This scenic hard surface recreational trail, established in 1987, begins just west of Berwick in Polk County and extends for 26 miles to the Jasper County town of Baxter.
There are two designated trail heads; 88th Street Trailhead is on Northeast 88th Street, south of Highway 65 and one mile east of Bondurant in Polk County and the Bondurant Regional Trailhead located in Bondurant at Main and Railroad Streets. Trail users can also park in Mally’s Park in Berwick and at Valeria, Mingo, Ira and Baxter trail parking areas.
Motorized vehicles and horses are prohibited on the Chichaqua Valley Trail. The only exceptions are for maintenance, law enforcement, and emergency vehicles. This restriction does not apply to a manual-operated or power-driven device designed primarily for use by an individual with a mobility disability, e.g. wheel chair.
This trail is paved from beginning to end, making it popular with roller bladers as well as cyclists and hikers. Along the trail, one will spot mile markers showing the distance to Kansas City for this former railroad route. The trail also crosses stone bridges dating from the Wisconsin, Iowa & Nebraska Railroad that built this rail line in 1885.
In later years, the line was used by the Chicago, St. Paul, & Kansas City Railroad (1886-1892), Chicago Great Western Company (1892-1968), and finally the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Company (1968-1984). The line was abandoned in 1984, and reopened as a recreational trail in 1987. It includes a scenic crossing of the Skunk River.
The Chichaqua Valley Trail is part of a proposed 110-mile trail loop that crosses the forested banks and timbered bluffs of the Skunk River. The river got this particular name because local pioneers interpreted the Native American word, “Chichaqua” to mean “skunk.” The word actually refers to the odor of the wild onions that once grew along the river’s banks.
This trail runs through a number of small communities and a variety of wildflowers can be found along the path. The young trees also growing there form a protective arch from sun and wind. A long, lovely wooden bridge crosses the Skunk River and features pullouts where trail-users can pause to admire the river and its valley.
When the trail passes through the Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt, it opens into an extensive wildlife area with lots of recreational opportunities including camping, bird watching, canoeing and hunting (though park amenities are not located right by the trail).
The Jasper County Conservation Board manages almost 25 miles of recreational trails. The Chichaqua Valley Recreation Trail is an abandoned railroad right-of-way that has been converted to a recreational trail beginning in Baxter and ending in Bondurant, in Polk County. The black topped trail crosses the forested banks of the Skunk River. Young trees lining the trail are punctuated by vistas of rich farmland left by Iowa’s last ice age glaciers. The Chichaqua Valley Trail is perfect for walking, jogging, bicycling, rollerblading, and cross country skiing in the winter. Rest stops and picnic shelters are found in Baxter, Ira, Mingo, and Bondurant. These areas, as well as Valeria, offer parking for trail access.