Heart of Iowa Nature Trail

As of 4/22/22: Beware of potential flood damage on the unpaved section of the trail, east of the Skunk River Bridge. 

The Heart of Iowa Nature Trail (HOINT) is a cooperative effort of the Story and Marshall County Conservation Boards and an important part of the Central Iowa Trails System. A segment of the former Milwaukee Railroad from Slater to Melbourne forms this 32-mile recreational trail corridor. This multi-purpose trail accommodates bicyclists, pedestrians, equestrians, and snowmobilers.

The Heart of Iowa Nature Trail meets the High Trestle Trail in Slater. Future plans include connecting the east end of the Heart of Iowa Nature Trail to Melbourne, the Iowa 330 Trail, Marshall County Conservation's Grimes Farm Nature Farm, the Marshalltown Greenbelt Trail, the city of Marshalltown, and to the Chichaqua Valley Trail. View the Master Plan here. Paving largely depends on securing grants that have been leveraged by donations; help us pave the trail by donating today!

The majority of the 10-foot wide bicycle and pedestrian trail is surfaced with limestone (rock) fines.  A 10-foot wide grassed path lies adjacent to most of the trail for equestrian use. Snowmobiles are allowed on the trail when conditions allow. 

Currently 24 miles of the 32-mile rail corridor are developed. However, the trail is not continuous for all of those miles. The trail is completed for three miles from Green Street in Slater to 535th Avenue. From there you must take 535th, a gravel road, for one quarter mile to the paved shoulders along E63. The trail begins again at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Railway Street in Huxley and is continuous to Collins. The majority of this 17-mile segment is completed to a limestone trail with grassed trail adjacent. In a few locations, horses may need to use a narrower shoulder. Equestrians must keep their animals off the limestone trail as it causes severe rutting and makes bicycling very difficult. The trail is also developed from a parking area on 730th Ave. (two miles east of Collins) four and a half miles into Rhodes. You must take a combination of paved and gravel roads from Collins to 730th Ave. The trail is also not finished from Rhodes to Melbourne. The recommended route uses gravel roads to get to Melbourne.

Developed trailheads with water and bathroom facilities are available in Slater, Huxley, Collins, and Rhodes. The Heart of Iowa Nature Trail meets the High Trestle Trail in Slater. The east-west segment of the High Trestle Trail travels through Madrid and Woodward and contains one of the largest pedestrian bridges in the world (1/2-mile long and 13 stories tall). You can also travel south from Slater to Ankeny where it connects to the Neal Smith Trail and the Des Moines Metro area.  Future plans include connecting the east end of the Heart of Iowa Nature Trail to Melbourne, the Iowa 330 Trail, Marshall County Conservation's Grimes Farm Nature Farm, the Marshalltown Greenbelt Trail, and the city of Marshalltown.  We also hope to someday connect south to the Chichaqua Valley Trail which runs from Baxter to Bondurant and then into the Des Moines Metro. 

Bicycling the Trail 

The compacted limestone surfacing can accommodate all types of bicycles but we recommend a little larger tire like those on hybrid or touring bikes.  Currently there are three segments of gravel roads, totaling five miles  Equestrian Use on the Trail Horses are allowed on all sections of the Heart of Iowa Nature Trail. Horses should stay on the mowed turf area adjacent to the limestone surface or on the mowed shoulder. Please stay off the limestone trail! The best trailer parking is available at Slater, Cambridge, Maxwell, Collins, and Rhodes. Huxley's trailhead does not accommodate equestrians; however, water and restroom facilities are available. 

Snowmobiling Along the Trail 

Snowmobiles are allowed on the trail when there is sufficient snow cover. All other motorized vehicles are prohibited.  The Saylorville Dam Snowmobile Club grooms and marks the trail for winter use.  Snowmobiles should slow down when approaching or passing hikers, skiers, and snowshoe users.   

Hunting and Trapping on the Trail

Sections of the trail in Story County are open to hunting and trapping during November, December, and January. These areas are from 597th Ave. to 640th Ave., and from 670th Ave. to 680th Ave. The miles of trail adjacent to a city boundary are closed to hunting and trapping. All sections of the trail from 680th Ave. eastward are closed. This includes all sections of the trail in Marshall County. Please obey the signs posted at intersections and respect the rights of all users. No target practice is allowed. Only non-toxic ammunition is allowed.

Public Hunting Brochure


SCC Rules and Regulations


American Discovery Trail 

The Heart of Iowa Nature Trail is part of the American Hiking Society's American Discovery Trail. This trail system passes through several metropolitan areas and incorporates many trails as it passes from the East to the West Coast of the United States. The ADT in Iowa begins at Council Bluffs and follows the Raccoon River Valley, Des Moines River Greenway, Heart of Iowa Nature Trail, Cedar Valley, and Hoover Nature Trails crossing the Mississippi at Davenport.

Great American Rail Trail

The Heart of Iowa Nature Trail is also part of the Great American Rail-Trail -- a signature project of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. The Great American Rail-Trail is the nation’s first cross-country multiuse trail, stretching more than 3,700 miles between Washington, D.C., and Washington State. The preferred route of the Great American Rail-Trail connects 145+ existing rail-trails, greenways and other multiuse paths. These trails are hosting the Great American through their communities, making possible this grand vision of a nation connected by trails.


Heart of Iowa Nature Trail–-Runs parallel to Highway 210 from Slater to Melbourne (Marshall Co.) It is not a continuous trail but you can ride on the crushed limestone trail surface, county roads, and city streets from Slater to Collins (1/4 mile of which is on gravel between Slater and Huxley.)

Slater – Trailhead and Arboretum located on northeast corner of Slater on 510th [R-38/Linn Street] .5 miles north of Highway 210Huxley – Railroad Park, Railway and South Main (3.5 blocks west of Highway 69 on East First Street, one block south on Main.

Cambridge – Trailhead is at the Cambridge City Park – Water Street and 3rd Street (under the water tower)Mousehole Bridge - .5 miles north of 315th Street on 593rd Avenue

Maxwell – The trail that goes west starts .10 mile north of 210 on Army Post Road. The trail heads east out of town at Legion Park between Broad/First/Metcalf/Woodlawn Streets. Lunches for trail days etc. are held at Maxwell City Park (west side of town between Broad/2nd Avenue/ Trotter Blvd/Army Post Road)

Collins –Trailhead is located at Railway Street and 2nd Avenue, a parking lot is also located three miles east of Collins at the intersection of 730th Ave. and 310th St. (30912 730th Ave., Collins, 50055)

Rhodes – Trailhead is located on the south end of Main Street.

Operating Hours & Seasons

Trail hours are 5:00 a.m. - 10:30 p.m. daily.          


This area is open year round.

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