Family Ride on The Wabash Trace Nature Trail

The Trail

Voted one of the prettiest rails-to-trails in the US, the Wabash Trace Nature Trail is Iowa's longest.  It travels from Council Bluffs to the Missouri border for a total of 63 miles.  There are over 70 bridges to cross and 7 towns to visit along the way.  

The Wabash Trace has gotten plenty of press with it's appearance on Bike People TV,  acknowledgment from Outside Magazine, and a member of Rails-To-Trails Conservancy's Hall of Fame.  There are websites dedicated to the trail along with a Facebook page.    The trail was also the location of this year's Peddler's Jamboree and is a Thursday evening hot spot for the local Taco Ride to Tobey Jack’s.

The trailhead in Council Bluffs has ample parking, a picnic shelter, playground and portable restrooms. Then there's the dense tree canopy and the Loess Hills, both beautiful features. 

A $1.00 daily pass is a recommended for those over 12 and under 64 years old.  Yellow trail pass drop boxes can be found at trailheads.  Money goes towards trail maintenance.  

Trail Resources

Wabash Trace Nature Trail

Taco Ride 

Wabash Trace Nature Trail on Facebook

The Ride

It's been an embarrassing amount of time since I declared the Wabash being a trail I was going to ride.  Two years later it finally happened! 

With plans for a bike ride followed by an afternoon in Omaha, our family headed west.  We took along mountain bikes for the unpaved trail.  The limestone surface turned out to be in great shape and skinny tire friendly.

The morning was a busy one with lots of folks out for a run or a ride.  We stopped for a short break at what's known as Margaritaville and then had a breakfast snack at the trailhead in Mineola.  It was cool to find a Little Free Library there!  

Pedaling along on the flat trail I would get a peek at what appeared to be a mountain bike trail winding up over bluffs and through timber.  Then I remembered it was an equestrian trail. Boy do they have a tougher way to go!

There were so many shade of green!  The Wabash Trace would be a fantastic trail for seeing fall colors too.  Perhaps I should plan on doing just that...and not wait two years to do it. 

Happy Riding!



Library Tour

With several books stashed in the pannier I set out on a ride around town.  The objective was to visit each of the official Little Free Libraries in my community and donate a book.  Back in 2014 there was only one in town, but recently several have popped up .  Time to check them out.  (pun intended)

Prior to my ride I used the search feature at to locate these small collections and then determined the easiest way (minimal traffic interaction as possible) to get there by bike. 

The first one I visited was in need of some repair with the door of the the box missing.  I decided to skip this location as a donation spot.


Hidden by mailboxes a very cheerful library was painted in a few of my favorite colors.  It was in desperate need of books so I left two behind.  As much as I wanted to tidy the shelves, I let them be. 


A elementary teacher is the steward of the large educational themed library built by her husband.  It was my favorite.  Inside was a note inviting kids to use the sidewalk from the shelf and draw on her driveway and sidewalk.  How cool!


As a former teacher and library, this bike ride was especially fun, and would be for anyone who loves bikes and books.   A ride to the libraries would be also be great for families with young kids or grandparents out with the grand-kids.

Go for a ride. Take a book.  Return a book.  Foster the love of reading AND biking in one outing?  Now that's Happy Riding! 


The Trail

The Chichaqua Valley Trail is a converted rail-trail traveling twenty-six miles through several small Iowa communities, forested corridor, and open farmland.  The concrete/ asphalt trail changes to crushed gravel north of Mingo.  South of Berwick cyclists can connect with the High Trestle Trail, Neal Smith Trail or Heart of Iowa Nature Trail via Ankeny or pedal to Pleasant Hill and Altoona.  

Lake Petocka serves as a nice trailhead for a family ride.  A cement path surrounds the lake for young riders to enjoy.  There is ample parking along with a playground and picnic shelter.  

Trail Map

Trail Information

The Ride

November days filled with sunshine and warm temperatures are a treasured treat .  They bring a  sense of urgency and a heightened need to get outside.  Because, you never know, it could be The Last Good Day Before Winter!   The logical remedy is to find a bike trail, savor a ride and create memories to tap when tolerating the cold months of winter.

For me, what to do on this beautiful day was a no-brainer.  My husband also knew how he was going to spend his time outside.  But my son?  He had a BIG decision to make.  Bike or fish?  As tempting as it was to lobby for my favorite hobby I kept quiet and waited for the verdict.  Would it be fish for trout with Dad at Lake Petocka or ride with Mom on the Chichaqua?

Two bikes were loaded up along with one fly rod and we headed to Bondurant.  Using the park as our trailhead, the plan was an out-n-back to Valeria.  This is an easy stretch of trail.  It's in fantastic condition and runs flat.  And the the fall it's beyond beautiful.

We took our time stopping to check out several curiosities:

  • An ape spray painted on the back of a trail sign.
  • A snake that survived being run over by a mountain bike.
  • A paper wasp nest hanging from the branches of a Sycamore tree.
  • A leaf bigger than a bike bag.  

One mile of our ride passed through public hunting area.  With bird season underway we chose to wear our "don't shoot at me orange".  Hunters are required to either case or disable their guns before entering the trail and hunting is prohibited on the trail right of way. 

Reaching Valeria we took a bike break and enjoyed a snack while watching some nearby cows. Then a question was posed.  Who would be faster?   A sprinting cow or Mom on her bike?  

Time to head back to the park.

Happy Riding!

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!

A Family Bike Ride at Raccoon River Park

The Trail

Considered the "crown jewel" of the metro area, Raccoon River Park is home to the 3 mile crushed rock trail circling Blue Heron Lake.  Out on this trail you quickly forget you're in the city.  This quiet location and the wide limestone path is a perfect spot for kids to ride their bikes.  With the awesome playground, beach, nature lodge, sport complexes, and fishing pier nearby there are lots of ways families can have fun.  

Park Information

The Ride

Feeling proud of ourselves having figured out a headache free method for transporting our bikes we set off for West Des Moines for a family bike ride. 

It was a beautiful fall afternoon.  The colors of the changing leaves along with the scenes of Blue Heron Lake provided soothing scenery as we pedaled our way around the lake.  We stopped to take in the view of the Raccoon River which flanks a portion of the trail.  

My son really enjoyed this trail as it gave him an opportunity to ride independently ahead of us without concerns for crossing busy streets.  The trail is a popular place for walkers and runners so plan for a slow relaxing ramble on the bike.

We took at peak by the new archery facility that recently opened at the park.  No one was there shooting, but I suspect it’s a popular spot for local archers.  

A bike ride was a great way to spend time together as a family and the trail at Raccoon River Park the perfect spot.

Happy Riding!