Tailwinds First on the High Trestle Trail

The Trail

The High Trestle Trail is 25 miles in length and travels through Woodward, Madrid, Slater, Sheldahl, and Ankeny.  It’s my favorite place to ride thanks to the smooth concrete trail with minimal grades.  Wide shoulders and benches along the trail give riders opportunities to take advantage of the beautiful scenery. Trailheads with water and restrooms are available in Woodward and Madrid.  Parks in Slater and Ankeny can be used as locations for starting a ride. West of Madrid riders pass under a wooden bridge and two tunnels.  One of the tunnels has some can’t-miss art work.

The highlight of this trail is the half mile bridge.  Crossing the Des Moines River it is a 13 story high work of art.  The design of the bridge pays tribute to the coal mining industry that once thrived in the area.  The spiraling steel frames represent the supports used in coal mines.  Giant towers with designs depicting veins of coal found in limestone greet those about to cross. Bridge overlook areas provide spots for taking in the view of the river valley or reading the education signs posted.  At night the bridge is illuminated with LED lights.

Trail Map

Trail Information

The Ride

Thankfully this ride didn't begin with me getting trapped inside the restroom.  Read about that embarrassing episode here.  I started my bike ride at the Woodward trailhead with plans to ride to Slater.  

A few days back I had read how the Hotel Patee would be relocating the Frontier Shack to Madrid.  Passing through town I found it's new home next to the Flat Tire Lounge. Once it is open for business, this stopping point along the trail is going to be even more popular.  I can't wait to take advantage of it. 

The Iowa winds were blowing...again...helping me reach top speeds on my way to Slater.  I was feeling "roadie fast" but dreading the return trip.  It was not going to be fun.  

Reaching Slater I spent some time riding around town.  First, I checked out the stretch of the Heart of Iowa Nature Trail on the north side of town.  It was in rough shape from folks having walked, biked, and even snowmobiled on it when wet.  

I had packed myself a pb&j to eat in Slater and stopped by Town & Country Market to grab something to drink.  I chose Jenna's Awesome Chocolate Milk from Picket Fence Creamery and then rode over to Earl Grimm Park.   I ate my sandwich and enjoyed the awesome chocolate milk while soaking up the sunshine.   

After delaying the inevitable as long as possible, it was time to face the headwinds and pedal back to Woodward.  The ride back wasn't as bad as anticipated but it certainly wasn't much fun.  Chugging along I realized headwinds and tailwinds have their dinner time analogies. Headwinds are the veggies and tailwinds are dessert.  Headwinds make you stronger and tailwinds are a special treat to be saved for last. Next time I'm "eating my veggies" first. 

Happy Riding!

High Trestle Trail - Should I Just Go Home?

I initially wasn't going to talk about this embarrassing bike ride experience.  With it being an example of how bike rides can have their share of mishaps and in the interest of portraying an accurate depiction of my rides, I decided to share my story.  

The ISU game was over and I needed to get out on the bike trail for some fresh air.  I wasn’t intending to go for a long ride, just enough to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather.  It had been a while since I was out on the High Trestle Trail, so off to Woodward I went with the plan to ride for an hour.  

Lots of cars were parked at the quiet trailhead.  I found an empty space and unloaded my bike to discover the chain had slipped off.  Not the best way to start a bike ride.  I got it back in place and then headed over to the trailhead restrooms.  

The door had closed behind me without any problem, but when it was time to leave it wouldn’t budge.  The lock seemed to be working fine, but the door was jammed shut.  

It’s interesting how quickly your mind races when you’re put into stressful scenarios.  I wondered how irritated my husband would be to get a phone call from me asking him to rescue me from a bathroom.  Then I realized my phone was in my bike bag.  Oh no!!

Remembering how quiet the trailhead was when I arrived I started getting panicky and wondering how long I’d be imprisoned.  I pictured myself waiting in the dingy room for hours until someone discovered me.  My mind envisioned needing to be freed by local rescue workers, while bored news stations reported a “Captured Cyclist Sprung from Trestle Trailhead”.  That’s when I started kicking the crap out of the door.  I figured I’d either be heard by someone who would help or dislodge the door.

After about 10 adrenaline-fueled kicks the door swung open just as a fellow cyclists was approaching to see if they could help.  Sweet freedom!  I must have had quite the look on my face because the gentleman laughed while explaining he coming to see if he could get me out.  Thankfully no one had to call in reinforcements and I didn’t have to spend the night in the Woodward women’s restroom.  

Back at my bike the desire to take a bike ride had dissipated.  I felt like an idiot.  Was I even supposed to be here?  A slipped chain.  Captured in the bathroom.  What were the cycling gods trying to tell me?  Should i just go home?  

