Riding the Des Moines Regional Trails

Trail Map

Trail Information


  • Walnut Creek, Bill Riley, Meredith, and Des Moines River trails are integral parts of the Des Moines bike trail network as they connect all four corners of the metro area. Walnut Creek  and Bill Riley travel through wooded areas while Meredith and Des Moines River are more out in the open. Along the trails signs point riders in right direction and provide mileage information.

  • This network of trails not only provides routes for traveling around Des Moines, it gives riders shelter for biking on windy days and place to ride when other trails aren’t maintained during winter months.  

  • My bicycle ride began in Windsor Heights at Colby Park.  Immediately I was faced with a section of trail covered with a soup of slush, mud, and water.  I got concerned when I felt my tires easing deeper into the gunk but made it through without needing to get my feet wet. Thankfully this would end up being the most challenging portion of my ride.

  • The winter conditions of the trails were a menagerie of dry asphalt, snow, gravel, mud, and water.  My bike and I bike got covered in grime, but on this pretty day with it’s glimpses of spring, I didn’t mind.

  • For a change of pace I used my watch rather than an odometer to track my ride.  It was surprising to find out later just far I had traveled.  In my book a ride over 15 miles is considered a long one, so I was extra happy to have put in my first long ride of the year.

  • The bridge at SE 14th Street was my turnaround spot for this out-n-back ride.


  • There are 3 sections of construction to be aware of:  235 bridge,  63rd street bridge and also southeast of North Valley Drive.

  • Slow down and use caution at the blind corner underneath the train trestle on the Bill Riley Trail.

  • Office workers from downtown frequently use the Meredith Trail for their lunchtime workout.  Use cycling etiquette when passing pedestrians.

  • Be prepared to wait for traffic when crossing SE 6th Street.


  • With all the tracks on the frozen Raccoon River it resembled a snowmobile raceway. I’m sure a fat bike or two had contributed to the collection.

  • A fashion photo shoot was underway in Water Works park.  The bright blue of the models dress stood out against the browns of dormant trees and dried grasses.

  • The list of items I’ve found on the trail continues to grow.  On this ride I saw a running shoe perched on a post at the bridge in WaterWorks park.  Hopefully it’s owner returns to claim it.  

  • Cyclists with bikes needing attention will find a public work stand on the Meredith Trail at the SW 1st Street bridge.  Air, tools, and a bike stand are all ready to be put to task.   A bar code on the front of the stand can be scanned with a smartphone for detailed repair instruction.  

Wrap Up

  • Despite returning from my ride with my bike and I both needing a clean up, it was a great way to spend a midday break.  I had plans on stopping at a local coffee shop for a post ride treat but with my clothes dappled in muck I passed.  Instead I returned home and did some online research for fenders.  I have a hunch they’re a must for future springtime bike rides.

Happy Riding!

Bike Ride to Western Gateway Park

Trail:  Jordan Creek, Walnut Creek, Bill Riley, Meredith

Date:    12-1-2013

Time:    11:00 AM

Weather: 30/Calm/Cloudy

Mileage: 15

Route Map


  • This is a network of trails that travels from West Des Moines to downtown Des Moines.  The asphalt trail is smooth and runs flat other than a couple of spots just outside of Raccoon River Park.  

  • The Walnut Creek and Bill Riley portions travel through wooded areas.  The remaining segments are out in the open.

  • The Quick Trip at the corner of 63rd and Railroad can serve as a location for restrooms and water during the off season for Raccoon River Park's facilities.


  • A portion of the route is closed just east of 63rd street.  Be on the look out for traffic while riding through the marked detour.

  • Just southeast of North Valley drive the Walnut Creek trail is under construction.  I got off my bike and walked it through the rough gravel and dirt.  Thankfully it was a quiet construction area on the day of my ride.

  • When riding through Water Works keep a look out for cars.  Most people drive slowly through the park since it’s a popular location for walkers and cyclists.   

  • Meredith trail stops at MLK and SW 16th Street.  The remainder of this route was on about 3-4 blocks worth of sidewalk.

  • Wool socks and my waterproof hiking boots did the trick on keeping my feet warm in the 30 degree temperatures.  I packed some footwarmers in my bag just in case, but didn’t need them.  


  • Western Gateway Park, located downton Des Moines,  was the destination of my ride.  Here I visited the Papajohn Sculpture Park. My favorite piece was the Three Dancing Figures. It was a cheerful pop of color on a cloudy day


  • Starting my ride next to the softball complex in Raccoon River Park  I immediately noticed tons of geese on the fields.  Not a single goose was outside the fields, just inside.  Weird!  Apparently Canadian Geese like to play softball?

  • With the leaves gone from the trees it was easy to spot birds.  I saw Cardinals, Blue Jays, Juncos, and  Nuthatches.  This time of year Bald Eagles can also be spotted along the Raccoon River.  It was my lucky day.  I saw several sitting majestically at the tops of the trees keeping an eye out for a fish dinner.

  • This time of year Jolly Holiday Lights takes place in Water Works Park.  It is Iowa’s largest light display and a  fundraising event by the Make-A-Wish foundation. Lots of displays were set up waiting for visitors to enjoy during the nighttime hours.

  • The Temple of the Performing Arts building hosts a Starbucks where I warmed up while checking out their list of events.  

  • Between the Temple for the Performing Arts and the Des Moines Public library is the the Temple Chess Garden.  There are several chess tables and a small garden surrounded by fencing. Looking closely I noticed lines of poetry in the fence’s design.


  • A warm soy latte was my treat of choice today.  It was just what I needed to help me warm up before heading back to West Des Moines.