Bill Riley Trail is the oldest paved trail in Des Moines! It’s a peaceful trail through the woods near the Raccoon River, not far from downtown.
A Brief History of Bill Riley Trail
Almost 50 years ago (in 1972), a 50-mile bike marathon fundraiser took place at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Two hundred fifty bicyclists completed the ride that day to raise money for a 1.7-mile section of asphalt trail near Greenwood Ashworth Parks in Des Moines.
Bill Riley, the trail’s namesake, was a local radio personality, park board member, and outspoken advocate for the trail. He even sold popular felt-tip pens to raise money for the construction of the trail!
Construction of the Bill Riley Trail was the starting point for a network of over 600 miles of paved trails that now wind through Des Moines and beyond.
Bill Riley Trail is approximately 3-miles of paved, multi-use trail. It runs near Walnut Creek and the Raccoon River, southwest of Downtown Des Moines. Part of a network of trails in central Des Moines, it connects Greenwood Ashworth Park to Des Moines Water Works and Gray’s Lake.
You’ll enjoy the peaceful woodland setting of this trail so much; it’s hard to believe you’re in the middle of a city. The easy, flat trail winds through the trees and across the Raccoon River in Water Works Park. You might even spot some wildlife on this beautiful trail!
And if you want a longer bike ride, it connects with other trails that take you in any direction for miles and miles!
We also recommend using the Central Iowa Trail Interactive Map to plan your walk, run, or ride before heading out. And for trail closures or construction, check the City of Des Moines road and trail closure map.
Gray’s Lake. Hop on the Bill Riley Spur Trail at the southwest parking lot, near the concessions and boat rental area.
Des Moines Water Works Park. Jump on the trail at the Raccoon River trail bridge in Water Works Park. A small parking area is by the bridge.
Ashworth Park. The trailhead at Greenwood Ashworth Park is at the end of 45th Street, just past Ashworth Pool. You can park at the trailhead.
Walnut Creek Trail. Bill Riley connects to Walnut Creek Trail at the railroad tracks, south of Ashworth Park. Walnut Creek runs north through Windsor Heights and Clive and connects to the 89-mile Raccoon River Valley Trail.
Great Western Trail. Bill Riley Trail meets up with the Great Western Trail on Water Works Park’s south side, just past George Flagg Parkway. Here, you can head south for 19 miles to rural Martensdale, Iowa.
Meredith Trail. Get on Meredith Trail at Gray’s Lake. You can head northeast to Downtown Des Moines and hop on several other trails at Principal Park.
The Kruidenier Trail around Gray’s Lake. East of Fleur, a short spur takes you to Gray’s Lake Park. The Kruidenier Trail circles Gray’s Lake, crosses the iconic Kruidenier Trail Bridge and offers Downtown views.
Bill Riley Trail Facts
- Location: Southwest side of Des Moines, Iowa in Polk County
- Distance: ~3 miles
- Surface: Paved asphalt
- Difficulty: Relatively flat and easy
- Description: Winds through urban woodlands and parks
- Trailheads: Ashworth Park, Water Works Park, and Gray’s Lake
- Connectors: Walnut Creek Trail, Great Western Trail, Meredith Trail, and the Kruidenier Trail.