Summerset Trail In Iowa

Here is everything you need to know about the Summerset Trail:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: Iowa
  • Length: 12 miles.
  • Type: Hiking
  • Surface: gravel
  • Managed By: City of Indianola
  • Permit Required?: Yes
  • Website: Info not available.

The Summerset Trail, located in the state of Iowa, holds a significant historical background that dates back to the late 19th century. Originally known as the Des Moines and Central Iowa Railway, the trail was established in 1882 as a vital transportation route for both passengers and freight. The railway line connected the towns of Des Moines and Woodward, serving as a crucial link between the agricultural communities and the state capital.

During its early years, the Summerset Trail played a pivotal role in the economic development of the region. It facilitated the transportation of goods such as coal, lumber, and agricultural products, enabling farmers and businesses to expand their markets and thrive. The railway also provided a convenient means of travel for residents, allowing them to access employment opportunities, educational institutions, and healthcare services in Des Moines.

Over time, the Summerset Trail witnessed several changes and developments. In the early 20th century, the railway line underwent modernization efforts, including the introduction of steam locomotives and improved infrastructure. These advancements further enhanced the efficiency and capacity of the trail, contributing to the growth of the surrounding communities.

However, with the rise of automobiles and the decline of rail travel in the mid-20th century, the Summerset Trail faced a gradual decline in usage. The railway line eventually ceased operations in the 1980s, leaving behind a historic corridor that held immense potential for recreational purposes. Recognizing this opportunity, local authorities and community members collaborated to transform the abandoned rail line into a multi-use trail, preserving its historical significance while providing a new recreational resource for residents and visitors alike.

Today, the Summerset Trail stands as a testament to the region’s rich history and serves as a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Spanning approximately 12 miles, the trail offers a scenic route through woodlands, prairies, and farmlands, providing a glimpse into the area’s past while offering a peaceful and enjoyable experience for all who traverse its path.

While On The Trail

Access Points

1. Indianola Trailhead: Located in Indianola, Iowa, this is the starting point of the Summerset Trail. It offers parking facilities and restrooms.

2. Carlisle Trailhead: Situated in Carlisle, Iowa, this access point provides parking, restrooms, and picnic areas. It is a popular spot for trail users.

3. Banner Lakes at Summerset State Park: This access point is within the Summerset State Park, offering parking, restrooms, and recreational facilities. It is a great starting point for exploring the trail.

4. Sandyville Trailhead: Located in Sandyville, Iowa, this access point offers parking and restrooms. It is a convenient spot for trail users in the area.

5. Martensdale Trailhead: Situated in Martensdale, Iowa, this access point provides parking and restrooms. It is a popular spot for locals and visitors to access the Summerset Trail.

6. Cumming Trailhead: Located in Cumming, Iowa, this access point offers parking and restrooms. It is a convenient spot for trail users in the area.

7. Norwalk Trailhead: Situated in Norwalk, Iowa, this access point provides parking, restrooms, and picnic areas. It is a popular spot for trail users and offers easy access to the Summerset Trail.

8. Warren County Fairgrounds Trailhead: Located near the Warren County Fairgrounds in Indianola, Iowa, this access point offers parking and restrooms. It is a convenient spot for trail users in the area.

These are some of the major access points or trailheads along the Summerset Trail. There may be additional smaller access points or parking areas along the trail as well.

Transportation Available

1. Summerset Trail Shuttle – Shuttle service specifically catering to Summerset Trail hikers and bikers.
2. Summerset Trail Bike Rentals – Bike rental service conveniently located near Summerset Trail.
3. Summerset Trail Taxi – Taxi service offering transportation to and from Summerset Trail.
4. Summerset Trail Bus – Bus service with stops near Summerset Trail for easy access.
5. Summerset Trail Car Rentals – Car rental service providing vehicles for exploring Summerset Trail and its surroundings.


