This route was scouted by: Bob Morgan, Biking Iowa
Length: 22 miles
Terrain: Paved roads and trails
Parking and Restrooms: At the trail head in Martensdale and businesses in Norwalk.
If you’re lucky, you’ll see a family of ducks or geese on this ride, but the ride’s fun even if the waterfowl aren’t around. As a bonus, the steepest hill is a 3/4-mile drop!
Park your car at the Great Western Trail head on the west edge of Martensdale and bike east along Inwood Street to State Highway 28. Turn north on the highway. At about 6 miles, in Prole comes your downhill to cross the North River. You can easily hit 30 mph and, happily, the climb out of the valley is gradual.
The Casey’s in Norwalk is a quick refueling stop on this route. Turn west there, onto G14. Check the pond at a former apple orchard (now a landscaping firm), for the ducks or geese.
At about 12.8 miles, you reach the village of Cumming to intersect again with the Great Western Trail. The Cumming Tap is a favorite country bar for cyclists. Stop for tacos on Tuesday or drop by for steaks on Wednesdays. Headlights are recommended if you ride later than 8 p.m. during summer months.
On your return to Martensdale on the Great Western, you ride through prairie and wetland remnants and cross the North River on a trestle—no hills on a rail-trail!
Side trip: Two Saints Winery is a few miles off the loop (between St. Charles and St. Mary’s).
Bob Morgan, a freelance writer from Cedar Falls, is author of Biking Iowa, which includes 50 well-documented rides throughout the state. He’s active in the Cedar Trails Partnership and leads evening bike rides during Bike Month.