Putting those thoughts aside I got on my bike and headed down the trail hoping to leave the bad mojo behind.  Thankfully there were no other mishaps and the bad feelings were soon pedaled away.

Reaching the bridge I took some time to watch pelicans fish and admired the view of the river valley.  In Madrid I visited the coal mining tribute along Highway 17 before returning to Woodward.

I was glad I didn’t let the crazy start to my ride send me home.  Maybe there was a lesson to be learned.  Maybe the cycling gods weren't trying to tell me to go home but instead to expect the unexpected and to never leave my phone in the bike bag.

Happy Riding!

Trail Map

Trail Information

Celebrating Spring

Trail: High Trestle

Location: Woodward to Madrid

Ride Length:  Moderate

Surface:  Concrete

Terrain:  Flat with a slight grade west of  the bridge.

Date:    3-20-2014

Time:    11:00

Weather: 40’s/Sunny/Light Breeze

Starting Point: Trailhead in Woodward

Ride Map

Trail Map

Trail Information


  • My son and I chose to celebrate the first day of spring on the bike trail breaking in his new bicycle, enjoying the sunshine, and warmer weather.  

  • We chose to ride the High Trestle Trail.  It’s a 25 mile route connecting the towns of Woodward, Madrid, Slater, Sheldahl, and Ankeny.  It’s my favorite place to ride thanks to the smooth trail with minimal grades.  The wide shoulders and multiple benches along the trail give riders opportunities to take advantage of the beautiful scenery.  Trailheads with parking, water, and restrooms are available in each town.  The highlight of the trail is crossing the ½ mile, 13 story high bridge.

  • Our ride started at the Woodward trailhead.  Facilities were closed but we admired the coal cart parked outside the former train station.  It’s hard to imagine what life was like in Iowa communities back when they were coal mining towns.

  • We headed east on the trail with Madrid as our destination.  Our plan was to grab lunch at a local restaurant before returning back to Woodward.


  • Lots of people choose to visit  the bridge and this day was no acception.  Cyclists should plan on taking it slow when crossing the bridge and keep an eye out for pedestrians.  

  • This 11 mile out-in-back route is perfect for beginning riders to get acclimated with riding the trails.

  • This portion of trail has 2 gravel road intersections.  Slow down and look for cars before crossing.

  • When visiting the trail during the colder seasons be prepared to find necessary facilities at local businesses.  Trailhead restrooms and water fountains are usually closed until mid April.

  • Trail construction just east of Madrid required us to dismount and walk our bikes over a plywood path.  


  • Because it was such a beautiful day we were in no hurry for our adventure to end. We took advantage of a scenic spot and sat and enjoyed the view.  We could even hear the church bells ringing in the noon hour in Madrid.  

  • For lunch we chose to visit the Town and Country cafe.  It’s the quintessential cafe complete with a lunch counter and is only open for breakfast and lunch.

  • Our ride included two stops at the bridge to take in the views.


  • Who’d think crossing a bridge could be so educational!   Multiple educational signs are posted at various points along the bridge’s path.  We stopped to learn how challenging crossing the Des Moines River Valley was before a bridge was constructed.

  • The majority of ice had melted on the river down below us.

  • Dried grasses flanking the trail swayed in the gentle breeze and last season’s cattails stood in marshy spot soon to be filled with frogs and Red-winged Blackbirds.

  • Approaching the cafe in Madrid we saw other cyclists were grabbing some lunch.  A pair of Electra Royal’s and a John Deere cruiser were parked out front waiting for their riders to return.

  • On the return trip we took advantage of the overlook spots on the bridge and got an appreciation of how high 13 stories are.  We were much higher than the cars crossing the highway bridge.  


  • At the Town and Country Cafe we each ordered a cheeseburger and fries.  They hit the spot. We discussed planning an early morning ride so we could return to try their breakfast.

Wrap Up

  • It was another great experience out on the High Trestle Trail.  Great sights, great food, and great company.  The trifecta of trail riding!   

Happy Riding!

Winter Ride on the High Trestle Trail

Trail: High Trestle Trail

Location: West of Madrid to Woodward

Ride Length:  Short

Surface: Concrete

Terrain:  Flat with a slight grade west of the bridge

Date:    2-8-2014

Time:    2:00

Weather: 20/Calm/Cloudy

Starting Point: Trailhead west of Madrid

Ride Map


  • The High Trestle Trail is a 25 mile route between Ankeny and Woodward.  With fantastic trail conditions and beautiful scenery, it's hands-down my favorite Iowa trail.The concrete trail is smooth with very slight grades and wide shoulders.  

