Heart of Iowa Nature Trail

Runs parallel to Highway 210 from Slater to Melbourne (Marshall Co.)

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 trail is paved from the junction of the High Trestle Trail in Slater to the South Skunk River Bridge just east of Cambridge. The portion east of the South Skunk River Bridge is a 10-foot wide limestone trail. A 10-foot wide grassed path lies adjacent to most of the trail for equestrian use. Snowmobiles are permitted when conditions allow.  

Currently 24 miles of the 32-mile rail corridor are developed with over 9 miles recently paved. However, the trail is not continuous for all of those miles. There is a ¼ mile section on 535th Avenue that is located on a shared-use paved road. This section connects to the E63 bike lanes that goes for 1-mile connecting to the Huxley paved trail. The majority of the trail east of the South Skunk River Bridge is completed to a limestone trail with grassed trail adjacent. In Maxwell the route is north on Army Post Road and then east on Broad Street to reconnect with the trail in Legion Park. 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.

Development Plans

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.

The HOINT will continue to be paved as funds come available according to the master plan. Paving will improve connectivity between communities and the High Trestle Trail and will hopefully get more people outside and engaged in nature.

The first stretch the HOINT, 4 miles between Slater and Huxley, was paved in summer 2019. That stretch cost approximately $650,000 and was 75% funded by grants. The stretch from Huxley to the South Skunk River Bridge past Cambridge is about 3.32 miles and cost approximately $1,077,000. Paving was completed fall of 2020 and funding for a substantial portion of this section, $730,000, was secured through grants from the Central Iowa Regional Transportation Planning Alliance and the State Recreational Trails Program. 

Want to help us with matching funds for grant applications? Donate here: https://bit.ly/PaveHOINT 

  1. Bicycling
  2. Equestrian Use
  3. Snowmobiling
  4. Hunting & Trapping

Paved sections of the trail is 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 gravel sections. 


National Significance 

  • 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.