Chuck’s Urban 18-Miler

This route was scouted by: Chuck Corwin, Team Wingtip

Polk County
Length: 18 Miles
Surface: Paved Trails and City Streets
Parking and Restrooms: Des Moines Botanical Center

A new kiosk at Gray’s Lake provides ideas for plenty of additional cycling experiences in the Des Moines area. Photo: Chris Maharry

You’ll see the best of Des Moines on this urban route. Start by putting your pedal to the petal near 14 acres of gardens at the Des Moines Botanical Center. Head north a couple of miles on an asphalt trail, then swing a half mile east for a whirl on the hand-carved, turn-of-the-century replica Heritage Carousel in Union Park.

After a short jaunt north, cross the Des Moines River to the west on an antique bike/walk bridge and swoop along the bike lanes of the Inter-Urban Trail, a former electric streetcar roadbed. The trail transitions to bike lanes. For food or drink, head to GoodSons on Beaver Avenue, a popular rendezvous point for cyclists. Head south on 46th Street to Kingman Blvd; major intersections are Hickman Road and University Ave. Turn west (right); continue 2 blocks to Polk Blvd and turn south (left).

Follow the gorgeous sycamore allee of Polk Boulevard to Woodland Avenue (3rd intersection after crossing over I-235); turn west (right). Follow painted “crumbs” on Woodland, Waterbury Road, and N. Waterbury Road to the Walnut Creek Trail. Connecting trails pass through Des Moines Water Works (second in size only to NYC’s Central Park) and Gray’s Lake, a trail hub.

Bill Riley and Meredith Trails lead cyclists to Principal Park, home of Triple-A baseball’s Iowa Cubs. A slew of eateries, architectural highlights, and public art await you in downtown Des Moines. Two stunning bike/walk bridges span the Des Moines River as part of the Principal Riverwalk. Mullet’s (south of Principal Park) and The High Life Lounge and el Bait Shop (north of Principal Park) are bike-friendly.

Side trips: Des Moines Art Center in Greenwood Park; Pappajohn Sculpture Park between Locust and Grand and 10th to 15th Streets in downtown Des Moines, and the stunning Iowa State Capitol (finished in 1886) with five domes gilded with tissue paper-thin sheets of pure 23-karat gold.

More good stuff:

Where to stay: Butler House on Grand (515-255-4096); The 1900 Inn (877-577-0149)

Download Chucks Urban 18-Miler PDF Map



Meet your route scout: Chuck Corwin, Team Wingtip

“My first bike was a Schwinn cruiser with a “knee-action” shock absorber. As a 9-year-old growing up in Des Moines, we could ride anywhere we wanted! I completed my first RAGBRAI on a Schwinn Varsity 10-speed purchased decades ago from Will Irwin at his wood-floored shop in the Drake neighborhood. RAGBRAI XXXV was my 25th year, and I rode my hand-built Vanilla, loving built in Portland by my son-in law, Sacha White. I like to ride the local trails, and my urban loop allows me to see a lot of Des Moines, with a lot of possible variations.”

In 2015 your financial support made possible:

More than 350 bicycles and helmets were donated to children in need by partnering with community nonprofits and public schools.

With over 6,000 trips and four new stations, Des Moines BCycle has more than doubled the number of rides over last year.

Thousands of donated tubes, tires, frames and other bike parts were kept out of overburdened landfills.

Our community workspace is now open to the public six days a week – including Sundays!

Over 2,000 people visited the Collective and learned something about keeping their bicycles working properly.