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.
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. Northeast of the park is a viewing tower built by an Eagle Scout from Indianola.
There are 14 bridges to cross on this trail some with rough thresholds. Be prepared for some big jolts. Don't be surprised to hear the sounds of gunfire as the DNR shooting range is also just outside of the park.
The Indianola trailhead is located in the 300 block of N 5th Street. Parking, restrooms and water are available along with a picnic area. 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.
Central Iowa celebrated Independence Day with weather uncharacteristic for July. Cloudy with cool temperatures in the mid 70's. The shift in temperatures and a break from the blazing sun, brought out marsh life along the Summerset Trail.
Leaving Banner State Park, my goal was a quiet and leisurely ride to Carlisle with the stop at the Eagle Scout viewing platform. On previous visits my attention was drawn to the panoramic view. This time it was centered directly below. So much to see. Huge frogs, creepy snakes and some very busy muskrats eating brunch. These guys cracked me up as they swam past using their tails to help propel them through the water.
As I had hoped not many people were on the trail. Most were folks from Carlisle out for a run or walk. I selfishly hesitate to draw attention to the lesser known trails like this one. A quiet trail is always a refuge in the summer months of June in July as the rest of the state (or so it seems) is training for RAGBRAI on the popular trails. The Summerset Trail sits at the top of my list for a place to pedal away from the crowds.