Top 10 Trails in Iowa


Iowa has a rich railroad history, which is remembered and celebrated with more than 800 miles of rail-trail throughout the state. In 1856, the first trains to ever cross the mighty Mississippi River entered Davenport, Iowa, ushering in a new wave of east-west travel across the burgeoning nation. Some of these amazing rail-trails are highlighted below along with other outstanding multi-use trails that showcase the beautiful terrain and welcoming communities of the state.


Wabash Trace Nature Trail

Photo by: Marty Buehler

Tucked into the southwestern corner of Iowa, the Wabash Trace Nature Trail earns its Hall of Fame Rail-Trail status. Spanning 62 miles from Council Bluffs (just outside of Omaha) to the Iowa–Missouri border, the rural pathway is known for its peacefulness, native prairies, secluded wooded sections and encounters with wildlife.


High Trestle Trail

Photo by: David V. Johnson

The signature bridge on central Iowa’s High Trestle Trail is a showstopper, providing an experience you won’t encounter on any other trail in the country. Towering 130 feet above the Des Moines River and wrapped in 43 twisting diamond-shaped steel ribs, the bridge is meant to elicit the sensation of traveling down a mine shaft, a nod to the area’s coal-mining history. Connecting the northern suburbs of Des Moines, the rest of the route pops in and out of the trees with expansive pastoral vistas in between.


Raccoon River Valley Trail

Photo by: Laura Stark

On the western outskirts of Des Moines, the Raccoon River Valley Trail offers a quintessential central Iowa experience. Over its nearly 90-mile span—all paved—you’ll traverse woodlands, prairie and agricultural landscapes. The route forms a loop through several rural communities with a tail on its southern end that rolls out toward Des Moines.


Cedar Valley Nature Trail

Photo by: John Riley

Stretching a whopping 68 miles through Cedar Rapids, the Cedar Valley Nature Trail provides a beautiful natural escape in eastern Iowa. Along the rail-trail, you'll experience views of native grasses and wildflowers and have a good chance of seeing wildlife such as deer and wild turkeys.


Sauk Rail Trail

Photo by: Laura Stark

The Sauk Rail Trail offers some of the best riding in rural, west-central Iowa. The paved 33-mile trail is capped at either end by a state park and offers a diverse mix of views and experiences in between. Friendly small towns every few miles add comfort and convenience, while frequent nods to the corridor’s railroad past add historical interest.


Great Western Trail

Photo by: RTC Staff

Beginning just outside of urban Des Moines, the Great Western Trail heads southward for just over 16 paved miles transitioning into a tranquil setting with shady woodlands, fields of corn and panoramic views of the North River.


Heritage Trail

Photo by: dj123_45

In eastern Iowa, the Heritage Trail extends nearly 30 miles from the Mississippi River town of Dubuque to Dyersville, home of the movie set for Field of Dreams. Along the way, the rail-trail passes through the deeply carved valley of the Little Maquoketa River, historical sites and a handful of small farming and former mining communities.


Trout Run Trail

Photo by: Ryan Cree

The Trout Run Trail offers a paved, 11-mile loop around the town of Decorah in northeastern Iowa. Unlike many of state's trails which tend to be relatively flat, portions of this route offer a refreshing challenge with switchback climbs through rocky hillsides. Along the way, you'll enjoy scenic overlooks, public art and fields of wildflowers and planted crops.


Three Rivers Trail

Photo by: Joe LaCroix

The Three Rivers Trail runs for nearly 40 miles in north-central Iowa from the small community of Rolfe—named after the early English settler who married Pocahontas—to just west of Eagle Grove. The mostly rural trail is named for the three rivers it crosses and is ideal for those seeking peace and solitude. Along the crushed-stone pathway, travelers will experience prairie, woodlands and farmland, and cross many former railroad bridges.


Duck Creek Recreational Trail

Photo by: Eli Griffen

Located just north of the Mississippi River and the Illinois border in eastern Iowa, the experience of the Duck Creek Recreational Trail is a ribbon of green connecting several parks. The paved, 13-mile pathway parallels the tree-lined Duck Creek, also crossing it at several points, providing numerous opportunities to view birds and other wildlife.

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