The Heart of Iowa Nature Trail currently consists of two disjointed sections. The first stretches from the small city of Slater in the west to the tiny town of Collins in the east. This segment includes a brief on-road detour between 535th Avenue and N. 5th Avenue on County Road E63, although the road has wide paved shoulders. Shortly after, the city of Huxley is reached. A tunnel to the east of Huxley takes the trail under busy I-35. The trail next passes through the small towns of Cambridge and Maxwell before crossing under US-65 and reaching its endpoint at Railway Street in Collins.
The second segment picks up 2 miles east of Collins at 730th Avenue. A flat 4.5 mile trek will take you from Story County into neighboring Marshall County and on to Rhodes, one of its 13 cities.
The trail occupies an abandoned railroad corridor for nearly its entire route. The 32 mile Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad line ran from the trail's current western endpoint in Slater to just beyond its western endpoint of Rhodes, in the town of Melbourne. One of the incarnations of the Milwaukee Road's famed Hiawatha passenger service whisked passengers along this corridor in the mid-20th century. Future plans call for the completion of the Heart of Iowa Nature Trail along the entire length of the corridor to Melbourne—where the Iowa 330/US 30 Trail begins—as well as uniting the two disjointed segments east of Collins.
The trail runs through a variety of habitats, including remnants of native prairie, woodland and mixed farm and pasture. While the crushed limestone surface is best for hybrid or mountain bikes, the trail offers an adjacent mowed trail for equestrian users. Those with horses are asked to stay off the limestone trail; rutting can result, which makes biking extremely difficult. Snowmobiling is permitted when conditions allow, but all other motorized vehicles are prohibited.
Connect seamlessly with the popular High Trestle Trail in Slater and travel south to Ankeny or farther west to Woodward.
The western end of the Heart of Iowa Nature Trail is just a little north of the midpoint between Ames and Des Moines on I-35, making for easy travel to the trail. Trailheads can be found in Slater, Huxley, Cambridge, Maxwell, Collins, and Rhodes.