Beginners will find this mostly flat, mostly wide, mostly smooth trail very welcoming. Small rocky sections, occasional log-overs, and a few short, punchy climbs offer challenges waiting to be mastered. Expert riders will want to try the “mosaic jump.” There is a BMX-style optional fun loop with lots of rollers. A new, more technical trail parallels part of the north end of the main Sycamore Trail and offers tighter trees, dips, turns, and roots.
This trail system is an urban gem — tight trails twisting through lush woodland in the heart of the city. This 10-plus-mile system of singletrack is named for its location in the center of the Des Moines metro and its proximity to the Des Moines Art Center and the former Science Center of Iowa.
Hillside is a web of climbs and descents, switchbacks, log-overs, and bridges. Roller coaster rides just like its namesake but with wooden bridges in the valleys to test your nerves as you try to carry speed for the next uphill.
J-11 is a friendly little trail to enjoy when riding between the northern trails and the southern trails.
Dehnman’s Woods is the longest section within the center trails and has some features including: log piles, ramps, roots, tight trees, roots and tight trees together, a 30 ft beam 4 ft high above a ravine, and even an upended tractor tire. Though not designed for beginners, it is a favorite among beginners because of the b-lines around the major features and the relatively flat terrain.
Squirrel’s Nest and Rhythm offer two more loops similar to Denmans south of the railroad track.
The entire area is small enough that you don’t have to worry about getting too lost. Each trail eventually comes out to a paved trail which will lead you back to the main parking lot.
The trails at Banner are the most fun and feared trails in central Iowa. The Banner Lakes are located on the remains of an old strip mine. Most of the trails are cut into the piles of overburden (mined waste rock) that sit between the many bodies of water. Most of the trails require moderate skills, with advanced sections challenging the more advanced riders. There are no flat spots on the Northern sections and you will always find yourself blind to what is around the next corner. If you are not going up or down, you are probably going around a tight banked corner. Very often you will experience at least two direction changes at once while trying to get a grip on loose soil. This landscape simply does not belong in central Iowa, but we are all glad it exists. You will hate this trial on your first ride, but will love it after your second.
Extra Credit is located between the two parking lots. This section makes single-speeders cry while others laugh. Plenty of climb for a short section, with dissents requiring some speed to make the next ridge.
Oh, there is beginner’s trail (Riverside) on the south side of the main lake and is great for kids or for adding a recovery mile to your ride.
The newest trail in town is in Phase 2 of construction. Ewing park is home to many recreational activities and now has several miles of great professionally designed trails. Currently about 5 miles have been cut into this jungle. This trail has several sections to choose from; all include a good deal of moderate climb, and give a different experience in each direction. Anyone can spend hours enjoying this trail system and more is to come! The tread is 90% fantastic with a few soggy areas to watch out for. These muddy areas will soon feature wooden boardwalks for your pleasure. If you have not given it a chance, you should, and while you are riding help us come up with section names. Keep your ears open for more trail work days to be scheduled this year.
The trail is 7 miles of single track with 1300 feet of climbing laid out over 200 acres of wooded ravine and creek crossings on the backside of the Seven Oaks ski hill. This is the best climbing workout in central Iowa: long climbs, short climbs, steep climbs, climbing turns, technical switchbacks. And with climbs come descents and place names such as “Deadman’s Curve/187″ and “G-drop.”
Although it is one single lap, the paths of off-camber soil punctuated with natural roots wrap back and forth on themselves over and over until you aren’t sure if you’ve ridden that section earlier in the lap or not.
$4 daily riding fee. Season passes available. Helmets are required. Tent camping and showers available.
The Lake Ahquabi course is fast and open with quite a bit of variety. A large portion of the trail is wide double track which is open to cross country skiing and snowmobiling; additional sections ride through the open, right along the the lake shore; and wooded single track runs up and down lung-busting hills. Surfaces include dirt, gravel, wooden bridges, grass fields, and even an old asphalt road, overgrown and decaying in the woods.