Maffit Lake Picnic Loop
This route was scouted by: Gervase Gallant
Length: 22 Miles
Surface: Paved Roads and Trails
Parking and Restrooms: Trailhead for Great Western Trail
Pack your binoculars, a picnic lunch or dinner, and head toward a Maffitt Lake Reservoir, just a few pedal strokes southwest of Des Moines. Head south on the Great Western Trail. At McKinley Avenue—the first paved intersection; look for the street sign—turn west, cross a small bridge, and cruise on rolling county roads.
On the way, stop at Brown’s Woods, with nearly 2 miles of nature trails, and the 260-acre Walnut Woods State Park along the Raccoon River for great birding.
At Maffitt Reservoir, lean your bikes against one of the stately oaks at the picnic grounds on the east side of the lake. Bike around the lake and you’ve visited four counties: Polk, Dallas, Madison, and Warren.
On the return trip, go east on Maffitt Lake Road to catch the Great Western Trail at Orilla, home to Bambino’s, a fun country bar. Easy pedaling north on the converted railbed brings you back into Des Moines. At the trailhead, refuel at Orlondo’s, known for its thin-crust pizzas and salads.
Near dawn or dusk, be on the alert for whitetail deer along the trails. To avoid a collision, ring your bell and shout!
Where to stay: Butler House on Grand (515-255-4096)
Meet your route scout: Gervase Gallant
By day, Gervase Gallant works as a contract Java programmer in Des Moines. “I’ve been an year-round bicycle commuter since 2005. When the weather is decent, I ride a 1987 Fuji Pallisade on the trail system, but when the snow flies, I switch to a studded-tire hybrid for on city streets. One of my great pastimes is planning and doing lengthy rides on the weekend. I love camping when I can ride from my house and spend a night or two within 50 miles of the city. I also like picnic rides, where you complete a 3- of 4-hour tour of the countryside and stop for a lunch.” Gervase, a Des Moines Bicycle Collective board members, blogs at Des Moines Commuter Corner.