  • I had never ridden this trail during winter before and was curious to see what the views from the bridge would be like in the snow. My plans were to begin my ride at the Woodward trailhead. However, a parked car was blocking the entrance.Since I wasn't sure if this was sign the trailhead was closed, I headed towards Madrid on Highway 210, crossing my fingers I would be able to ride the trail. 

  • About 4 miles east of Woodward, I turned left onto a gravel road leading to a trailhead parking area.  Thankfully there wasn't any indication the trail was closed so I parked, unloaded my bike, and was on my way.

  • Choosing to ride my husbands mountain bike was a good decision.  It’s wide knobby tires were a perfect match for the snow covered trail.  Pedaling through the 1-2 inches of fluffy snow didn't prove challenging.

  • While there were lots of footprints in the snow going out to the bridge, no other cyclists had made it out on the trail yet. Feeling adventurous, I arrived at the bridge and quickly realized I was the first person to cross it after the recent snowfall. I pedaled out to the middle and stopped at one of the overlook spots to take in the beautiful view.

  • It was a rare calm day in Iowa.  Without the wind there was a sense of reverence in the quiet. For the majority of the season winter has been showing it's bitter side.  On this day I was able to appreciate the beauty the season brings and wondered if winter’s reputation is unfair.  

  • I continued my ride west and turned around at the Woodward trailhead.  Entering the bridge on my way back I saw how some nice person pickup had driven the trail from Madrid to clear the snow.  I was slightly disappointed as pedaling through the snow had been so much fun!


  • Snowmobiles are not permitted on this trail during winter leaving it a peaceful place to bike, hike, or cross country ski.  

  • With people choosing to visit the bridge on foot.  It may be necessary to take it slow across the bridge keeping an eye out for pedestrians.


  • Brief stop on the bridge to take in the view. 


  • The highlight of this trail is the bridge.  Crossing the Des Moines River it is 13 stories high and a half mile long.  The design of the bridge pays tribute to the coal mining industry that once thrived in the area.  The spiraling steel frames represent supports used in the coal mines and the designs of the entrance towers depicts veins of coal found in limestone.

  • There are several overlook spots for enjoying the view of the river valley.  Educational signs are posted providing information about the bridge and local habitat.


  • After wrapping up my ride I headed home to a relaxing cup of hot lapsang souchong tea and a couple of cookies. 

Wrap Up

This ride was the perfect length on a cold winter day.  Seeing the bridge in it’s snow covered glory was beautiful.  Being the first person to make tracks in the snow while crossing it was a special experience and one I won’t forget.  


Fall Colors

Trail:  High Trestle - Woodward to Madrid

Route: http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/325680657

Date: 10-27-13

Time: 11:30 am

Weather: 50/ Windy/Sunny

Mileage: 11


  • The High Trestle Trail is a 25 mile trail between Ankeny and Woodward.  Because of the wind I opted for a short, leisurely ride to take in the fall colors.  

  • I began my ride at the Woodward trailhead.  It’s modern and relatively new with with picnic areas and restrooms.  Madrid’s trailhead is really nice too with restroom facilities, bike racks designed in the theme of “The Bridge”, picnic areas, and even places to tie up your horse!

  • The concrete trail is in perfect condition with very slight grades.  Wide shoulders keep trees a nice distance away from the trail while continuing to provide a buffer for windy days like today.

  • Just East of “The Bridge” there is a parking area with a port-a-potty. There are also several benches at various points along the trail to use for catching your breath or just soaking in the beautiful views of Iowa timber.


  • This is a great trail for enjoying the fall colors.  There are minimal crossings on this stretch.  All are quiet gravel roads.

  • Lots of people choose to visit “The Bridge” on foot.  Take it slow across the bridge keeping an eye out for pedestrians.  


  • Since it was a short ride today I didn’t make any stops.  The cool thing about both Woodward and Madrid is they have signs posted along the trail for various places to get a drink or a meal.


  • The highlight of this trail is “The Bridge”.  It’s located a bit over 2 miles between Woodward and Madrid.  In the past I found it quite unnerving to cross as it’s 13 stories high and ½ mile long!  Thankfully I’ve gotten over my jitters.  Here are some things to look for:

    • At the entry points there are huge towers.  Their design represents the geology of the area.  The spiraling steel frames represent supports used inside coal mines that were once in operation around the Madrid area.

    • There are several overlook spots for taking a break to enjoy the view.  

    • Educational signs are posted providing information on the bridge and local habitat.

  • When entering Madrid you get the fun of riding under 1 bridge and 2 tunnels.  One of the tunnels has some really cool, can’t miss, art work.


  • After finishing my ride and packing up back in Woodward, I took a few minutes to enjoy a small  snack of  homemade breakfast cookies.  Ending a ride with cookies is always a good thing!