residences.  There are pictures on the information plaque showing what the area looked like in it’s prime.

Turning the Iron Giant around I headed back home...passing by the ice cream shop in Adel...pretending I didn't know it was there.

Considerations

  • Cyclists 18 and up are required to purchase a user fee of $2 a day or $10 for a year.  Strong boxes are located at trailheads for purchasing trail permits.
  • Take it easy riding through Adel.  The curb cuts along city streets have some big bumps.
  • Summer means bug season.  Wear eyewear and a helmet to avoid bugs in your eyes or hair.

The Bacoon Ride

Iowa is the top pork producing station in the nation.  It is also home to premier bike trails and the week long bike event of RAGBRAI (Registers Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa).

Pork and cycling came together this past Saturday for the inaugural Bacoon Ride: The Ride for the Cured.  A 71 mile route along the Raccoon River Valley Trail with 7 bacon themed pit stops was the agenda for thousands of cyclists from around the state. 

Riding for Iowa Bike Rides were my brother, sister-in-law, nephew, myself, and my sister.  The Bacoon Ride was a significant goal for our group.  The longest ride any of us had ridden before was 30 miles.  

Our plan was to leave Waukee early with the goal of reaching Perry (52 miles), but being happy if we were successful in making it to Panora (28 miles).  My husband would be on call” to pick us up at a trailside town once we had our fill of pork and pedaling.

The early start to our ride proved to be a good idea.  We avoided waiting in long rides for the free food and even had sections of trail all to ourselves.  Riding down the slight grades through the tree lined tunnel between Redfield and Panora was our favorite part of the ride.

“On your left”, “bike up”, “crossing”, “stopping” were the vocabulary words of the day.  Friends and bicycles with unique accouterments were spotted in the crowds cyclists and along the trail. 

Mother Nature had been kind providing a nice tailwind ride but she changed her attitude after our extended break in Perry. Wrapping up our delicious meal at Casa de Oro, we noticed the sky darkening outside and the wind picking up.  Scrapping our plans to see if we could complete the remaining 24 miles, we elected to ride our personal “sag wagon” back to Waukee.  Once we had our bikes and gear loaded, the winds picked up and the sky opened.   Proud of ourselves for pedaling 52 miles we rode in comfort back to Waukee.

The Baccon Ride was great combination of bacon and biking.  Most of all it was a major accomplishment for our group and inspired us to plan the our next biking adventure.  

Happy Riding!



Tar on the Trail

The Trail

Just outside the Des Moines metro, the Raccoon River Valley Trail for 89 miles, travels through 15 Iowa communities, and crosses the Middle Raccoon and Raccoon rivers. Riders 18 and up are required to a user fee of $2 a day or $10 for a year.  Strong boxes are located at trailheads for purchasing trail permits. Each trailside community has it’s own trailhead.  Most are renovated train stations as this bike trail was once a railway. This flat trail takes riders through open areas of Iowa’s farmland and tree-lined tunnels of wooded areas.

Trail Map

Trail Information


The Ride

With the goal of taking my time on the trail and enjoying a calm spring day my intentions were to leave from the Panora trailhead and ride to Dawson and back. The furthest I’d ever ridden on this north/south length of trail was to Yale so I was excited to see what lay beyond the tiny town.

Only a few blocks from the trailhead is Heritage Park.  It’s small but certainly catches your eye with the beautiful flowers, railroad artifacts, and bicycles decorating the flower beds.  There’s a water fountain here along with a shaded place to rest.  As I approached the park I met two cyclists who informed me “they’re putting down tar north of Yale”.  I thanked them for the heads up and quickly made an adjustment to my plans.  Not sure what riding across tar would mean for my bike tires I decided to ride until I met up with the trail crew and then determine if it would be necessary to turn around.

This portion of the RRV trail is the Bluebird Trail.  Dotted along the trail are numerous bluebird houses.  While I did spot a couple of Bluebirds, the majority of the houses had Tree Swallow perched on them.  It was as if they were calling dibs on the houses for summer.

Less than a mile outside of Yale things started getting sticky.  The tar had been laid in the trails seams and also small potholes.  Larger patches had lined with tar and sprinkled with limestone. Keeping a close eye on the trail and my bike tires II rode a short distance further.  Up ahead something was moving around on the trail.  Getting closer I was surprised to see it was a bird.  Both feet were stuck in the tar and it was flapping it’s wings in a desperate attempt to free itself.  I couldn't just ride by so I stopped and found a large tree branch and managed to free the Cowbird’s feet. It flew away leaving behind feathers as proof of the struggle.  Hopefully it lived.  

I certainly had not planned on rescuing wildlife on my bike ride.  After that experience I opted to turn around and cross my fingers I wouldn’t come across any other creatures trapped by the tar on my way back to Yale.  When I considered repair work on Iowa’s bike trails, I always thought of the positive results, but there are certainly possibilities of negative results too.

On my way back through Yale I rode through downtown and stopped at Bell Street Market, grabbed a snack, and headed over to the trailhead to collect myself.  It was such a beautiful Iowa day.  Cutting my ride short because of trail repairs would be a shame.  I opted to ride back past Panora and on to Linden.  The ride there was peaceful and I enjoyed taking in the scenery and observing how green everything had gotten since I was there last in March.  Reaching Linden,  filled up my water bottle and then leisurely returned to Panora with no additional mishaps.

I’ll definitely need to return to Panora to complete the ride I had intended to take.  Hopefully there won’t any more sticky situations on bike rides this season!

Happy Riding!