10 Best Mountain Biking Trails in Iowa

The excitement of wind hitting your face as you hold onto the handlebars and race down a single-track on a mountain bike is on another level! From the pedaling, the flow against berms, to the moment of catching your breath after a fast, flying good time on a mountain bike, you are assured of the best combination of fun. In Iowa, you will experience all these and so much more. This will range from rides on the west side of the state park at the Whiterock Conservancy to the east at Sunderbruch Park. There are numerous single-track for exploration and obstacles to get your wheels off in Iowa. If you are ready to experience all these, this article will give you the best trails in the state.

1. Sunderbruch Park Trails

Sunderbruch Park Trails
©MTB Project

Sunderbruch Park Trails are intermediate trails that have some obstacles and wide to narrow bridges built-in. There are also advanced trails here that are more challenging with roots, rock segments, and more technical features to try. There are great artificial features, including a large wooden berm, S-curve spanning, a ravine on Jubilee, a deck, and a bridge. Beginners can also ride through the trails.

The two beginner loops follow the edge of the plateau. The five intermediate and three advanced loops branch off to dip in the ravines. The layouts will provide an easy way to pick the loops to ride, skip, or repeat. There are many roots to jingle your cage a bit and test your skills.

The parking and trailhead area has a shelter with picnic tables, trail maps, and pit latrines. The ride starts on the paved path from the parking area, crosses the Blackhawk Creek, and climbs past the Kickapoo Dawn exit. Take a right, continue ascending a bit on the pavement until the Kickapoo Up entrance on the left. The Kickapoo Up loop is a single-track at the beginning. By the time you finish climbing the Kickapoo Loop, you will have ascended 100 feet over a quarter a mile. From Kickapoo Loop, you will get to Comlara and Farmdale loops which are rated for beginners. From here, continue keeping right. Go right to enter each loop.

The first offshoot loop is called Loud Thunder (L.T). It’s rated for advanced riders. The trail starts with a tight right turn root drop, so be careful. The loop has the longest and most challenging climbs of the ride. It winds up at the base of the gulf, crosses the stream twice, and climbs back out to connect with Farmdale Loop.

Jubilee is the second offshoot loop rated for intermediate riders. It has a wooden berm S-curve, several bridges, and many twists as it goes up and down the ravine.

Sugar Bottom is an intermediate loop with many tough roots.

Rock Cut is an intermediate loop with a fairly right-hand turn near the start, a tender climb, and a steep, tight left descending switchback.

Palos is a difficult loop that has three assorted options. You would not want to miss this loop.

Kettle Moraine loop is for intermediate riders with fast corners with a few tighter roots infested turns and a litter tougher climb back to Farmdale again.

Blue Mound loop is rated for advanced riders. It has the most technical features with three black trails. There are few ride-around on this loop. Bring your A-game for this section. 

2. Sugar Bottom Trail

Sugar Bottom Trail
©Two Knobby Tires

The trail is mainly covered with woods and a few flat sections. There are few rocks. This trail has few portions of the Sugar Bottom network. The trailhead has restrooms, beach access, playground equipment, and Frisbee golf. All the trails are clearly signed and one way. They are numbered in clusters of 100’s, 200’s, & 300’s. The gravel road divides the system into north and south sides. The 100’s are on the north, and the 200’s & 300’s are on the south. 

During high water, the gravel road used to reach the trails from the parking lot. When this happens, the trails are accessed off the paved parking lot road near the hill’s top. These times, some trails are marked as two-way.

Ride from the entry point and the gravel unit 101. It is the first trail on the left and rides into the trees. The trail has comfortable twists and turns and an ascending switchback.

When you enter the pine tree area, go left onto 102. You will be riding through deciduous trees and trails. The 102 loops back to the pine area to join 101.

When you are at the top, you will start the 103 loops to the right. The 103 trail has challenging descending root sections. It loops around 101 again.

104 starts off to the left and flows into 104x, which combines flowing descents with sustained climbing. The climb is challenging. Following the twists, turns, brief ascents, and descents, 101 exists on the gravel road.

Turn to the left on the gravel road and start climbing. There is a fire road at top of the hill on the right, which divides the 200’s and the 300’s. Take the fire road, then a quick left to 201. 201, 202, &203. The exposed roots keep the loop lively.

3. Decorah MTB Trail System

20151208_Specialized_Card1_KWP_0246.tif
©Decorah MTB

You can get a map of the Decorah MTB Trail System from the Decorah bicycles shop on College Drive. The shop is open 361 days a year. The trails here are very complicated. You can get lost easily. There are several trails of single-track interconnected to each other. The uphill goes up to 1000 feet of climbing.

 

Start your ride from the first trailhead on the left. This is the most well-known route, but there is no specified direction since many trails are connected. On the top of the hill, there is an area where you can ride on logs and large fallen trees with technical jumps. 

In Decorah MTB Trail System, it is hard to pin down one best mountain bike trails. The whole area has a cumulative experience. The mountain biking opportunities in Decorah MTB are bound because they spread throughout the scenic town. Riders are constantly exposed to the beautiful northeast Iowa scenery when they aim their wheels down to Palisades and Van Peenan trails. Decorah is best known for adventures, including camping, kayaking, and hiking.

