High Trestle Trail Bridge, located in Iowa
Iowa's High Trestle Trail bridge, a 13-story-high, half-mile-long bridge across the Des
Moines River

Happy Trails

There’s car-free celebration in Iowa on Saturday, April 30th, as five towns in the Des Moines area— Ankeny, Sheldahl, Slater, Madrid, and Woodward—host a daylong celebration in honor of the opening of the High Trestle Trail, a 25-mile, $15-million route that connects them. A project almost a decade in the making, the thoroughfare for joggers, walkers, cyclists, and in-line skaters is the latest addition to the 670-mile Central Iowa trail, which goes through Des Moines and connects the state capital to smaller towns through 11 outlying counties. The showpiece of the High Trestle Trail is a 13-story bridge built in the footprint of a former rail bed. The structure features six overlooks, each with interpretive panels offering mini-lessons in the region’s cultural and natural history. If you ride the trail Saturday, you can start with a pancake breakfast in Ankeny and end with live music and a beer garden in Madrid. Along the way, the five trail towns will offer free music performances, art exhibits, and food. Our picks for picturesque rest stops:

  1. Woodward
    Head for the trailhead at 10 a.m., and you’ll find Miss Iowa presiding over the official ribbon cutting. Starting at 11 a.m., festivities literally continue with a bang, with Civil War cannon demonstrations every hour on the hour until 5 p.m.
  2. The Oasis
    Located between Ankeny and Sheldahl, the Oasis will have food, games, and giveaways hosted by the Polk County Conservation staff. It’s also minutes from Jester Park, where you’ll find a live bison and elk exhibit. For more info on The Oasis and Jester Park, call 515-323-5280 or go to leadingyououtdoors.org.
  3. Snus Hill Winery
    The family-owned vineyard and winery (2183 320th Street, Madrid; 515-795-3535, snushillwine.com) offers an art exhibit with tastings from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The winery will also run a shuttle bus to and from the trail throughout the day.
  4. Bridge Overlook on the Woodward side
    From the bridge, take in the stunning views of the Des Moines river and beyond. Stop at 10 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. for Don Wirth’s short presentation on the area’s geology. Wirth will talk about archeology at 10:45 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. There will be musical entertainment on the overlook from 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

GO High Trestle Trail Grand Celebration, Ankeny to Woodward, Iowa; 515-288-1846. For more information, click here; map here.

Where to stay: Since it opened in 1913, the Hotel Pattee (1112 Willis Ave., Perry; 515-465-3511, hotelpattee.com) has been lavishly restored and now offers 40 themed rooms, each paying tribute to a specific part of Iowa’s history and culture; for example, the Louis Armstrong suite plays tribute to the late jazz trumpeter and the Gustav Stickley room reflects the craftsmanship of the German furniture maker. Weekend rates range from $149 to $230. Two Bears Lodge Bed & Breakfast (1574 334th Road, Madrid; 515-795-3880) is a log home in the Des Moines River Valley, with three guest rooms and a cozy fireplace in the lobby; rates range from $70 to $140 a night.

Where to eat: Ankeny’s Waterfront Restaurant (2414 Southeast Tone’s Dr., Ankeny; 515-963-1940, waterfrontseafoodmarket.com) offers fresh seafood with, yes, a waterfront view. Don’t miss the Picket Fence Creamery (14583 S Ave., Woodward; 515-438-2697, picketfencecreamery.net), where Sunday, May 1st, is “Sample Sunday”; get free tastes of ice cream, cheese curds, fudge, and fresh honey among other treats.


Photograph: Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation