Type: Nature Trail

Length: 12 miles

Surface: Paved


Above Average

Grade - Gentle Grades



This is a generally flat rail trail.  There is a slight grade down from Indianola to Summerset Road as you head north.  From Summerset road and the Middle River, the trail is generally flat into Carlisle. The trail heads through nice shaded sections and some scenic farm country.  North of the Middle River there is a nice area of wetlands that often has visiting waterfowl.  There is a bird watching stand just north of the Banner Shooting Range.

Location - Where is this Trail?

A map and more details can be seen at the Warren County Conservation Board Summerset Trail web page located here -


Indianola trailhead (southern end of the trail) is located on North 5th Street between East Euclid and East Clinton Avenues.  GPS coordinates are 41°21'50.6"N 93°33'18.0"W. Parking, restrooms, and water are available. There is a picnic table with shelter.

The Carlilse trailhead (northern end) is located just west of the Casey's General Store on Highway 5 near 165th place. GPS coordinates are
41°29'39.1"N 93°29'13.8"W. Parking and a shelter with picnic tables are here. Restroom facilities are available at Casey's.  There is a single Kybo at the trailhead.

Another trailhead is located near Banner Lakes at Summerset State Park.  One option is to park in the main parking at the entrance to the State Park and bike the short loop around Banner Lakes.  Another option is to park near the Banner Shooting Range. 

Sites & Attractions

Summerset State Park -

Summerset Winery -  (CAUTION -- the road up to the winery can be busy.  Also the hill is a bit steep!)

History of the Trail

Summerset Trail is named for the nearby town of Summerset.   The trail is constructed on the old Rock Island Railway line spur that ran from Carlisle to Indianola.   The town of Summerset was a product of both the railroad and two separate mills.

From the 1879 History of Warren County, Iowa:

Summerset is in the northern part of Washington township, in a bend of Middle River. A mill was built there at a very early day by Beach & Parmelee, and it was a postoffice and important point for many years. It was laid off as a town by Michael Gilman in 1872, after the advent of the Rock Island Railroad.  

The following comprises the business men and firms of this place:

Dealer in General Merchandise.—W. T. Hamilton.
Blacksmith.—T. W. Brown.
Mill.—Wright & Davis.
Hotel.— S.A. Wright.
Coal Mine.—Lumsdon Bros.
Postmaster and Station Agent.—W. T. Hamilton.
Physician.— C. Chapman.
Justice of the Peace.—R. C. Brazelton.

Summerset is an independent school district, they have a good school and an average attendance of 38, on an enrollment of 60.  John Parmelee sold the first goods in Summerset. Summerset mill was built on the same site of the Parmelee mill, by Michael Gillman, in 1865, at a cost of about $20,000. It is a three and a-half story frame, with three run of stones, and is successfully operated by Wright & Davis, who make a good quality of flour and enjoy a good local trade. It is quite a shipping point for live stock. It has coal mines of much value, which are not now so extensively worked as they would bear, but which will probably develop into an important industry with the increased growth of the community.

There are remnants of a gravel pit that was known as Banner Pits throughout the late 20th Century.  It was renamed "Banner Lakes at Summerset State Park" when the area was added to the Iowa DNR State Park System.   There are also several mountain bike / single track trails that have been constructed through the hills around the lakes.  It is not known if this may have once been the Summerset Coal Mine.

The rail line was a Rock Island spur off the main line that still passes through Carlisle.  The railbed was laid in 1871 and remained operational until the mid 1990's.  The line was acquired by the Union Pacific and notice of intent to abandon was published March 18, 1997.   More info on the history of the rail line can be found at the Virtual Train Watching in Iowa web site.

The trail right of way was acquired by the Warren County Conservation Board in 2000 and construction began on Jul 11, 2001.  Asphalt laying begain Jul 11, 2001 with the trail opening in early fall 2001.  Dedications were held in Carlisle in Sep 2001 and in Indianola in Oct 2001.   Several improvements to the trail over the years have been done, including construction of the trailheads in both Indianola and Carlisle.  Two notable Eagle Scout projects added benches and the bird viewing station north of Banner Shooting Range.  A new shelter with picnic table was recently added at Summerset Road.

Future Plans

Planned Mileage: 0 miles -


The following members have contributed to the above Trail content.

This trail was last edited by bikeiowa on Sep 25, 2020.

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Water levels are off the trail, flood damage was minimal, and the trail is open.

#18 - WarrenCCB posted Jul 2, 2015

The Summerset Trail remained under water between 138th Avenue and 160th Avenue this morning (26 June). It is anticipated that water levels will drop below the trail this weekend.

#17 - WarrenCCB posted Jun 26, 2015

We also post any trail closings on the WCCB facebook page. Like Warren County Conservation and Annett Nature Center to see them.

#16 - WarrenCCB posted Jun 26, 2015

The Summerset Trail was closed 25 June 2015 between 138th Avenue and 160th Avenue. Middle River receded over night. Staff will be out on the trail today and we will update as possible.

#15 - WarrenCCB posted Jun 26, 2015

Summerset Trail had minor shoulder damage from flooding, but is open.

#14 - WarrenCCB posted Sep 18, 2014

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