The Cedar Valley Nature Trail follows an abandoned railroad right-of-way of the old Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern, an interurban railroad system established in the early 1900s. The 52-mile trail is a linear park that courses through the Cedar River bottomlands among forested riverbanks, rolling farmlands and open vistas. The northern 16 miles of the trail and the southernmost 10 miles are asphalt; the rest of the trail has a limestone-chip surface. Plans have been recently announced to pave an additional 4 miles on the southern end.
Occasional stream valleys and small towns break up the route, and the trail is an excellent place to spot wildlife, including deer, badgers, wild turkey and song birds. You'll also find wildflowers and historical landmarks, archeological sites and two restored depots.
At the southern end of the trail just north of Cedar Rapids, you can pick up the Cedar River Trail and continue your journey south.
Access to the southern trailhead in Hiawatha is from Kainz Drive, just south of Boyson Road. Parking and a modern restroom are available here. About 13 miles farther north, parking and restrooms are also available at the historical Center Point Depot (700 E. Washington St., Center Point).
The northern 26 miles of the trail, which is managed by the Black Hawk County Conservation Board, does not charge a trail user fee. The southern 26 miles managed by the Linn County Conservation Board does require a trail user fee. Contact the Linn County Conservation Board at 319-892-4650 for fee information.