Iowa Biking Adventure

“Following our recent weekend visit to the Hawkeye state, I can well and truly confirm that Iowa blossomed far more than I could ever have imagined.

A Brit and a Southerner Travel Blog

Bicycling in Iowa? We admit it. Iowa is perhaps not at the top of your vacation wish list.

But that is why you travel with Zephyr Adventures! We spend the time to scour the world looking for the best places to be active on vacation and aren’t afraid to suggest something new to you.

Bulldozed by extinct glaciers, Central Iowa is generally flat, which is something almost all inline skaters and many bicyclists love. Also, the region around the state capital of Des Moines happens to have some of the best long-distance paths in the United States attracting people across the region.

The Raccoon River Valley Trail, a past nominee for the Rails-to-Trails Hall of Fame, boasts 89 miles of paved glory that is worthy of two days of exploration. We also roll along the 25-mile High Trestle Trail highlighted by an astonishing half-mile long, 13-story high bridge over the Des Moines River (pictured above). And we’ll make use of five different connected trails beautifully transversing the city of Des Moines.

Once we have convinced you to come to Iowa for vacation, we think you will love what you see. The cute town of Perry, with only 7,000 residents, is situated right on the Racoon River Valley Trail and boasts the historic yet upgraded Hotel Pattee, a classic Zephyr accommodation. Two nights in rural Iowa are complemented perfectly by two nights in downtown Des Moines, with its amazing farmer’s market and the Riverwalk in addition to the state capitol grounds and monuments. In the end, what we really love about Iowa are the people, who are warm and welcoming to outsiders.

Come for the amazing biking and skating paths. Be entranced by the solitude of the prairie farmland, let the gentle big city of Des Moines surprise you, enjoy the friendly people, and discover that Iowa has so much more offer. Join us on our Iowa Inline Skating & Biking Adventure!

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Other Info: Bike rental is a $35/day additional charge.

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Trip Highlights

  • Inline skate or bicycle on the 89-mile Raccoon River Valley Trail: paved, smooth, and flat
  • Cross the Des Moines River on a half-mile long, 13-story high pedestrian bridge
  • Polish your inline skating skills in our one-day inline skating pre-tour camp
  • Stay in the Hotel Pattee, known as one of the Finest Boutique Hotels in the World
  • Experience rural Americana in Perry, one of Iowa’s “Great Places” along with the cultural and recreational excitement in the capital city of Des Moines

If you are interested to improve your inline skating skills, join us on a one-day pre-tour inline skating camp. Professional instructors will help you improve your braking and your stride efficiency so you will feel safer and enjoy the tour more. Please note this one-day camp is not for absolute beginners. You should already be able to skate five miles on your own. We will meet after lunch for instruction, then enjoy a dinner and breakfast the next morning before a final morning instruction session.


We meet after lunch in Des Moines, Iowa with a pickup at the airport, at our downtown hotel, or (if you are participating in it) our pre-tour one-day skate camp. We shuttle a short distance to the Raccoon River Valley Trailhead in nearby Waukee. Following introductions and a bike fitting (for those renting), we’ll be off on one of the finest inline skating trails in the country! The Raccoon River Valley Trail is long, smooth, and flat. After passing through two small towns and the Forest Park Museum/Arboretum, we’ll skate directly to our hotel in quaint Perry with a classic Iowa main street feel.

Distance: 10, 20, or ++ Miles (plenty of extra mileage if desired)


Today, we stay on the Raccoon River Valley Trail, which is sort of a big square. We'll continue north on the eastern portion and then turn west across the top. This is very rural skating, with tractors more common than cars and the songs of birds echoing across the landscape. Make a stop at Tojo's Bar & Grill in tiny Jamaica for lunch. if you are interested. We turn around in the town of Herndon for the main route but anyone interested in more mileage can continue around the loop. Back in Perry, discover the historic buildings, unique shops, dining, public art, and Carnegie Library Museum.

Distances: 13, 26, or ++ Miles


We leave Perry this morning via bicycle or shuttle to the town of Woodward and the start of the High Trestle Trail. While they are building a trail connector, for the moment we'll be on small side roads if you do elect to bicycle to the trail. Shortly after Woodward, we cross over the scenic Des Moines River on the spectacular High Trestle Trail Bridge soaring 130 feet above the valley. After enjoying the views, it is then on to the towns of Madrid and Slater both of which host fun trailside stops for vittles and libations. For those interested, the trail continues to suburban Ankeny ending with a visit to the local Firetrucker Brewery. From Ankeny, we will shuttle to our hotel in Des Moines.

