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Best Riverwalks in the US (West of the Mississippi)

Oklahoma City is one of the best summer vacation spots in the south

With 3.5 million miles of rivers snaking their way through the United States, it’s hard to think of a state without at least one amazing riverwalk. Whether the riverwalk is surrounded by restaurants and attractions bustling with activity or flanked on both sides simply by nature’s beauty, there is something cathartic about being by the water. As you explore the country, these are the best riverwalks in the US west of the Mississippi.

For more of the best riverwalks in the US, read this article full of recommendations for riverwalks east of the Mississippi River.

Perhaps it’s because I’m a Pisces. Or maybe it’s because I currently live in the most landlocked state in the union. Either way, I crave the water.

I’m not a particularly strong swimmer, so I don’t need to be in the water. I don’t own a boat, so I don’t necessarily need to be on the water. But I sure do crave being by the water.

Although there are more than 95,000 miles of coastline in the continental US, not everyone can afford beachfront property, especially someone who currently makes her home in Kansas City). But with 250,000 rivers providing 3.5 million miles of alternative waterfront views, there are many beautiful riverwalks in the US. 

Is Riverwalk One Word, or Two?

San Antonio is home to one of the best riverwalks in the US

Oh, the English language can be tricky. Is it pronounced to-may-to or to-mah-to? Do you spell slowly smoked meat with a “q” as in barbeque or with a “c” as in barbecue? Is the subject of this article one word, or two?

Thinking it would settle the matter once and for all, I turned to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. After all, Noah Webster published his first dictionary in the early 1800s, decades before many of the states on this list of the best riverwalks in the US were established. Unfortunately, neither “riverwalk” (one word) or “river walk” (two words) is in the dictionary.

So the way I see it, both are correct, just like both pronunciations of tomato and both spellings of barbeque. (But here’s why I will always spell barbeque with a “q”.) For this article, I will use riverwalk as one word unless the proper noun of a specific riverwalk is  two words, like the San Antonio River Walk.

With that settled, let’s dive in. These are the best riverwalks in the US west of the Mississippi River.

Do You Love Riverwalks?

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The Mississippi Riverwalk in Dubuque, Iowa, is one of the best riverwalks in the US
Along the Mississippi River in Dubuque, Iowa. Photo by Kylie Neuhaus.

US Riverwalk #1 - Mississippi Riverwalk in Dubuque, Iowa

Recommended by Kylie from Between England and Iowa

The Mississippi Riverwalk in Dubuque, Iowa, may not be the longest riverwalk in the US, but it definitely has a lot of personality! The Mississippi River marks the state boundary between Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois, an area known as the Tri-States.

The riverwalk is actually along the flood wall, which protects the city from floods when the snow melts each year farther up the river in Minnesota. The Mississippi Riverwalk is home to the “Art on the River” project, consisting of various sculptures spread along the length of the walk.

Related Article: See the USA – Visit Iowa, the Hawkeye State

Starting at one end of the riverwalk, you’ll find the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium.  It’s a great place to learn about the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico (where the Mississippi River meets the sea).  This is also where the Dubuque Harbor is located. And, if you’re lucky, you may see one of the old-fashioned river boats that run several different cruises on the river.

Next you’ll reach the Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark with its river view hotel rooms!  On the lower floor of the hotel is Tony Roma’s, a restaurant that serves great breakfast, lunch, and dinner food!  Across the road is the Diamond Jo Casino with more restaurant options, a couple of bars with live music (although you’ll need to be 21+ to access these), and a bowling alley.

Continuing along the river walk is the Grand River Conference Center, a popular wedding venue!  The building has a room surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows that stick out over the riverwalk.

The Mississippi Riverwalk ends at the Dubuque Star Brewery Complex, home to the Stone Cliff Winery. In addition to wines (of course!), they have a lunch menu and a light appetizer menu.  There is often live music and an outdoor seating area too. Opposite is the Dubuque Shot Tower, a historic tower originally built to create lead shot.  The railroad bridge is also an impressive sight — part of it rotates to let large boats pass through!

Brush Creek in Kansas City, MO, is one of the best riverwalks in the US
Surrounded by the Spanish-inspired architecture of the Country Club Plaza, Brush Creek Parkway is a six mile paved path in Kansas City. Photo by Visit KC.

US Riverwalk #2 – Brush Creek by the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri

Recommended by Vicky from Buddy the Traveling Monkey

Not exactly a river, but still a lovely place to walk, Brush Creek in Kansas City, Missouri, is picture perfect day or night. Located next to popular Country Club Plaza, the Brush Creek Parkway is a concrete trail that spans about six miles. As you walk along the path, you are sure to see small waterfalls, sculptures, fountains, and ornate bridges. It’s a great path for jogging, for a romantic stroll with your honey, or for walking off the delicious Kansas City food you’re sure to have when you visit.

