ABOUT THE LOOP
After serving as a railroad right-of-way beginning in the 1800s, the Raccoon River Valley Trail now attracts more than 350,000 Iowans and tourists every year.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Here’s a brief list of answers to questions commonly asked by trail enthusiasts planning to explore the Raccoon River Valley Trail (RRVT).
What’s the best method of travel?
Cyclists, runners, walkers and hikers all enjoy the trail. Snowmobiling is permitted on some sections of the trail when there is at least four inches of snow. The RRVT currently connects to the Clive Greenbelt trail, which connects seamlessly with other central Iowa trails.
What’s the distance between towns, and what will I see along the trail?
On the RRVT, you’re never more than nine miles - and in most cases six miles - from a trail town, offering overnight lodging and dining within an easy ride or hike. Trail users encounter a variety of wildlife, farm animals and birds along the way. Great stretches of farmland that greeted railroad passengers in the 19th and 20th centuries are still visible today along with a canopy of trees providing great aesthetics, wind breaks and cooling temperatures during warmer weather. Artwork on the trail highlights the region’s railroad history, including restored depots, a 350-foot-long trailhead gateway and a lighted bridge that spans the river after which the trail was named.
What is the surface like? What about elevation changes?
The paved surface of the RRVT includes both asphalt and concrete. It is asphalt from Waukee west to Adel, and north from Redfield to Linden; concrete from Linden through Panora to Yale; asphalt from Yale north to Winkleman Switch, and then concrete for the northern four miles into Jefferson. The entire north loop from Herndon to Waukee is concrete. Road crossings are all paved. The trail is a level grade typical of a rail trail with only slight changes in elevation.
Is there a cost to use the trail?
The trail requires a $2 daily fee for individuals age 18 and older, or a yearly pass of $10 is available to purchase. All proceeds support trail maintenance and improvements. The trail pass system is “on your honor” as there is no enforcement, but we hope all users will help support the upkeep and improvements of the trail as a unique Iowa treasure that attracts local, regional and nationwide recreationists!
Where can I park?
There is plenty of parking along the RRVT, typically in trail towns, but also at other trailheads in between the cities.
Is there cell coverage?
Cell coverage is usually good along the RRVT, but occasionally you may find yourself without coverage in between towns. Call 911 in event of an emergency and always let someone know of your trail-use plans.
Where can I fill water bottles, and what about restrooms?
Most trail town businesses will allow customers to fill their water bottles, and many of the towns have restroom facilities and fountains along the trail. Still, it’s best to carry two bottles and to top them off whenever possible to stay hydrated and prepared.
Are there places along the trail for meals?
Trail towns along the RRVT feature a mix of eating options, including restaurants, cafes, diners, bars and breweries. Ice cream stops are always popular! Some towns will have one or two dining options, but others will have several to choose from. You can often pick up snacks and groceries in towns, as well. Note: there are no restaurants, grocery or convenience stores in Cooper, Herndon, or Dawson.
What about dogs?
The RRVT is dog-friendly, but you must keep your dog on a leash at all times for the safety of dogs and trail users. Be mindful not to let the leash cross over the width of the trail. Pay special attention to other travelers, especially those approaching on bikes from behind, to avoid injury of your pet and trail users.
What are some common precautions?
When you’re traveling, use common sense, stay hydrated and stay alert for puddles, rocks and other trail users. Watch for younger or older travelers. Take a break when you get tired.
Be alert for cars and uneven surfaces at road and railroad crossings. Watch for rabbits, squirrels, deer, raccoons or snakes that may be crossing the trail surface, and give them plenty of space.
Some additional advice for bicyclists: Don’t use your cell phone while riding. Call out “biker passing on your left” or use a bike bell, and slow down when coming up on dog walkers, runners and hikers.
Finally, if you are biking, wear a helmet to avoid injury in case you take an unexpected spill. Make sure your helmet fits properly.
What is the weather like?
Iowa features humid, warm summers with average daily temperatures in June, July and August in the upper 80’s, but 90-to-100-degree days do happen.
Spring and autumn days are more temperate with highs ranging from the 50’s to 70’s. Iowa gets about 36 inches of rain annually, and May and June are generally the rainiest months.
Winters are cold with average high temperatures in January and February in the 20’s and 30’s, but below zero weather is possible. Central Iowa typically receives about 32 inches of snow a year. Weather conditions can change rapidly, so it is always a good idea to check the forecast.
What kind of bike is best?
Many types of bicycles work well on the RRVT, including touring bikes, hybrids, mountain bikes, e-bikes, urban commuters and department store specials. Tandems, trikes and recumbents are quite popular.
Make sure your bike is in good condition before you start, and know how to fix a flat tire (bring a hand-pump and some spare tubes, even day rides), repair a broken chain or tighten a loose seat post. A roll of duct tape and some zip ties can provide a temporary fix to other issues. There are fix-it stations with pumps and tools placed strategically along the RRVT.
As a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, the Raccoon River Valley Trail Association relies on the support of individuals and organizations to keep our historic trail in good shape. Our partners and sponsors understand the value of having scenic, historical and nationally recognized opportunities for Iowans and tourists to enjoy our state while supporting our local businesses. We hope you'll consider joining us by purchasing a trail pass and/or joining us financially as a friend or sponsor!