The biggest advantage of exploring the Raccoon River Valley Trail (RRVT) is that you can have a unique experience with every trail use. With 14 communities to visit, access to urban and rural views and amenities, there are exciting opportunities for everyone!
From bicycling and hiking to snowshoeing and snowmobiling, the RRVT offers all kinds of outdoor activities and adventures. You'll always find something fun to do, no matter the season. So gear up for a solo trek, or explore a trail town with friends - the opportunities are endless!
Things to do and see along the Loop
One of the many distinctive and unique features of the RRVT is the artwork highlighting the region’s railroad history. In Waukee, a stunning art piece created by David Dahlquist enlivens the trailhead. The Waukee Railroad Pergola, “In the Shadow of the Rails”, is both futuristic and historical with its colorful red, white and black design that looks like a railroad path above a trail user. It is lighted at night and serves as a tribute to the rail heritage of the trail communities. Each trail city has a smaller model of this work, providing a culturally relevant and unifying art theme along the trail.
In nearby Adel, a lighted bridge welcomes bikers, joggers, walkers and families into the city. The bridge’s 66 color-changing LED lights illuminate each night at dusk and their colors change monthly. Almost every city on the trail features artwork, ranging from restored depots in Redfield, Dawson, Jefferson, Cooper, Minburn, and Perry, to a big bike in Perry, and a trailside garden and covered shelter in Panora. Dallas Center offers a shaded trailhead with restroom facilities.
In Iowa, there are approximately 428 various known bird species that can be observed at distinct periods of each year, and the RRVT is host to many of these. Birds most commonly observed on the trail include the Black-Capped Chickadee, Robin, Cardinal, Blue Jay, Red-Winged Blackbird and House Wren. Some of Iowa’s most colorful birds, including the Baltimore Oriole, Indigo Bunting, Eastern Bluebird, and American Goldfinch (Iowa’s state bird), can also be spotted along the trail. Bring your binoculars and join other nature lovers on the RRVT!
Naming the trail the Raccoon River Valley Trail was an easy and swift decision—it's named after the various branches of river that run alongside the trail or under its bridges. The Racoon River was first documented on the 1814 map by Lewis and Clark. It’s three tributary branches snake through 10 counties before combining and merging with the Des Moines River, itself a tributary to the Mississippi. When measured using the longest of its three forks, the Raccoon River's length totals 226 miles. The Raccoon has been providing drinking water for the Des Moines metropolitan area through water utilities since the 19th century.
You’ll never be short on dining options as you travel the RRVT. Exploring this scenic and Hall of Fame trail allows visitors to experience much of what makes these communities and countryside such attractive places to live and visit while sampling some delicious local cuisine along the way. Trail towns on the RRVT feature a mix of eating options, including restaurants, cafes, diners, bars, coffee shops and breweries. Ice cream is always popular! Some towns will have one or two dining options and others offer several to choose from. You can often pick up snacks and groceries on rest stops, as well. There are no restaurants, grocery or convenience stores in Cooper, Herndon or Dawson.
If you are looking for a place to stay after a day on the trail, there are many options available from bed-and-breakfasts and hotels to motels and camping. Check out the Trail Amenities section to find a place to land before, during or after enjoying the RRVT.
Known as the "quintessential central Iowa experience", the Raccoon River Valley Trail includes the longest paved loop trail in the nation. Since opening in 1989, the trail has been a vital tourist attraction, offering health and wellness opportunities and connections to several communities along its route.
Stretching from north (Jefferson) then southeast (Waukee), the trail passes through 14 communities and offers rest stops approximately every six miles. With a variety of different views of woodlands, prairies, wild animals, public art and a unique lighted bridge, the trail can be enjoyed numerous times with new discoveries around every bend.