Related Article:  Kansas City Barbeque Joints that Prove to Your Taste Buds Why KC is the BBQ Capital of the World

The Country Club Plaza is known for its many local shops and restaurants. The Spanish architecture is enough to leave you feeling in awe and that architecture flows perfectly to the path along Brush Creek.

An especially unique feature of the creek is the Venetian-style gondola tours you can take on it between the months of April and November. We saw a gondola go past us as we walked along the creek and thought it looked so romantic! Another feature of the riverwalk that we liked is that it is well-lit and populated, so we felt comfortable walking along the path at night.

Related Article:  Scavenger Hunts to Help You Explore Kansas City

Sage Advice:  If you plan on visiting the Country Club Plaza between Thanksgiving and mid January, here are 10 perfect places to photograph the Country Club Plaza lights in Kansas City.

Oklahoma City is one of the best summer vacation spots in the south
A view of the Bricktown Canal in downtown Oklahoma City. Photo by Shutterstock.

US Riverwalk #3 – Bricktown Canal in Downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Recommended by Melissa of Parenthood and Passports

Oklahoma City is a city of surprises. Full of culture, awesome food, and a wide range of activities, the capital of Oklahoma is a fast-growing tourist destination. Perhaps the most surprising area of the city, though, is its bustling entertainment district known as Bricktown. In the heart of the city and just east of the downtown business district, Bricktown features a beautiful urban river walk along a man-made canal. The canal is lined with shops, nightclubs, and restaurants offering plenty of outdoor seating. The atmosphere along the canal is fun, exciting, and family friendly.

Sage Advice:  Made famous by Ree Drummond, “The Pioneer Woman” from Food Network, The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, is a fun day trip from Oklahoma City.

For the kids, there is an arcade, bowling alley, climbing wall, and even a miniature golf course right along the riverwalk. For a small fee, visitors can board a water taxi and take a guided boat ride along the canal. The water taxi is not only a scenic ride, but the guide gives you a bit of history about the Bricktown District and how the lively riverwalk came into existence.

Once an industrial warehouse district, the riverwalk and all the businesses surrounding it are only a couple of decades old. Opening in 1999, the Bricktown canal completely changed the landscape of Oklahoma City. It provided a vibrant downtown that not only gave residents a reason to frequent the area, but it made downtown Oklahoma City a true tourist destination.

Photo by Francesca Murray.

US Riverwalk #4 – Trinity Riverwalk in Fort Worth, Texas

Recommended by Francesca of One Girl One World

While most people may envision strolling along the San Antonio River or having a beer along the banks of the Colorado River in Austin when they picture Texas riverwalks, I encourage you to check out the Trinity River in Fort Worth. The Trinity River starts just north of Weatherford, Texas, and joins the West Fork near downtown Fort Worth before continuing down the West Fork.

The Trinity Riverwalk is a beautiful and well-maintained area, with a paved road that runs alongside it. It’s a convenient place to go for a walk or a bike ride. Fort Worth has a very user-friendly bike rental program with bikes docked at different points along the river.

The Trinity River is not only for outdoor enthusiasts. There is also a great social scene. If you want to dine out with friends, head to Woodshed Smokehouse. It’s the place to go for all things grilled, roasted, and slow cooked. Adventurous eaters will be happy to find that the Woodshed Smokehouse features an animal and sausage of the day, ranging from rabbit to rattlesnake. They also serve a platter of paella that is big enough to feed more than five people. The restaurant is in a prime location right on the Trinity River.

If you find yourself in Fort Worth during the summer, check out their Sunday Fundays event. You can hang out and rent a tube to float on the river, sip cool beverages, and grab grub at the food trucks. The waterfront stage also hosts the Rockin’ The River concert series which is held Saturdays from July 6 – August 10.

The San Antonio River Walk is one of the best riverwalks in the US
The riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas, is one of the most iconic riverwalks in the US. Photo by Erin Mushaway.

US Riverwalk #5 – San Antonio River Walk in Texas

Recommended by Erin of Sol Salute

No trip to San Antonio is complete without a trip to its iconic riverwalk. In fact, you’ll probably find yourself there every day. The San Antonio River flows through the historic downtown, just steps from the famous Alamo and other sites. The San Antonio River Walk is below street level and offers a cool respite from the hot Texas summer afternoons. Restaurants line the sidewalks selling some of the state’s best Tex-Mex cuisine and margaritas. Boudro’s, in particular, offers an excellent frozen prickly pear margarita. Whether you go for lunch, dinner, or a margarita-filled happy hour, make sure to enjoy a relaxed meal here.

