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Level: Intermediate
Length: 15 mi (24.1 km)
Surface: Singletrack
Configuration: Network
Elevation: +712/ -556 ft
Total: 100 riders

Mountain Biking The Center Trails

****   Add a review
#7 of 94 mountain bike trails in Iowa
#1,422 in the world

There is a nice trail system behind the Art Center. Trails are singletrack, hilly and somewhat technical. These are official City of Des Moines trails, maintained by Central Iowa Trail Association.

First added by alvin.santoy on Dec 31, 2002. Last updated Apr 26, 2022. → add an update
Before you go
  • Drinking water: no
  • Lift service: no
  • Night riding: yes
  • Pump track: no
  • Restrooms: no
  • Fat bike grooming: no
  • E-bikes allowed: unknown
  • Fee required: no
This trail information is user-generated. Help improve this information by suggesting a correction.
Getting there
Trail starts behind the Des Moines Art Center.
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The Center Trails Trail map

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Local Info

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Trail checkins

Cynomyso (on Mar 16, 2022)
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Trail conditions

Dry (on Sep 11, 2019)
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The Center Trails videos

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Center Trail Mountain Biking | Des…
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Mountain Bike Trails Near Des Moines, Iowa

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Rider questions

Q: any jumps or skinnies, drops?
A: Skinny yes. about 30' 2X6 span. Drops maybe if you want to go between trees over roots. I havn't seen it all.

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    A lot of walkers and runners, great trail though.

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  • ***

    Great single track in the heart of Des Moines! I was visiting family in the area and they referred me here to ride.

    Flowy singletrack through the woods. Once you get on the trail, its fairly straight forward to follow (not many choices). Flowy, generally well maintained, multiple creek crossings. Not technical - no berms, drops, rocks. A few roots, but nothing too bothersome,

    Trail markings between the various sections are not very good. I wound up on the paved bike path more than I wanted.

    Great little ride to enjoy a bit of flow, with limited technical obstructions,.

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  • czuithoff

    Decent trails. You can get a good cardio workout especially while trying to figure out where you are going. Not great signage.

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  • rlogan3

    Wet and slippery, not good conditions. If it was dry, might be ok but I think it would be hard to get a hard workout as the trails are not designed for biking-more for hiking.

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  • 515Bryan

    Only rode the upper trails but really enjoyed it. The flow is good and some nice challenges depending on how fast you are looking to go. The whole area is really neat area. You could take the family to walk or swim while you ride!

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  • stevec10502

    So had a great day in Des Moines riding the Center Trails, the reason for a 4 rating is the proximity to Downtown, and the ease of connecting via paved trials (we hit Jasper Winery, and enjoyed their MadHouse Brew).

    Word to the wise for out of towners like me. If you are looking for a nice ride with some hills and lung burning this is not the place. There is one nice loop with some terian and vert in the Ashworth park area. Beware that as soon as you get into the river bottom it is nothing but flat river bottom like Geroge Wyth, fun and flowy but....
    This would be a great family trail..
    Props to the club that maintains, trails were well marked, good bridges (in the Ashworth section) and good downhill (east side of the road in the Ashworth) do the uphill on the west side and enjoy the dh on the east side....
    Would have been a 3* at best if not in down town Des Moines
    The only similarity to GW in waterloo is the river bottom....GW has no flow no signage..fyi

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  • jasfoto

    Fun trails with some nice flow. Didn't get a chance to ride the lower trails closer to the river, but very much enjoyed the upper trails. I like how the trails flow along the ravines. Couple spots with some roots to give you a little challenge. Bet it's beautiful in the fall.

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  • Rob Ames

    Where is this trail located. And where is this roller coaster section or the more intermediate sections. I drive to Des Moines for work would love to shred these trails...

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  • Ben Johns

    Rode the roller coaster today for the first time. A bit intimidating the first time through, but a blast the next time with knowledge of upcoming drops, climbs and bridges.

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  • Trail Builder

    Fun ride. Windy, timber trails, with some climbing, but nothing terribly difficult. Located in the center of town, easily accesible. Group rides on Wednesday evenings at 5:30.

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  • mtbark

    The trails on the north side of the tracks are a bit more technical then those on south side. Most of the climbing is on the north side as well. The trails on the south are pretty much flat and flowing. The signage at the trail is not real good, it took me some looking around to find all that I did and still not sure I found it all. There are trails going every which way on the north side. The trails are not real technical and most of the climbs should not be a problem for someone who has been ridding for awhile. South side would be great for novice riders.

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  • The_mitch_109

    Directions to the trailhead are correct and very easy. You cant miss it from the parking lot. Having someone who can show you the trails would help a lot because they start and stop on the paved bike trails so its difficult to pick it back up again after getting on the pavement.

    The hilly side of the trail is just that, hilly. I was disappointed in the trail because I havent ridden it in a couple years and the hills have been used quite a bit, causing roots to be exposed. Roots kill your momentum when going up hills and killed my fun a little bit too. The downhill parts are fun and some of the corners are tight and come up on your fast. In the flatter sections there are some fun obstacles, a tetter totter, some skinny bridges, and a tractor tire buried half in the ground. The flatter part of the trail has a better flow, but I think it gets and stays soggy after rainfall. This trail (and all other trails in town) is leaf covered making cornering at speed questionable.

    Fun trail with a lot of variety. CAUTION: this is a very busy trail, with people going both directions on bikes and on foot, it is not recommended to wear headphones while riding this trail ever and it is very important to watch for others. There are a lot of people walking the trail to look at the leaves, take pictures, and generally be a hazard for you. Stay safe.

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  • llounsbury

    Good variety... some flat fast stuff in the river valley, while some nice hills by Ashworth Pool and Art Center

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  • *****

    One of the best in-city trail systems I've come across. I've had small groups of deer run with me for a couple hundred yards along the trail. A wonderful place to take beginners to hone their skills. CITA does a wonderful job if maintaining the trails, thanks guys! You can easily piece together a good 10-15mi ride. Avoid in wet weather, and slow down in blind corners as these trails are busy.

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  • dgw2jr

    Best trails in the Des Moines area. North of the railroad tracks it's very hilly. South side by the water works area is very flat and fast. All the trails are smooth like concrete!

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  • trule300

    Very Challenging. Need strong legs to complete this one for sure without stopping and walking the bike up a steep long incline. Very Scenic with alot of cliffs and drop offs. This course can be dangerous and I wouldnt recommend it to a leisure rider. If you want a challenge and a grueling workout this is the trail for you. Tons of hills up and down. LOTS OF TREE STUMPS AND ROOTS STICKING OUT. : ). GREAT TRAIL FOR THE RIGHT PERSON* Review edited 8/6/2012

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  • SDKmann

    Unbelievable trails for Iowa even without considering that they are conveniently located right in the middle of Des Moines. The trails have enough technical bits to satisfy intermediates but are still easy enough for the greenest beginner. The trails have multiple fun downhill routes and enough easy climbs to make getting to the top fairly painless. The only major drawback is that the trails are not extensive enough as is. It looks like the trails used to be more extensive but that a good number of them have not been kept up or closed. Seeing that hard work and those fun routes go to waste is disappointing.

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  • *****

    For the area this is a great place to ride. Nice well maintained singletrack with a little of everything. Some small hilly areas, couple jumps, rails. Got a couple trails left to check out here but its definately a fun place to get in a ride.

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  • Jared13   ✓ supporter

    Fast and swoopy trail with some flat sections. Almost all of it is awesome singletrack (some connection parts are the paved path.)
    It has a few technical features. Skinnies, teeter totters, and log crossings. It even has a tire you can roll up and over. A few of the trees are fairly close together also.

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  • kingofthecrate

    Super easy trail to access right off of 54th ave located next to the park swimming pool. Trails are somewhat technical but scenically its amazing and a fun way to burn a few hours with twist backs and easy climbs.

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