Tips for Biking Iowa’s Trails with Kids


biking with kids on Des Moines trailsWarmer days are here and there’s no better summer outing than a bike ride. According to Bike Iowa, we have 335 trails that span 3,173 miles all throughout Iowa and our kids have grown up on them.

Tips for Biking with Kids

The logistics of a several-hour bike ride can be daunting. Here are a few tips to make biking with kids more of an adventure and less of a chore.

Kid Towing

We tow with road bikes and our kids are three years apart. Our progression of towing apparatuses over the last decade has been:

  • Double Burley We used this when they were little and had one summer of both boys in the same trailer.
  • WeeHoo – Our oldest moved to the pedaling version of the WeeHoo when he was about four or five while our youngest stayed in the Burley.
  • Piccolo The WeeHoo and Piccolo has been my favorite towing combination because both boys could pedal. We chose the Piccolo when our oldest was about seven because it has gears so he could learn how to shift them. We even got him padded bike shorts that were ridiculously adorable and made his ride more comfortable.

This will be the first summer we’ll have a kid on his own bike and one on the Piccolo – that’ll be a whole new kind of adventure!

Our oldest with his Piccolo in Madrid

The Trails

I have never liked biking on roads and we’ve always stuck to paved trails. It’s a smoother ride and much less stressful for me.

The High Trestle Trail is our favorite because it’s close and you can vary the distance you ride depending on where you start.

The Raccoon River Valley Trail is beautiful! You can start in Waukee and either go to Dallas Center or Adel. Both are about a 12-mile round trip which is a good distance with kids. It’s also a fun 70+ mile loop! That is something I’ve only done with friends and we stayed overnight partway through.

The Great Western Trail is on my list to do again this summer. The Chicken in Orilla is calling my name!

Kid Entertainment

When our kids were little, they got electronics when we stopped. They enjoyed nature on the ride and were occupied when we stopped.

Keeping a bag packed with small toys that are only for biking is also a good idea. The toys are “new” and it is only one bag to pack.

Kid Food

Keep all snacks and drinks within reach and in containers they can open. Suckers are also an excellent choice to distract little riders – just be prepared to wipe your kid down when you stop.

Older kids look forward to ordering food when we stop. I also get them special snacks from a gas station before we go (whose kid is into Prime these days?!).

Pack Accordingly

Layers of clothing, all the necessary tools you need to fix a flat (or be ready to call someone if you have a flat), and anything you need for little kids.

Trail Establishments may not be a “Mom Bubble”

The “Mom Bubble” is when you’re in a phase of life that takes you places with kid amenities and people in the same stage of life you are.

The trail establishments we prefer to frequent are bars with food and great patios – “AKA: Non-Mom Bubbles.” Staff have always been wonderful with our kids and the mostly-adults-only crowd usually stops to chat with us about their now-grown kids.

Music will be loud, people will be having a good time, group rides – both bikes and motorcycles – will come and go.

I am not their target market and I know the kid amenities are usually not Chick-fil-A level. I’m good with that. In fact, one of our favorite stops gives out free beer when our kids hit the high score on arcade pop-a-shot – but don’t worry, it comes with a sucker for the kids.

If any of the above gives you pause, just pack a lunch and eat at a trailside picnic table or venture further into a trailside town for ice cream. There are plenty of great options to fit your family!

Me and my trail-loving toddler in 2017 – Dortios are key to the success of a bike ride.

Just Roll With It

The pun is completely intended. Biking with kids can be a little challenging but if you have the right attitude and the right snacks, it can be an outing the entire family will enjoy. 

Do you enjoy biking with your kids?


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here