The Summerset Trail offers the following amenities:

1. Restrooms: There are restroom facilities available along the trail for visitors’ convenience.

2. Parking: There are designated parking areas at various access points along the Summerset Trail. Visitors can park their vehicles and access the trail easily.

3. Camping Sites: The trail does not have designated camping sites. However, there are nearby campgrounds and parks where visitors can camp if they wish to stay overnight.

4. Picnic Areas: There are picnic areas along the Summerset Trail where visitors can stop and enjoy a meal or snack. These areas usually have picnic tables and benches.

5. Benches: There are benches placed at regular intervals along the trail, providing resting spots for visitors to take a break and enjoy the surroundings.

6. Water Fountains: Some sections of the trail may have water fountains or hydration stations where visitors can refill their water bottles.

7. Bike Repair Stations: The trail may have bike repair stations equipped with basic tools and air pumps for cyclists to fix minor issues with their bikes.

8. Information Kiosks: Information kiosks may be available at certain points along the trail, providing visitors with maps, trail information, and safety guidelines.

9. Trailhead Signage: The trail is marked with trailhead signage, indicating the starting point and providing information about the trail’s length, rules, and regulations.

10. Scenic Overlooks: The Summerset Trail may have scenic overlooks or viewpoints where visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

Please note that the availability of these amenities may vary depending on the specific section or access point of the Summerset Trail. It is always recommended to check with local authorities or trail management for the most up-to-date information.

Nearby Services

1. Summerset Bed and Breakfast – Charming lodging option near Summerset Trail.
2. Summerset Diner – Casual eatery offering a variety of dishes near Summerset Trail.
3. Summerset Motel – Convenient lodging option with basic amenities near Summerset Trail.
4. Summerset Campground – Campsite with facilities for outdoor enthusiasts near Summerset Trail.
5. Summerset Gas Station – Nearby fuel station for trail users.
6. Summerset Pharmacy – Local pharmacy providing emergency services near Summerset Trail.
7. Summerset Police Department – Emergency services and law enforcement near Summerset Trail.
8. Summerset Hospital – Medical facility offering emergency services near Summerset Trail.
9. Summerset Fire Station – Fire and emergency services near Summerset Trail.
10. Summerset Grocery Store – Convenient store for food and supplies near Summerset Trail.

Summerset Trail Difficulty Notes

The Summerset Trail presents a moderate level of difficulty, making it suitable for hikers of various skill levels. The trail encompasses a diverse terrain, including gentle slopes, rocky sections, and occasional steep ascents. While some parts may require a bit of endurance and agility, the overall trail is well-maintained and easily navigable. Hikers can expect to encounter breathtaking views of lush forests, cascading waterfalls, and panoramic vistas along the way. With proper preparation and a reasonable level of fitness, the Summerset Trail offers an enjoyable and rewarding hiking experience.

Features And Attractions

The Summerset Trail is a 12-mile long trail located in central Iowa, passing through scenic landscapes and offering various points of interest. Here are some of the scenic views, historical sites, and natural landmarks along the Summerset Trail:

1. Summerset State Park: The trail starts at Summerset State Park, which offers beautiful views of the surrounding woodlands, prairies, and the 6-acre Summerset Lake.

2. Indianola: As you head east from Summerset State Park, you’ll reach the town of Indianola, known for its charming downtown area, historic buildings, and Simpson College campus.

3. Buxton Park: Located in Indianola, Buxton Park is a small green space with a gazebo and picnic areas, perfect for a quick rest stop along the trail.

4. Warren County Fairgrounds: Continuing east, you’ll pass by the Warren County Fairgrounds, which hosts various events throughout the year, including the annual county fair.

5. Rural Landscapes: The Summerset Trail takes you through picturesque rural landscapes, including farmlands, rolling hills, and peaceful countryside views.

6. Martensdale: As you approach the eastern end of the trail, you’ll reach the town of Martensdale, which has a few local businesses and a small-town atmosphere.