Sage Advice:  In her role as Tejano singing sensation Selena Quintanilla, a young Jennifer Lopez filmed shots on the arched stone bridge outside the Omni La Mansion Del Rio on the San Antonio River Walk.

For a more family-friendly experience, take one of the regularly scheduled boat tours.The guides are funny and informative. Some tours even include a meal, so you can enjoy your lunch as you float down the river. For the history buffs, venture just off the river to tour the Alamo. This historic mission played an integral part in Texas’ independence.

Related Article:  5 Fun Ways to See the San Antonio Missions

After the Alamo, families can have a bit of fun in Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Adults can head next door for a drink at the Menger Hotel’s Bar in an 1880s setting. Whether I’m there for the history or the margaritas, the San Antonio Riverwalk is one of my favorite things to do in the Texas Hill Country.

The Virgin Riverside Walk in Zion is a different type of riverwalk in the US
Photo by Megan Johnson

US Riverwalk #6 – Virgin Riverside Walk in Zion National Park, Utah

Recommended by Megan from Red Around the World

While many people think of riverwalks as commercial areas along a river in a bustling city, I believe one of the best riverwalks in the US is off the beaten path in a national park in Utah.

One of the most popular things to do in Zion National Park is hiking The Narrows.  In order to hike The Narrows, you have to traverse the Virgin Riverside Walk. While it may be the entrance to The Narrows, anyone can do the walk.  It’s a 2.2-mile round-trip walk with only 57 feet of elevation gain.

It’s a nice easy walk and a great way to spend a few hours in the afternoon.  The trail takes you along the Virgin River at the bottom of a narrow towering canyon.  To get to the Riverside Trail, take the park shuttle to the last stop at the Temple of Sinawava.  If you’re visiting in the winter you can drive yourself to the trailhead. The trail is paved and wheelchair accessible, but travelers in a wheelchair may need assistance.

Related Article:  9 Things to do When You Visit the Great Salt Lake’s Antelope Island

The best time to do the hike is in the morning or evening because it isn’t as hot as the middle of the day.  But you can always cool off in the river at the end of the trail. It will also be busiest in the middle of the day.  This riverside walk is a great trail for everyone, and you’ll be able to admire hanging gardens and weeping rocks along the way at Zion National Park.

The Idaho Falls River Walk is one of the best riverwalks in the US
The Idaho Falls River Walk is one of the best riverwalks in the US. Photo by Chelsey Knuth.

US Riverwalk #7 - Idaho Falls River Walk in Idaho

Recommended by Chelsey, The Wisconsinista

The best part about small cities, big towns, or whatever you want to call them, is the way they maintain a balance of natural and urban spaces. Upon arriving in Idaho Falls in the spring, I immediately took notice of the beautiful section of the Snake River that runs right through downtown as well as the paths running parallel to it on both sides.

Unlike riverwalks in many big cities, this one was consciously designed to distance buildings from the shoreline and to keep the river publicly accessible. Though the paths themselves are paved, trees and grassy spaces are what line the shore, not concrete. The view of the river itself is arguably the most breathtaking part, naturally, and it is easy to see how Idaho Falls got its name. (Although I learned at the nearby Museum of Idaho that it took a few name changes to get there.)

Unlike many waterfalls, however, this one faces perpendicular to the current of the river and, coupled with the array of trees and shrubs growing out of the exposed rock, makes for a very unique sight. When strolling, running, or biking along the river walk, there are four different loops you can choose to take that vary in length. We opted for the Temple Loop, named after the LDS temple on the river’s east side, which is 2.3 miles long. In total, however, the four loops span just over six miles!

The Tahoe City Dam is along the Truckee River Bike Trail in California
California’s Truckee River Bike Trail is one of the best riverwalks in the US. Photo by Shutterstock.

US Riverwalk #8 - Truckee River Bike Trail in California

Recommended by Erin from Curiously Erin

The Truckee River flows between the states of California and Nevada and runs for 121 miles. It is the only outlet of Lake Tahoe and drains into Pyramid Lake. The Truckee River Bike Trail has two sections. The first is in California and runs between the town of Tahoe City and the road turnoff to Squaw Valley. The path is just over five miles long. The second section is located in Reno, Nevada, and is 12 miles in length. Both sections are completely paved, making it great for walkers and cyclists.

