Top 10 Places to Visit in Iowa by Bike

Top 10 Places to Visit in Iowa by Bike

We don’t know about you, but we take many short vacations to see new places. In most of them, the last minute options turned out the great trips ever. Maybe, because the rapid choice is the one, you wouldn’t go for normally, but it turns to be that only one that challenge the best in you.

We challenge you today, to go for a place you wouldn’t choose usually. 

1. Pikes Peak State Park

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Here we are in one of the most photographed places in Iowa. Pikes Peak is rich in natural, cultural and historical resources, and famed for its majestic views of the Mississippi River. Stand atop the 500 foot bluff (1,130 foot elevation) for a breathtaking view and see the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers.

Hop on your mountain bike, because bikes are allowed on a portion of the trail system running from Homestead Park to McGregor Parking.

You have also the Northeast State Park Bike Route is a 130 mile route which connects Pikes Peak State Park, Wapsipinicon State Park, and Backbone State Park utilizing county highways.

2. Des Moines

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The capital of Iowa, Des Moines is also the most populous city in the state and is home to many of the most popular tourist attractions in Iowa too. 

If you take a trip here, you will find exciting and unexpected attractions such as the breathtaking Pappajohn Sculpture Park, mixed with historical landmarks like the State Capitol building.

As well as historic gems like museums and mansions, you will also find local initiatives such as the Downtown Farmers’ Market where you will get to see the best of the local Des Moines flavors. BCycle is a next-generation bicycle sharing program that Des Moines has now. Central Iowa has plentiful trails and downtown Des Moines is no exception. The Farmers' Market even features valet bike parking.

3. Winterset

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Winterset, Iowa. Home of the Bridges of Madison County. You know, the movie with Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep.

Nestled in the picturesque Iowan countryside, Winterset is dotted with covered bridges – six in total! Located in Madison County, the place is famous also for being the birthplace of actor John Wayne. Being here, if you are not in time for annual bike ride around Madison County, you can remake it by yourself.

Choose an all paved 45-mile or 60-mile route and get a close-up view of the famous Bridges of Madison County and the birthplace of John Wayne as well as other scenic sights in the area. The 45-mile route is through Winterset, St Charles, Truro, East Peru, and for those who wish to ride the long route, you'll ride to Macksburg, before returning to Winterset.

4. Loess Hills

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Unique, breathtaking scenery, original, authentic!

When it's time to escape from the hustle and the bustle of your everyday life and finally spend some time in serenity, the Loess Hills are your destination.

When approaching the western border of Iowa, travelers are often intrigued by the view of a most extraordinary landscape of prairie and forest covered steep bluffs, narrow ridges and rolling hills.

This unique landscape is known as Iowa’s Loess Hills. The Loess Hills landform is an Iowa treasure that spans more than 1,080 square miles along the eastern edge of the Missouri River flood plain. This unique feature is up to 15 miles wide and 220 miles long. Bridging rural and metropolitan areas, the hills have something for everyone. Get a ride on your bike in this natural splendor away from everything!

5. Central Iowa

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Central Iowa may be dominated by the state capital, Des Moines, but there is a lot more to explore in this part of the world too. One beautiful place that is well worth visiting on a trip to the state is Ames, which was ranked ninth on CNNMoney.com Best Places to Live list a few years ago.

Iowa is dotted with tiny towns and small cities, giving the whole state a relaxed, homey feel. There is much to see and do in Iowa, including parks, outdoor activities, shopping, dining, and art displays. The more relaxing thing is to spend sometime outside, in a beautiful landscape. You should try Brookside Park, McFarland Park, Ames or Reiman Gardens and see for yourself how energizing that is. 

As a biker, you want to see more and more, so you should be assured for long hours of “no-pain” pleasurable journeying. Is your bike saddle up to the job?

We are so absolutely sure you'll love this saddle, that if it "doesn't feel right", you only have to write us and we will refund you the money without any further questions. But this never happened, though, this is why we are so sure to recommend it. 

6. Amana Colonies

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Composed of seven colonies, Amana Colonies is a charming area on the prairie of east-central Iowa.

The first Amana Colonies Gravel Bike Routes are ready for use. The routes each begin in Middle Amana, separating into Route A going to High Amana and Route B going to West Amana. While on the gravel routes, the riders will experience historical points of interest in Middle, High and West Amana.