7. Natural Wildlife: Keep an eye out for wildlife along the trail, including birds, deer, rabbits, and other small animals that inhabit the area.

8. Summerset Winery: Located near the trail, Summerset Winery offers a scenic vineyard setting and the opportunity to taste and purchase locally produced wines.

9. Historical Markers: Along the trail, you may come across historical markers that provide information about the area’s past, including its settlement, development, and notable events.

10. Bridges and Trestles: The Summerset Trail features several bridges and trestles that offer unique views of the surrounding landscape and add to the trail’s charm.

These are just a few examples of the scenic views, historical sites, and natural landmarks you can encounter while exploring the Summerset Trail. Enjoy your journey!

Usage Guidelines

1. Pets are allowed on the Summerset Trail but must be kept on a leash at all times.
2. Clean up after your pet and dispose of waste properly.
3. Bicycles are allowed on the trail, but riders must yield to pedestrians and follow all traffic rules.
4. Motorized vehicles, including motorcycles and ATVs, are not permitted on the trail.
5. The trail is open year-round, but certain sections may have seasonal restrictions due to weather conditions or maintenance work. Check for any closures or restrictions before planning your visit.
6. Camping or overnight stays are not allowed on the Summerset Trail.
7. Fires and open flames are prohibited along the trail.
8. Respect the natural environment and do not disturb wildlife or vegetation.
9. Stay on designated trails and do not venture off into restricted areas.
10. Use designated parking areas and do not block access roads or private property.
11. Carry out any trash or litter and leave the trail as you found it.
12. Be considerate of other trail users and maintain a safe and courteous behavior at all times.

Seasonal Information

The Summerset Trail, located in Iowa, offers a picturesque and serene experience for outdoor enthusiasts. The best times of the year to visit the trail are during the spring and fall seasons. In spring, the trail comes alive with vibrant colors as wildflowers bloom and trees regain their lush green foliage. The weather is pleasant, with mild temperatures and occasional showers that add to the trail’s natural beauty. Fall is equally enchanting, with the trail adorned in a stunning array of autumn colors as the leaves change. The crisp air and cooler temperatures make it an ideal time for hiking, biking, or simply enjoying a leisurely stroll along the trail.

It is important to note that the Summerset Trail has seasonal closures during the winter months. Due to the harsh weather conditions and potential hazards, the trail is closed from December through February. This closure ensures the safety of visitors and helps preserve the trail’s integrity. However, during this time, the trail transforms into a winter wonderland, offering opportunities for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the surrounding areas.

During the open seasons, the Summerset Trail provides a variety of recreational activities for visitors. The 12-mile trail is perfect for hiking, biking, and horseback riding, with well-maintained paths and beautiful scenery throughout. Along the trail, there are picnic areas and rest stops where visitors can take a break and enjoy the peaceful surroundings. The trail also connects to other nearby trails, allowing for extended adventures and exploration of the surrounding countryside.

Overall, the best times to visit the Summerset Trail are during the spring and fall seasons when the weather is pleasant, and nature is at its most vibrant. While the trail is closed during the winter months, it offers a unique opportunity for winter sports enthusiasts. Whether you are seeking a peaceful hike, a scenic bike ride, or a chance to connect with nature, the Summerset Trail is a must-visit destination for outdoor enthusiasts throughout the year.