Distances: 13, 25, 36, or ++ Miles


Today we trade the rural Rails-to-Trails for meandering urban park paths. We start by walking to the Des Moines Farmers Market, widely considered one of the finest Farmers’ Markets in America, supporting nearly 300 vendors. It is a fantastic place to connect with farmers, producers, bakers, and artists representing every corner of this hardworking, entrepreneurial state. We then return to our hotel and skate right out the door to the downtown Principal Riverwalk and follow the Des Moines River to the Meredith Trail which will take us along the Raccoon River, around Grays Lake, and to the Bill Riley Trail. We'll enjoy the city skyline, stream views, shaded wetland parks, and a beautiful lake with a smooth path so nice you might do it twice. For those interested, this entire trail network connects to the Great Western Trail, which heads south for another 16.5 miles and provides plenty of cycling. This evening we'll enjoy our final meal in Iowa as we celebrate our skating and biking adventures across the Hawkeye State.

Distances: 8, 16, or 49 Miles


This morning, on our final day, we do a casual skate or bike through the streets of Des Moines to see the downtown sights, including public art sculptures, gardens, state capitol grounds, and Des Moines River bridge. On a quiet Sunday morning, this peaceful and picturesque small city will be ours to discover. As always, there are options for a bit more mileage using the John Pat Dorrian Trail which connects to the Neal Smith Trail. After our skate or bike ride, we'll head back for showers, goodbyes, and a shuttle to the airport if needed.

Distance: Varies

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Trip Accommodations


We love hotels like this - small, well-furnished, quirky, and with historic pasts located in small towns where you would not expect them. The Pattee has 40 rooms in addition to a restaurant, lounge, spa, and bowling alley!


This luxury, independently-owned hotel in downtown Des Moines is the top-rated hotel in the city. The large rooms are nicely appointed and we can skate and ride right from the hotel entrance.

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Arrival & Departure

We will meet you just after lunch in Des Moines on the first day of the tour, with a pickup either at the airport or our downtown hotel. If you are coming in a day early for Skate Camp, the same pickup applies that day. The tour ends in the late morning at our hotel in Des Moines, from which you are welcome to take a shuttle to the airport or continue on your journey.

What's Included?
  • At least two Zephyr guides accompany each trip and a third is added as necessary.
  • Double occupancy lodging is included. If you are traveling solo, we will match you with another traveler of the same gender. However, you may pay a single supplement to have your own room.
  • All of your dinners and breakfasts are included. Gratuity for these meals is also included. In general, we leave lunches open so that you have time to explore and enjoy the local flavors en route.
  • All your transportation is included once you meet your guides on the first day.
  • All trail fees and permits are included.
  • NOT INCLUDED Beverages, desserts, lunches, gratuities to your guides, personal expenses and travel to and from the destination.

September is a fantastic month to be in Iowa. Daytime highs average 76 degrees, which is warm but not too hot for exercising. Iowa does get precipitation year round, so be prepared for showers.

Extending Your Stay

There are some major Midwestern cities within a reasonable drive of Des Moines: Kansas City (3 hours), Minneapolis (3.5 hours), Chicago (5 hours), and St. Louis (5.5 hours). Any of these might make a good addition to a midwestern vacation with a bit of big-city excitement thrown in.

Changes to Your Itinerary

While everything under “What is Included” will remain the same, the actual restaurants, hotels, and activities listed in our itineraries are subject to modifications. Changes that are out of our control are common – a restaurant closes or loses its awesome chef, a winery changes its visiting hours, a hotel gets remodeled, a road or trail undergoes construction. You are entrusting us to create an outstanding vacation for you and so it is possible we may take the liberty of making necessary changes (even at the last minute, during the guides’ scout trip) to the itinerary that will improve your overall trip experience. If there is any one experience that is going to make or break your trip, please discuss this with us in advance! We will attempt to keep our website itinerary as current as possible and communicate any major changes with you in the weeks prior to the tour.

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