4. Memorial Park Trails

Memorial Park Trails
©bikeiowa

The Memorial Park Trails are four miles long single-tracks. It is not the biggest place to ride in Iowa. When riding on these trails, you have to be keen on details that went down into the trail’s construction. They are some of the best trails around Iowa. The trails are flowy and fast. They are perfectly suited for a quick ride after work or for an extended afternoon hitting the loop twice. After riding at Memorial Park, there are some other activities you can like throwing a round of disc golf and using the accommodating picnic shelter.

5. Beverly Park Trails

Beverly Park Trails
©Two Knobby Tires

Beverly park trails are single-tracks in the Cedar Rapid areas. They are fast and fun riding. The y are a mixture of difficult trails with technical features scattered all through to suit all riders’ levels. There are rolling hills and no large climbs. Each trail is marked by skill level.

The Beverly Park trails are divided into two areas by an open area under powerlines. The front side is for a beginner level and kids. The trails range from beginner to advanced difficulty on the other side of the power lines.

Some trail sections are multi-directional. It is not hard to explore alone as long as you have a sense of direction. You must get back to the front side to return to the parking area. You can also be accompanied by someone who knows the trails better if you do not want to second guess.

Start your ride by heading into the trees on the rightmost trail from the trailhead. This is the western part of the front side. Ride your way to near the top of the hill. Go right at the Y. you will be riding through Trail 3a (Green Tour). At the next intersection, go right (still a) to descend for a spell and cross a bridge. Start climbing a little across under the power lines, and you will end up in the forest. 

Go right (Trail 4a/ Green Tour) at the next intersection. The trail begins bordering near the edge of the power line area. Stay right at the next intersection (still 4a). The next intersection has trails 3 and 5 indicated. Here, go left on up the hill on 5. While riding up the hill, you will pass two trails entering from the left. Loop 5 ends at the second trail.

 

The next intersection is for optional log pile progression. Ride to the left for logs or to the right for bypass. Keep left at the next intersection. Following intersection ends loop 5, go right and down the hill. This will take you back to the post, and the trail number showing will be 4. Go left on Trial 4a. Trail 4 is a gradual winding descent with a berm left turn at the bottom. At the next intersection, take trail 6 (6a) to the right. This heads up to the open prairie area.

Ignore the grass trail to the left at the prairie area. Continue into the open area under the power lines (trail 6b). From the top of the hill, go left up to an intersection in the mid-climb. Keep right (trail 6c). This will take you along the other descent of the hill to a fast winding berm section. Ignore the next Y to the left and stick to the fence. 


Go right toward the fence at the next intersection. Follow the double-track to the Ditch Digger intersection and go right. On the next Y, go left for a quick climb and tight turn, or go right for an easy ride. You will come to double-track at the top when you continue climbing. Keep right for a tidy berm descent. Go left on double-track at the bottom of the trail and climb back to the top. Keep left. Go right on trail9 from the top of the hill and ride across the open area.

The trail finally makes its way back down. You can either ride over the skinny plank ramp at the entrance junction to do another round or turn right to the parking area and another right to the Kids Loop. The Kids Loop ends at its parking area start point. 

6. Whiterock Conservancy Trails

Whiterock Conservancy Trails
©Only In Your State

Whiterock conservancy of Coon Rapids is located nearly halfway between Des Moines and the border of Nebraska. It hosts some of the best mountain biking trails in Iowa. It has 16miles of single-track and 12-miles of multi-use trail. There are many ways to explore the scenes surrounding Whiterock Conservancy. The trails are in the center of the scenic Middle Raccoon River. They follow the hilly contour of the land and provide riding for all skill levels. In the park, mountain bikes are rented for $10 a day. It includes a helmet.

7. Banner Lakes Trails

Banner Lakes Trails
©MTB Project

Banner Lakes trails are located south of Des Moines, at Summerset State Park. It provides some of the most challenging, fast, and flowy single-track. There are 5.5 miles of single-track that end up in the woods and old strip-mine locations. Every mile of the trail has different views of the surrounding Banner Lakes. The uphill is challenging with tight turns. The efforts put in here are worth it. There is a high mountain-biking bar set with every mile of the trail.

8. Center Trails

Center Trails
©Central Iowa Trail Association

The Center Iowa Trail Association operates five different trail systems around Des Moines. Their most popular mountain biking spot can be found on Center Trails. The trails have two main loops. Explore all 13 miles here. You will enjoy it more if you ride the routes in reverse. 

9. Elk Rock State Park Trails 

Elk Rock State Park Trails 
©Elk Rock Friends

Elk Rock State Park provides 13 miles of multi-use trails to explore for casual rides in the great scenery. Hikers and horseback riders share the trails, so keep an eye on the users. On finishing your ride, there is a refreshing dip into Lake Red Rock. It is the perfect way to end the day. 

10. Ingawanis Woodland Trails

Ingawanis Woodland Trails

There are seven miles of beautiful trails that are worth your while within the wooded hills and beautiful sceneries in Ingawanis Woodland Park. The park is the home for the annual Ingawanis Woodland Shredfest. The trails are for all riders with different skills throughout the year. The trails are a Iowa hidden gem of an amazing single-track.

Conclusion

Iowa is a beautiful mid-western state, and a paradise for mountain biking funs. The terrains are characterized by rolling plains and cornfields. Here you are promised several breathtaking scenes and trails, courses designed with every rider level in mind. This is the best place to do your mountain biking.

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