Great Western Trail


The Great Western trail heads are located at Iowa Ave. in Martensdale and across from the Izaak Walton League Clubhouse on Valley Drive in Des Moines.

This 16.5 mile journey can be a step back into time as travelers witness a few remaining prairie and wetland remnants. The paved trail, managed jointly by the Warren and Polk County Conservation Boards, preserves some of Iowa’s endangered plants, those plants that had been wiped out in other parts of the state as land-use changes were made.

The Great Western trail heads are located across from the Izaak Walton League Clubhouse on Valley Drive in Des Moines and at Iowa Ave. in Martensdale. Your trip along the Great Western Trail is a journey into history. It will take you through the site of Lida and past the site of the munitions train derailment and fire near North River and across the Churchville Prairie.

In 1914, no point in Iowa was more than 12 miles from a railroad. They served many small-town elevators and coal yards. The track was opened in 1891 by the railroad that became the Chicago Great Western in 1893. The Chicago & Northwestern was the last train company to use the rail line which originally ran from Des Moines to St. Joseph, Missouri. A few concrete mile markers giving the distance between the marker location and Kansas City can still be found standing as sentinels from the past.

The trail is full of adventure for the nature enthusiast, the history buff, and for those who simply wish to leave the noise and congestion of the city. Put on your hiking boots or hop on your bike and enjoy the trail.

Restaurants and restrooms are available near the Des Moines and Martensdale trail heads and Cumming. Picnic mini shelters and water are located at Gear Street north of Martensdale, Coolidge Street south of Cumming and a picnic mini shelter is located south of 72nd Avenue in Polk County.

Great Western Trail
Great Western Trail


Things to Do

We manage over 2,700 acres that are open for visitors to enjoy a variety
of year-round outdoor recreational activities.


Wildlife Viewing


Winter Activities


Historic Visits


Park Rules

What to Do and What Not to Do


Parks shall be closed from sunset to sunrise.

County Area

It shall be unlawful for any person to destroy, remove, damage or deface any buildings, park equipment, plant life, trees, signs, structures or natural material found within the boundaries of the Great Western Trail.

Motor Vehicles

All vehicles shall be confined to designated roadways and parking areas. No vehicle shall be left unattended on any county conservation area in such a manner as to obstruct traffic except in case of emergency.

Domesticated Animals

All privately owned domesticated animals shall be either carried, led by a leash or chain; kept confined in or attached to a vehicle by their owner(s) or kept under strict control of the owner. Horse riding shall be confined to vehicular roadways only.

Recreation Vehicles

Recreational Vehicles are not allowed in conservation areas. Speed limit for all motorized vehicles is 15 mph.


Fireworks and explosives are prohibited in this conservation area.

Disturbing The Peace

No person shall be guilty of an act that constitutes a breach of peace, or interferes with their visitors use or enjoyment of the county conservation areas.


All refuse must be placed in disposal cans provided or removed from the area when vacated by the user.


No camping allowed.


No fires allowed


No swimming allowed.


It shall be unlawful to hunt, trap, or in any manner intentionally take, capture, kill or wound any type of wildlife, game or non-game, native or migratory within the boundaries of this conservation area.

State of Iowa

All laws of the State of Iowa not specifically mentioned here shall apply.