Iowa’s High Trestle Bridge offers a great view – day or night

High Trestle Bridge
The High Trestle Bridge at night

Since we enjoy walking, we’re always open to new ideas regarding trails. We’ve wanted to check out the High Trestle Bridge in central Iowa for a while. It’s part of a biking/walking trail. The cool thing about its design is that part of the bridge lights up at night.

The trestle bridge – it’s not actually a trestle bridge, as it doesn’t meet the design – runs more than 1,000 feet across the Des Moines River valley, between Madrid and Woodward. The bridge is about a 40-minute drive northwest of Des Moines. The High Trestle Trail runs about 25 miles, from Ankeny to Woodward. The trail and bridge were completed in 2011.

The bridge has blue LED lights that are lit shortly after dusk and stay on for a few hours nightly. The blue lights shine brightly across the valley. We missed our turn, so we could see the bridge’s lights shining as we drove across the highway bridge. Once we turned around, we eventually saw the trail’s sign. Note to self: Always look at the road signs when traveling to a new place.

The walk at night, initially, was a bit concerning. We didn’t have a flashlight, and one of us had a phone that lost its charge (I’m not pointing fingers, Lisa). Fortunately, I was able to use my phone to help light our way on the paved trail. We parked a short distance away in a parking lot, and walked on a gravel road for about an eighth of a mile.

We thought we’d likely be alone on our walk to the bridge since it was almost 10 p.m. We were mildly surprised at the number of people walking and bicycling at that time of the night. We must have encountered more than 100 people during the hour or so we were there.

The walk along the bridge was fun. While the trail is dark, there are lights lit at the bottom of the bridge railings.

Approaching the blue lights was pretty cool in the dark. As you walk under the cribbings and near the end of the lighted arch, the lights look like they descend into a hole. This is by design. The same view holds true during the day. The blue lights actually cover the spot of the bridge that stands above the river.

People posed for pictures under the lights. Two high school girls had their photo taken imitating the cribbings. We were asked to take a photo of a group of college-aged folks.

We enjoyed our nighttime visit so much, that we planned an excursion the next morning. The view was amazing. The valley stretches for miles, with trees lining the hills and green reaching to the river.

High Trestle Bridge
Day view of the trestle bridge

The bridge design tells a great art and history story. The cribbings above the bridge (they look like arches) are reddish in color. They represent the coal mines that once existed in the area. And, as you approach the end of the cribbings to the east, the design looks like they are closer together, giving an impression that they are descending. That represents the descent miners took into the mines.

Two towers on either side of the bridge represent the valley. The colored bands represent the coal veins in the region.

High Trestle Bridge
Towers help tell the area’s history

The trail took over an old Union Pacific rail line. A bridge built in 1912 is gone, but part of it remains as an overlook. This spot allows visitors to scan the bridge and area with an eagle’s view. Several birds call the area home. The only ones we saw were cliff swallows and gulls. Eagles, vultures, herons and other large birds call this place home. Deer and other animals can be seen in the treeline or near the river.

High Trestle Bridge
View of the river valley from the overlook

The bridge is obviously popular, based on the number of people we saw on both visits. The view is beautiful and it’s a great place for a walk or bike ride.

High Trestle Bridge
Bicyclists of all styles met us during our visit

We would love to visit the area again. We can see where the view during during autumn would be beautiful, because of the fall colors. Regardless of the season (even winter), the High Trestle Bridge is a great place to take a walk and shoot some photographs.

For more information on the trestle bridge, please visit or