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Heart of Iowa Nature Trail

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  1. Bicycling
  2. Equestrian use
  3. Hiking
  4. Pets Allowed
  5. Snowmobiling
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 32-mile segment of the former Milwaukee Railroad from Slater to Melbourne forms this recreational trail corridor.  This multi-purpose trail is being built to accommodate many users.  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 520th Ave. to 535th Ave., 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. Non-toxic ammunition is required. 
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.