The Mark C. Ackelson Trail at Easter Lake is a 6-mile paved, multi-use trail that won’t disappoint. You’ll love the scenic lake views. And you’ll enjoy unique bridges along the route, including a historic covered bridge! Add in the connecting trails, and it has countless opportunities to explore.
A Brief History of the Mark C. Ackelson Trail
Before Easter Lake became a recreation area, it was the last remaining coal mine in the area. The South Town neighborhood residents spearheaded the idea to turn the area into a park. And their wish became a reality in 1967.
The trail was named after Mark C. Ackelson, who worked for the Iowa National Heritage Foundation for 33 years. Through his conservation efforts, thousands of acres of Iowa land got restored. And he helped spur and oversee the development of hundreds of miles of Iowa trails.
The Mark C. Ackelson Trail is well worth experiencing. The 6-mile paved trail surrounding Easter Lake offers stunning lake views. And it has several bridges, including a historic covered bridge and a one-of-a-kind pedestrian bridge.
Another great thing about the trail is that it connects to a new section of the Carl Voss Trail. The paved trail extends from Easter Lake northwest to downtown Des Moines.
There are heaps of things to do along the trail. You’ll find a fishing pier, beach, boat rentals, playgrounds, hiking trails, and picnic areas along the route.
Plus, Ewing Park is next to Easter Lake Park via the trail’s northwest corner. It offers everything from mountain biking trails to a soapbox derby track!
Know Before You Go!
- The trail goes over Owen’s Covered Bridge, originally built in 1878 and moved to Easter Lake, board by board, in 1968.
- A 440-foot long pedestrian bridge on the west side features a bowstring design. And it has bump-outs for viewing the lake.
- If you hop on the Carl Voss Trail on the lake’s north side, it’ll take you 4.5 miles northwest to Des Moines. There you’ll find an extensive network of trails.
The Central Iowa Trails Interactive Map can also help you plan your route.
You can access the trail from nearly anywhere in Easter Lake Park. There is a large parking lot at Easter Lake Boat Rental on the north side of the lake. There’s also parking along Evergreen Avenue and SW 34th on the lake’s east side. You can also park at the shelters along the lake’s south side.
Hop on the Carl Voss Trail on the lake’s north side near the Easter Lake Boat Rental. You can take it northwest through the woods and then along the Des Moines River to Des Moines. From Easter Lake, it’s about 4.5 miles to downtown. There you can access hundreds of miles of trails in the Central Iowa Trails network.
From the trail, you can take the Easter Lake Trail Spur on the lake’s southeast corner for a little over a mile. The trail spur is an out and back trail.
On the lake’s northwest side, take the trail west to Harry Piper Parkway Trail, a short trail through Ewing Park. There you can access hiking and mountain bike trails, a popular playground, and much more!
Mark C. Ackelson Trail Facts
- Location: Easter Lake Park
- Distance: ~ 6 miles
- Surface: Asphalt
- Difficulty: Easy
- Description: The trail loops around Easter Lake and passes over several bridges.
- Trailheads: Meredith Trail at SE 1st/Scott Ave, Cownie Baseball Complex, Easter Lake
- Connectors: Carl Voss Trail, Easter Lake Spine Trail, Harry Piper Parkway Trail (Ewing Park), Ewing Park Nature Trails (dirt trails)