The section I enjoy the most is the California one. Start the walk in Tahoe City at Fanny Bridge, where you can first visit the Gatekeepers Museum. The museum showcases the history of the Lake Tahoe area, from the Native American population to stories of logging, mining, and skiing.

Although the trail runs next to the roadway, you do forget you’re in a town at all. More so than passing cars, you will see locals and tourists alike floating down the river. The path is mostly flat, so suitable to all fitness levels.  You will be rewarded with continuous views of the Truckee River.

Three quarters down the path is the River Ranch Restaurant. Stop here for something a little fancier to eat or head 0.1 of a mile down the Alpine Meadows Rd to the Crest Café. The Crest Café does excellent sandwiches and snacks. Continue on after a short break to the intersection into Squaw Valley.  Choose to turn around or continue your walk to include the Squaw Valley Rd path. Taxis and buses can be accessed down here to take you back to the start.

What is Your Favorite US Riverwalk?

Is there another US riverwalk west of the Mississippi River that you believe should be on this list? Why do you consider it to be the best riverwalk in the US? Share your experiences in the comments section below.

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33 thoughts on “Best Riverwalks in the US (West of the Mississippi)”

    1. The San Antonio Riverwalk is a lot more than just the downtown loop. It reaches north to the museum district off Broadway and South past the Blues Star Arts Complex. It is definitely worth a multi-day exploration.

  1. pinkcaddytraveloguegmailcom

    I’ve always wondered the same thing about the word “riverwalk.” Thanks for letting me know I can spell it however I want haha! I’m kicking myself that I didn’t know OKC had a riverwalk when I was there! These all sound great though. My mom went to San Antonio years ago and still raves about their riverwalk.

    1. I second your mom’s rave reviews about San Antonio’s River Walk. My daughter and I were just there at the end of March and we loved it! Thanks to this advice from fellow travel bloggers Oklahoma City is one of our next travel destinations! 🙂

  2. The Holidaymaker

    I have never heard of river walks (sorry, I am thinking it is 2 words ?). Your description sounds lovely and gives many options to select the one or area that best works for them to enjoy.

  3. What a fabulous collection of riverwalks! The one that calls to me the most is the one in Zion National Park – what a glorious setting! San Antonio calls to me too! I also just love being by the water and watching it flow…

  4. I absolutely agree that hiking the Narrows in Zion is a wonderful experience. It’s so different from river walks in the city as you are completely surrounded by nature. I wish I lived closer as I would go every year if I could!

  5. What a fun post! I loved Brick Town Canal in OKC, but a few others on your list are nice as well. 😉 I have always wondered the same thing about whether or not riverwalk was one word or two. Thanks for clearing that up. 😉

    1. Louise (my 12-year-old daughter and constant traveling companion) and I moved Oklahoma City up our travel list due to this amazing contribution about the Bricktown Canal! 🙂

  6. Francesca Murray

    Such a great post! There are so many beautiful River Walks to experience. Hopefully I can get to them all! Thanks for including my recommendation in this roundup!

  7. I love riverwalks, especially when they take you through nature and then into the city too, it’s such a perfect way to take it all in. We’ve not done many in the US but NYC is great for that too. Our favourite around the world is Melbourne though for sure, walking from the docklands into the city and botanic gardens is beautiful.

    1. I bet there are some amazing riverwalks in Melbourne! Look for a new article on the best riverwalks in the US that are EAST of the Mississippi River soon, if you’re more likely to visit that part of the US. 🙂

  8. sunsetsandrollercoasters

    Such wonderful suggestions! We haven’t travelled extensively in the US but the Bricktown Canal in Oklahoma and the San Antonio river walk in Texas are calling. Perhaps it’s the colours but they both look beautiful.

    1. Having just visited San Antonio about a month ago, I can attest to how cool a riverwalk it is! And the Bricktown Canal is yet one more reason we need to travel five hours south and spend more time in Oklahoma City! 🙂

  9. I have actually done a couple of these and I was thinking there wasn’t going to be any on there I had done. I love the Trinity Riverwalk in Ft Worth. I would LOVE to see the Canal Riverwalk in OKC and of course the famous San Antonio River Walk. And like you, I spell BBQ with a Q (hence the abbreviation) and riverwalk is one word to me too unless specified in a proper noun!

    1. We are kindred spelling spirits! I have to say this about the San Antonio River Walk (<-- proper noun spelled as two words) -- we visited at the end of March, and I expected the riverwalk to be a gaudy tourist trap. OMG, we LOVED it! We road the riverboats twice (because no boat captain told exactly the same stories with the same jokes) and found ourselves just wandering along the riverwalk every night after sightseeing. So cool!!!

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