A railroad bed built in 1893 for Chicago Great Western Railroad serves as the foundation for The Great Western Trail, spanning just over 17 miles from Des Moines to Martensdale in a scenic journey southward.
The trailhead in Water Works Park is just north of George Flagg Parkway, a street full of popular bars and restaurants as well as nearby parking, restrooms and other facilities. As riders head out of Des Moines, they will cross State Route 28, which is a major highway, before they skirt Willow Creek Golf Course and cross another major State Route 5. From then on, riders are in rural territory, with peaceful woodland surroundings amid the occasional corn field.
Keep an eye out for the small town of Cumming along the route, which has public facilities, a couple fun bars with food that are right off the trail and even a local distillery. The route after this point is completely rural open fields and woodlands. Look out for the surprise historic rail car along the route as well as the scenic views of the North River.
The trail winds up in Martensdale, at a fully equipped trail head that includes restrooms and parking facilities.