Off Road at Peterson Park West

The Park

Known as Peterson's Pits to locals this park is found north of Ames.  It's a twofer of sorts with the Skunk River dividing the park into East and West.   As former gravel quarry, three small lakes were left behind for recreational use. Winding around the water in a series of loops are eight miles of off-road trails.  

Park Information


The Ride

This was my first visit to the park with a mountain bike.  As an off-road biking novice, I was hoping the trails would be scaredy-cat friendly with an easy terrain.  I was in luck!   

Wide, easy to spot dirt trails took me through timber.  Smooth grass trail flanked the edge of a prairie.  Things turned sandy in spots along the river bottom but wasn't difficult to manage.  All were in good condition and a perfect match for my lack of riding skills. 

A fat bike would be fun to ride here on snow covered trails. There's also a great picnic shelter overlooking a lake that would be a great spot for coffee outside.  

I had the place to myself and had a blast.  It was fun to roll the small hills.  I felt zippy around corners and wondered if maybe not all my nerve has disappeared! Perhaps there's hope for this old dog to learn how to shred (as the young whippersnappers would say) off-road trails.

Happy Riding!

An Ames Bike Ride - What Took So Long?

Growing up outside of Nevada, Iowa I visited Ames a lot.  My favorite things to do were eating Hickory Park, playing at Brookside Park, shopping at North Grand Mall, and rollerskating at J-4 Rollerway.  One thing I never did there was ride the bike trails. 

While a student at Iowa State University there were study sessions at the Ames Public Library, lunch at Taco Time, and a part time job on campus.  But, there was never a bike ride.

True, I've pedaled around around Ada Hayden Park, but for whatever reason it took me decades to finally pull the trigger and plan a ride on the trails.  What took so long?

During a recent visit to Ames I carved out some time for a ride. Using Stewart Smith park as my trailhead, I leisurely wound my way north pedaling under Lincoln Highway over to Brookside Park.  Some interesting graffiti was painted under the 6th Street bridge.  The author certainly wasn't including me in their audience! 

Arriving at Brookside Park I checked on the old fire engine, pedaled past the ball diamonds, and admired the inuksuk created by artist Peter Irniq.  Leaving the park I continued north passing the aquatic center.  Before reaching University Village the trail took me through a protected natural area where the squirrels were scurrying and the wildflowers blooming.    After venturing over to over to Ames High I made my way back to Stewart Smith park.  But before loading the bike back into the car there was a photo op with Cy and picking up a collection of pamphlets at the ISU Welcome Center. 

Now I can say I've ridden my bike on the Ames bike trails.  Now I can say I want to do more bike riding in Ames and explore other routes their network of trails offers.  Now I can say riding my bike is one of my favorite things to do in Ames.....finally!

Happy Riding!

Trail Map

Ada Hayden Heritage Park

Trail: Ada Hayden

Location: North of Ames on Highway 69

Surface: Asphalt

Terrain: Flat

Park Information


  • Opened to the public in 2004, this park is on land once used as a gravel quarry.  Today it is a place of beauty and remembrance of Ada Hayden. Born and raised in Ames, Ada’s family once owned the land that is now the park.  As a girl she played here and cultivated a love for plants.  She attended Iowa State University and was the first woman to earn a PhD. Ada also worked for the University as a professor, a researcher, and curator. She wrote many research papers and collected over 30,000 plant specimens for the herborium that now bears her name.

  • Parking is located on the north, and southwest corner of the park. Picnic and restroom areas are located on the north and southeast corners.

  • The bike trail is an asphalt figure 8 pattern traveling 3.2 miles.  There’s also an crushed stone upland trail winding through open prairie.  I chose to stay on the asphalt trail during my visit.

  • There are countless opportunities for fun; boating, picnicking, fishing, biking, walking, birdwatching, hiking and even geocaching.  

  • I circled the lake several times taking in the scenery of the lake and it’s surrounding marshes while my husband and son fished.


  • Ada Hayden is a great spot for kids to ride their bikes and get in touch with nature.  With so many ways to spend time together it’s a perfect park for family outings.

  • ISU alumni, nature lovers, and fans of Iowa history, will all cherish this park.  

  • This blog about Ada Haden Park is a great one to follow.  Beautiful photographs are posted of the park’s wildlife.  Photographers capturing the beauty of nature at the park can submit their pictures for posting.


  • Along the bike path there are nine concrete boulders serving as memorials to individuals who contributed conservation efforts in Iowa.

  • Kayakers were out on the lakes paddling the perimeter of the lake.

  • Three marshes surrounded by prairie grasses are on the west side of the lake.  They serve as filters for water coming into the lake area from neighboring farm and urban areas.  

  • The 50 foot deep, 130 acre lake serves Ames as a backup water source.

  • Lots of spots to sit for a spell surround the lake.  There are shaded picnic benches, and even porch swings suspended from pergolas.

  • It wasn’t a pile of rocks that I spied from the trail, but an inuksuk, created by artist Peter Irniq.  These were navigational tools used by Inuit people from Northern Canada.  An inuksuk would indicate great hunting and fishing spots or serve as a reference point along a trail.  

Wrap Up

It was a lot of fun pedaling around the lake and learning bits of history from the educational signs posted.  Next time I go back I’m going to combine some geocaching with my bike riding.  Ada Hayden was a gem herself, and so is the park dedicated in her honor.  

Happy Riding!