Polk County Conservation


biking through fall woods

Bicycling is a growing hobby/sport that can be enjoyed be people of all ages and abilities. The Polk County Conservation Board cooperatively manages seven recreational trails that provide excellent cycling opportunities.

Chichaqua Valley Trail

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The Chichaqua Valley Trail stretches 20 miles from Bondurant to Baxter. This recreational trail accommodates many hikers, bikers, and cross-country skiers. This trail is jointly managed with Jasper County Conservation.

Chichaqua Valley Trailheads:

  • West end of the trail is one mile east of Bondurant. Exit off U.S. Hwy. 65, go 0.5 miles south on 88th St. to the parking lot.
  • East end of the trail can be found by turning off Hwy. 223 to Baxter and locating the parking lot in the Baxter business district.
  • Other parking areas are located in Ira, Mingo, and Valeria.

Gay Lea Wilson Trail

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Travel between Altoona, Pleasant Hill, Des Moines, Ankeny, and rural Polk County on this 17+ mile transportation corridor for commuting and recreation. This paved trail supports walkers, cross-country skiers, cyclists, and in-line skaters.

The trail was named after trails supporter Gay Lea Wilson for her hard work and determination in advocating for quality recreation opportunities in eastern Polk County. More sections of the Gay Lea Wilson Trail will be opening in upcoming years. Call (515) 323-5300 for updates.

Gay Lea Wilson Trailheads:

  • Pleasant Hill trailhead is located on the west end of the Copper Creek Plaza parking lot near the lake (off University Ave.)
  • Altoona trailhead is located at 5th Ave. and NE Broadway Ave.
  • Ankeny access is currently available at Carney Marsh on NE 70th Ave.
  • Des Moines Access is currently available at Sargent Park at 3500 E. Douglas Ave.

Great Western Trail

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An 18-mile journey awaits you. Hike, bike or ski along the former Great Western Railroad between Des Moines and Martensdale. The trail is jointly managed with Warren County Conservation.

Great Western Trailheads:

  • North access is across from the Izaak Walton League Clubhouse on Valley Drive in Des Moines.
  • South access is at Inwood Street in Martensdale.
  • This trail can also be accessed in Cumming.

High Trestle Trail

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Travel 25 miles from Ankeny to Woodward via the High Tresle Trail which connects five Iowa communities and four counties. This trail is jointly managed by these communities and counties. This trail features a one-half mile, 13-story high trail bridge that spans across the Des Moines River between Madrid and Woodward.

High Trestle Trailheads:

  • South access is at Hawkeye Park
  • (West First St.) in Ankeny.
  • North access is near the intersection of N. Main St. & Railroad St. in Woodward.
  • This trail can also be accessed in Sheldahl, Slater, and Madrid.

Mark C. Ackelson Trail

Trail users will delight in this 6.2 mile trail that loops around Easter Lake. This 10 foot wide paved recreation trail allows walkers, runners, cyclists, and skaters access to scenic views of Easter Lake and to recreational opportunities such as fishing complete with an accessbile pier, playground equipment, boat ramp and picnic areas. The trail rides through Owen's Covered Bridge on the southern lake shore, Polk County's only covered bridge.

The trail's namesake, Mark C. Ackleson, served as president  of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation for 18 years as well as providing  leadership in several conservation coalitions and alliances. Ackelson's devoted passion for land, water and wildlife served in helping the INHF to  protect and restore 145,000 acres of Iowa's natural areas in addition to providing hundreds of miles of trails in an effort to support local trailside communities and get Iowans outdoors.

 Mark C. Ackelson Trailheads:

  • Access to the trail is available from the many shelters and parking lots located throughout Easter Lake Park.
  • The north side of the trail is accessible from the Ewing Park Dog Park.

Oralabor Gateway Trail

This 4.25 mile trail safely connects the North end of the Gay Lea Wilson Trail to the Neal Smith Trail. It also provides an important connection to the High Trestle Trail by use of Ankeny City Trails. This trail is jointly managed with the City of Ankeny.

Oralabor Gateway Trailheads:

  • East access is at Glenbrooke Park
  • (2803 SW Glenbrooke Dr.) in Ankeny.
  • Accessed from the South at Carney Marsh (580 SE 54th St) and at the Sycamore Access on NW 66th Ave. in Johnston

Sycamore Trail

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Mountain bike enthusiasts will find this 6.5 mile trail irresistible. Pedal, hike, or ski along the west bank of the Des Moines River while admiring abundant wildlife and vegetation.

Sycamore Trailheads:

  • North access is one mile east of Beaver Avenue in Johnston on NW 66th Avenue.
  • South access is at the River Place office complex parking lot on Euclid Avenue in Des Moines.

Trestle to Trestle Trail

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The 3.75 mile Trestle to Trestle Trail connects the Inner Urban Trestle Bridge in Des Moines to the Trestle Bridge in Johnston. The trail is jointly managed with the City of Des Moines.

Trestle to Trestle Trailheads:

  • South access is at Polk County’s River Place office complex (2309 Euclid Avenue) in Des Moines.
  • North access is at NW Lower Beaver Drive (just east of NW Beaver Dr) in Des Moines.

Contact Us

Administration Office
11407 NW Jester Park Drive
Granger, IA 50109

P: (515) 323-5300
F: (515) 323-5354

Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

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