Heart of Iowa Nature Trail

Paved Heart of Iowa Nature Trail bikers
Slater Trailhead monument - Heart of Iowa Nature Trail

Fall foliage Heart of Iowa Nature Trail
Wayfinding Signage Heart of Iowa Nature Trail

The Heart of Iowa Nature Trail (HOINT) is a multi-use recreational trail that runs a segment of the former Milwaukee Railroad from Slater, IA (Story County) to Melbourne, IA (Marshall County) to form a 32-mile trail corridor.

Through cooperative efforts from Story and Marshall County Conservation Boards, this trail cuts through the heart of central Iowa and is an important part of the Central Iowa Trails System.

This multi-purpose trail accommodates bicyclists, pedestrians, equestrians, and snowmobilers.

The Heart of Iowa Nature Trail is paved from the junction of the High Trestle Trail in Slater to the South Skunk River Bridge east of Cambridge. The portion east of the South Skunk River Bridge contains both a 10-foot wide limestone trail and a grass trail. Snowmobiles are permitted when conditions allow. 

Click here for our 2024 planned construction map!

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



Length - 32 miles (Please note the trail is not continuous for all of those miles. See map above)

Surface -
Paved from junction at High Trestle Trail in Slater to South Skunk River Bridge at Cambridge (nine miles). Limestone trail with adjacent grass trail from South Skunk River Bridge at Cambridge going east. *See above map for more details*

Admissions -
Free to all users.



Currently, 24 miles of the 32-mile trail corridor are developed, with over nine miles recently paved.

Plans are underway to pave between the Skunk River Bridge near Cambridge to the City of Collins in 2024. Find more detailed information here.



Biking + Cycling - 

Paved sections of the trail are suited for all types of bikes including the “skinny” road tires. The compacted limestone surfacing can accommodate all types of bicycles but we recommend a little larger tire like those on hybrid or touring bikes. There are some fine gravel sections of the trail.

Walk + Run - 

It is often promoted as a bike trail, but it is certainly open to all uses and is frequented by many routine runners and walkers! If specifically interested in hitting a section of paved/limestone trail, be sure to check out our maps online first.

The terrain rather flat as a whole and is beginner-friendly.  

Nature + Wildlife -  

The former Milwaukee Road Railroad corridor was disturbed at one time for the development of the tracks; however, it was done so long ago that the surrounding native prairie population was able to repopulate naturally and persists today as Lee Prairie, which can be found east of Slater.

Segments along Cambridge, Maxwell, and Collins are surrounded by riparian and early successional woodlands. In these areas, you can enjoy shade provide by large cottonwood trees.

Equestrian - 

Horses are allowed on all sections of the trail, on the mowed grass portions of the trail only, and should stay off concrete, limestone, and asphalt. A 10-foot wide grass path lies adjacent to most of the trail for equestrian use.

Trailer Parking: Available at Slater, Maxwell, Collins, and Rhodes. View more info on trailhead locations and parking, linked here.

Snowmobiling - 

Snowmobiles are allowed on the trail when snow conditions allow. All other motorized vehicles are prohibited. The Saylorville Dam Snowmobile Club grooms and marks the trail for winter use as well as picking up trash and keeping the trail clean through our Adopt-A-Park Program.

View all snowmobile rules in our 2023 Rules and Regulations.



High Trestle Trail

The west terminus of the Heart of Iowa Nature Trail leads into the High Trestle Trail in Slater. Heading west will take you toward Madrid and the landmark High Trestle Trail Bridge. Heading south will take you into Ankeny and further into the Central Iowa Trails network.

Central Iowa Trails Network

The east-west segment of the High Trestle Trail travels through Madrid and Woodward and contains the nationally-recognized High Trestle Trail Bridge (one of the largest pedestrian bridges in the world at 1/2-mile long and 13 stories tall).

View an interactive map of Central Iowa Trails and their amenities here.


Future goals of the Heart of Iowa Nature Trail include connecting eastward to:


American Discovery Trail 

The Heart of Iowa Nature Trail is part of the American Hiking Society's American Discovery Trail. This trail system 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. This is the nation’s first cross-country multi-use 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.


The trail runs parallel to Highway 210 from Slater, on the west side of Story County, to Melbourne in Marshall County, although it is not a complete, continuous trail at this time.

Please visit the Story County Conservation website for detailed information on developed trailheads, parking information, bathroom locations along the trail, and more before planning your ride!

Operating Hours & Seasons

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


This area is open year round.