Take in Breathtaking Views of the Des Moines River Valley with Rail Explorers in Central Iowa
If you think Iowa is boring, you are wrong! One thing I have learned over the past several years is that the Midwest offers so many fun experiences for families such as sleeping with cows, going on a wildlife safari, sleeping in a yurt, and so much more. Now, we can add something new to the list, the first rail bike tours have arrived! The Boone Divison Rail Explorers is the fifth location to open in the United States. Thrill seekers and nature enthusiasts will love the views of the beautiful Des Moines River Valley during this experience.
After sharing some photos and videos of our first Rail Explorers experience, I had a lot of questions come up. I am sharing everything you need to know about Rail Explorers in Central Iowa.
Where is it located?
The Rail Explorers in Iowa is located in Boone, Iowa just north of Des Moines about 45 minutes. This is the perfect spot for the launch of the Rail Explorers in the Midwest. When riding along you will take the Boone Scenic Valley Railroad over the ride’s showstopper Bass Point Creek High Trestle. As you ride across you will catch glimpses of the banks of the Des Moines River and panoramic views of the Des Moines River Valley.
The tour takes off from the Rail Explorers Depot at the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad. There is free parking available.
How do the railbikes work?
Rail Explorers is really for all ages and abilities. During our family ride, I barely pedaled, same with my two kids (10 and 8 years old). There is one pilot seat on each railbike. You have to be over 16 years of age and have not consumed alcohol to sit in this spot. The railbikes have an electric motor called a REX Propulsion System, and the pilot seat is the main control of this. The pilot person needs to constantly pedal, but not super fast. There were plenty of times my husband stopped pedaling and “coasted”. The pilot seat also has control over the break. After you get going, you get the hang of everything and it is super easy and fun!
There are two types of railbikes available. They offer a quad railbike (seats 4) or a double railbike (seats 2).
What are the safety precautions?
If you look at the pictures of our ride across the Bass Creek High Trestle it can be a little concerning, which is understandable! I was nervous beforehand. Each person wears a lap seat belt. They do have harnesses available as well which they recommend for anyone 5 years or younger. Once we started across the bridge, which is 156 feet tall, it was not as bad as I thought it was going to be.
In addition to the seat belts, you are guided by trained Explorers at the beginning and at the end of the chain. Before you get on your railbike, a guide will go over all the rules and directions beforehand. You all depart at the same tour time and consistently have approximately 500 feet in between you and the next railcar, so you do feel secluded but know you have help nearby if needed.
What ages do recommend for Rail Explorers?
Personally, I would recommend ages 5 years and older. The Rail Explorers website reads that this is okay for families of all ages and abilities. They offer harnesses for children 5 years and younger as well. I believe it really depends on your family and child. You know your child best! If you think they can handle the ride and height, go for it. If you are unsure, maybe share pictures and explain the experience. The Rail Explorers staff are very friendly and understanding as well. If you ask questions, definitely ask.
How long is the trip tour?
Plan for approximately 2 hours for this unique, 12.5-mile round trip experience. It takes about 1 hour to travel one way. You then make a half-way stop at Rose’s Landing. You will stop here for about 15 minutes while the staff turns around the railbikes. They have seating and lights around the area. There are no bathrooms at the half-way stop so plan accordingly. After your break, you will hop back on your railbikes and head back over the long trestle to enjoy more beautiful views of the Des Moines River Valley to your starting point.
What should we bring for our unique experience?
Depending on what time of day you take your tour here are some of the items I would recommend having on hand during your Rail Explorers ride. Each railbike offers a basket and umbrella where you can place items. It is not huge, but definitely a decent size to bring the following items.
- Bug spray – Especially if you take the sunset tour. You will encounter lots of bugs when you are at Rose’s Laning (your half-way stop).
- Wear closed-toed shoes
- Coolers with water, drinks, and snacks – We saw many who packed a small cooler with water, juice boxes, and snacks. They pulled them out when we had our break. If you have kids riding along I would definitely pack some snacks.
- Headlamp and flashlights – If you ride the sunset tour when you ride back it will be DARK. Our headlight on the railbike went out half-way there. I had my phone on me to use. It’s not the end of the world if you have no light as you can see the railbike ahead of you.
- Sweatshirt – If you ride in the Fall or at night it can get chilly when the sun goes down. We experienced the sunset tour in the middle of summer (one of the hottest days of the year) and when we were riding back I had some chills!
- Glow sticks and necklaces – These are definitely not a necessity, but something fun to have for the kids.
How much does it cost?
- The Tandem Explorer (2-person) is $45 per person
- The Quad Explorer (4-person) is $40 per person
If you have 3 people or 1 you have to purchase the full Explorer. You do not purchase by the seat. You can purchase your tickets here!
2023 Booking NOW Open!
Rail Explorers USA us a permanent experience in Boone. They are now open for the season, but popular dates and times are booking fast. Make sure you snag your spot to enjoy this fun experience.