Fun on the Fourth

The Trail

The High Trestle Trail is 25 miles in length and travels through Woodward, Madrid, Slater, Sheldahl, and Ankeny.  The wide concrete trail is in fantastic condition and does not have significant grades or hills. The majority of the trail is flanked by trees. 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.  

About 5 miles from of Ankeny is The Oasis.  It’s a trailside rest stop constructed as a memorial to a local cyclist.  With it’s shaded picnic area, water fountains, restroom and views of Iowa farmland, it’s a great spot for taking a break along the trail.  

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 one 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 overlooks on the bridge for enjoying the view of the river valley.  Educational signs are posted providing information on the bridge and habitat found in the area.

Trail Map

Trail Information

The Ride

Meeting at my sisters house in Ankeny we set out for the High Trestle Trail.  It was a beautiful July 4th, with the sunshine, temps in the 80’s and a light breeze.  Our plan was to ride to the bridge with stops in Slater and Madrid.  

Just outside of Ankeny the trail travels through a farmyard.  If you’re lucky you can get a glimpse of the bison that lives here.  If you’re even luckier, you can get a cold beverage from the vending machine tucked under the trees.  The trail was busy and a group of cyclists were taking a break at The Oasis as we passed by.

Slater was celebrating Independence Day along with their 125th birthday!  Lots of activities were going on at Nelson Park when we arrived.  Food and craft vendors were open for business, families were picnicking, and adults were relaxing under the beer tent.  We grabbed some delicious sandwiches and sides from Fabulous BBQ and headed to the beer tent. After our lunch we made our way back to the trail.  There were so many cute homes decorated for the holiday and vehicles having participated in the parade were parked along the curbs.  Riding through Earl Grimm Park we caught glimpses of folks having a great time at the pool.  Slater was certainly having a great birthday.

Flat Tire lounge is well known by central iowa cyclists.  It’s a popular pit stop as it sits only feet from the trail.   Flat Tire has a bike repair stand outside and tubes, tires and even lights for purchase at the bar. Tons of bikes were parked outside!  I always enjoy looking at what others ride and how they personalize their bikes.  Another group out celebrating the holiday with a bike ride had decorated their steeds in red-white-and-blue.  

The last time I was on the bridge was back in March.  Then, shallow waters of the Des Moines Rivers traveled in a narrow path in between the banks.  This visit was a different story!  The 13 story high bridge didn't seem so high with the water at it’s highest levels in years.  

Back in Ankeny we visited Firetrucker Brewing.  The new trailside brewery just opened and we were excited to try their beer and see how the former fire station had been renovated.  It didn’t disappoint.  “Beer is art” at this brewery and their taproom complements their philosophy with beautiful displays of paintings from Ben Schuh.  The five kinds of hops used to create the First Responded Red Ale made it a perfect match for me.   

The High Trestle Trail continues to be my favorite trail to ride in Iowa.  Beautiful views, smooth concrete and beer just off the trail make a fantastic combination.

Happy Riding!

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


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 d