1. Wheelchair Accessible Trailhead: The Summerset Trail has a designated trailhead with accessible parking, ramps, and pathways for wheelchair users.
2. Paved Surface: The trail is paved, providing a smooth and accessible surface for individuals using wheelchairs or mobility aids.
3. Wide Pathways: The trail features wide pathways, allowing ample space for wheelchair users to navigate comfortably.
4. Accessible Restrooms: Accessible restrooms are available along the trail, equipped with features such as grab bars and wider doorways.
5. Rest Areas with Benches: The trail includes rest areas with benches, providing opportunities for wheelchair users to take breaks and enjoy the surroundings.
6. Accessible Picnic Areas: Picnic areas along the trail are designed to be wheelchair accessible, allowing individuals to enjoy outdoor meals comfortably.
7. Signage with Braille: Trail signage includes Braille, ensuring individuals with visual impairments can access important information.
8. Accessible Water Fountains: Wheelchair-accessible water fountains are available along the trail, allowing individuals to stay hydrated.
9. Accessible Viewing Areas: The trail offers designated viewing areas that are accessible to wheelchair users, providing opportunities to enjoy scenic vistas.
10. Assistance Animals Allowed: Service animals are permitted on the Summerset Trail, providing support to individuals with disabilities.

Safety Information

When visiting the Summerset Trail, it is important to keep the following safety information in mind:

1. Stay on the designated trail: Stick to the marked path and avoid venturing off into unknown areas. Straying from the trail can lead to getting lost or encountering hazardous terrain.

2. Be aware of your surroundings: Stay alert and pay attention to your surroundings at all times. Watch out for any potential hazards such as uneven surfaces, fallen branches, or wildlife.

3. Dress appropriately: Wear comfortable and weather-appropriate clothing and footwear. Dress in layers to accommodate changing weather conditions and bring rain gear if necessary.

4. Carry essential supplies: Bring enough water to stay hydrated throughout your hike. It is also advisable to carry a map, compass, or GPS device, a first aid kit, and a fully charged cell phone for emergencies.

5. Inform someone about your plans: Before heading out, let someone know about your intended route and estimated time of return. This way, if you encounter any issues or delays, someone will be aware and able to assist if needed.

6. Stay hydrated and nourished: Carry enough snacks or energy bars to keep your energy levels up during the hike. Drink water regularly to prevent dehydration, especially on hot days.

7. Respect wildlife and vegetation: Observe wildlife from a safe distance and do not disturb or feed them. Avoid damaging or picking plants, as they play a crucial role in the ecosystem.

8. Be cautious of weather conditions: Check the weather forecast before your visit and be prepared for any changes. Avoid hiking during severe weather conditions such as thunderstorms, heavy rain, or extreme heat.

9. Use sunscreen and insect repellent: Protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays by applying sunscreen before starting your hike. Additionally, use insect repellent to prevent bug bites and potential diseases.

10. Practice Leave No Trace principles: Respect the environment by leaving no trace of your visit. Pack out all trash and dispose of it properly. Minimize your impact on the trail and surrounding areas.

Remember, safety should always be a priority when enjoying outdoor activities. By following these guidelines, you can have a safe and enjoyable experience while visiting the Summerset Trail.

Conservation Notes

The Summerset Trail, located in the state of Iowa, holds a conservation status that aims to protect and preserve its natural resources and biodiversity. As a designated conservation area, the trail is subject to specific regulations and management practices to ensure the sustainability of its ecosystems. These measures are implemented to safeguard the diverse flora and fauna that inhabit the trail’s surroundings.

The conservation status of the Summerset Trail reflects the recognition of its ecological importance and the need to maintain its natural balance. Efforts are made to minimize human impact on the trail, such as restricting certain activities that may disrupt the local ecosystem. This includes regulations on hunting, fishing, and camping, which are carefully monitored to prevent any negative consequences on the wildlife and vegetation.

Conservation initiatives also focus on maintaining the trail’s water quality and protecting its wetland areas. These wetlands serve as crucial habitats for various species, including migratory birds and amphibians. By preserving the integrity of these wetlands, the conservation status of the Summerset Trail ensures the continued survival of these vulnerable populations.

Overall, the conservation status of the Summerset Trail highlights the commitment to safeguarding its natural resources and promoting sustainable practices. Through careful management and regulation, the trail can continue to provide a haven for wildlife and maintain its ecological balance for future generations to enjoy.

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