Route A begins in Middle Amana at the entrance to the Amana Colonies Golf Course and takes riders on a scenic gravel route through native hardwood timberland to High Amana. This route is moderately easy and approximately a 7 mile round trip. High Amana features the historic High Amana General Store and the Amana Art’s Guild.

Route B also begins in Middle Amana at the entrance to the Amana Colonies Golf Course, riders will travel to West Amana rather than High Amana. This route is more challenging and approximately a 17 mile round trip. West Amana features Iowa’s Largest Walnut Rocking Chair, Basket and Broom Shop, Opa’s Tractor Museum, Michele Maring Miller Studio and Gallery, and the landscape that inspired Grant Wood to paint his famous Young Corn.

Today, Amana is a major tourist attraction known mainly for its restaurants and craft shops. Included in the shops are woodworking shops, wine shops, and even a brewery called Millstream. The colonies as a whole have been listed as a National Historic Landmark since 1965.

7. Decorah

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Located in the northeastern portion of the State, Decorah is a lovely town brimming with beauty and Norwegian heritage.

\From the natural scenery, which includes bluffs, valleys, and rivers, to stunning architecture found around town, Decorah is a place for both outdoor and culture lovers. Outdoor recreation opportunities include canoeing, hiking, camping, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, fishing, hunting, and bird watching. Specialty shops, antique shops, and galleries make this also a shopping destination. Tour the nationally acclaimed museums exploring various ethnic cultures.

As for your passion, of course, we have lots of options. You can take rides around the most interesting objectives and natural wonders alone or with The Decorah Bicycles Co-Ed and FWD group rides which officially run May-October. The rides will be either mountain bike or gravel rides.

The type of ride will be determined earlier in the week and posted on Facebook.

If you do not have Facebook, feel free to call the shop to find out what type of ride is being hosted.

8. Elk Horn

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Named after nearby Elkhorn Creek and founded in 1901, the town is a center of Danish ethnicity and culture to this day. It has maintained a strong connection to its Danish settler roots and is home to the Museum of Danish America.

The Elkhorn Creek Recreation Area is a multiple use area, and is the ideal setting for a family on an outing, or for a person looking for a quit peaceful place. With it's groomed trails and unique wildlife, the adventures are never ending. The upper picnic area contains what is believed to be the original site of the pioneer village of Elk Horn. Definitely, you should enjoy this relaxing break!

9. Great Spirit Lake

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Spirit Lake is located in the center of the Iowa Great Lakes. Spirit Lake was founded and continues to reflect the best of Midwestern values.

Old Town (downtown Spirit Lake) has art galleries, restaurants, shopping and other attractions. Many of the buildings are fine examples of late 1800’s-early 1900’s prairie style buildings. Strolling the sidewalks is always an enjoyable experience.

The Iowa Great Lakes Trail is recognized nationally as the 5,000th mile of Rails to Trails. Whether you’re a biker, hiker, runner, cross country skier or snowmobiler, you can plan a leisurely ride or an adventure along the Iowa Great Lakes’ trails. All trails are safe places for families to enjoy the outdoors while taking in the vast scenic views.

Much of the Iowa Great Lakes Trail also serves as a historical landscape and wildlife preserve. You will love to enjoy picnic and playground areas and large open meadows. 

10. Okoboji Lake

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The main attractions of the Okoboji area are the glacier-carved lakes. This beautiful chain of lakes extends from the Minnesota border southwest several miles and covers approximately 15,000 acres. The Iowa Great Lakes include Iowa’s largest natural lake, Spirit Lake and five interconnect lakes: West Okoboji, East Okoboji, Upper Gar, Lower Gar, and Minnewashta. Spring-fed West Lake Okoboji is a beautiful shade of blue and 134 feet deep. It is the centerpiece of the five chain lakes, and the surrounding communities provide the backdrop for Okoboji’s year-round playground.

These beautiful lakes are the result of a geological drama that occurred over 14,000 years ago. The result was a phenomenon that sculpted the earth with unimaginable power and beauty, fashioning the landscape now known as the Iowa Great Lakes.

So, let’s pick the place we wouldn’t go for usually! What is yours?