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The Cedar Valley Lakes Trail follows a heavily wooded route along the Cedar River, passing Alice Wyth Lake, Fisher Lake, George Wyth Lake and Brinker Lake. The opportunities for recreation are limitless, with fishing, camping, picnicking, swimming and more to entice outdoor enthusiasts. This paved pathway connecting Cedar Falls, Waterloo and Evansdale is also part of a 110-mile regional network of trails. For 11 miles, the trail is also part of the Great American Rail, an impressive route from Washington to Washington D.C.
In Cedar Falls, the trail begins in Black Hawk Park, a large county park home to camping and recreation areas of all sorts. Continuing into Cedar Falls, the trail runs into Gateway Park, which has a playground, ice skating (in winter months), restrooms, and parking. A connection is available here to the Lone Tree Road Trail and then Big Woods Trail, which you can follow north to create a nine-mile loop around the northern side of Cedar Falls. The trail passes through a wooded area that offers connections to hiking trails and plenty of benches for rest and respite. Stay aware as you approach US 218; the trail—which continues on the opposite side of the road—is not well marked. Stay right to follow the trail under the overpass. Just 3 miles into the trip, a noteworthy diversion is Alice Wyth Lake, where there is a fishing jetty and an accessible shoreline. Alice Wyth Lake is immediately followed by George Wyth State Park and Lake, which features a popular beach for locals; here, you can picnic, camp, play on the jungle gym, fish, or swim. This state park also offers a unique perk: It connects to the Cedar Valley Paddlers Trail, a water trail that starts at Fisher Lake in the state park.
The trail takes you past Tibbitts Park and into downtown Cedar Falls and Waterloo, after which it passes Riverfront Stadium and runs through a small, quiet neighborhood for a short distance. You’ll pick up the trail again at Cedar River Exchange Park, which offers riverfront amenities, including picnic areas, sports fields, a skate park, boating areas, and more.
Continue past the park to downtown Waterloo, where you’ll find plenty of places to eat, grab a cup of coffee, or purchase a tasty treat. You may want to partake in many of the outdoor festivals hosted in downtown Waterloo during spring, summer, and fall, or just take in the history of the town by checking out one of several historical markers, such as the Vietnam Memorial dedicated to those Iowans who served in the war, or the marker remembering the great floods of 1858, 1929, and 1961. Part of the trail is built on top of the town’s levee, which is tastefully landscaped with a variety of vegetation, flowers, and lighting. After Waterloo, the trail continues 3.2 miles to its endpoint in Evansdale. Here, the trail connects to the River Forest Road Trail.
Notes: Fishing licenses are available from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources; visit the DNR website for more information. In some parks, swimming is strictly prohibited. Follow posted rules for each park facility.
The western end of the trail in Black Hawk Park is located off of W Lone Tree Road in Cedar Falls. From SR 57/1st St. in Cedar Falls, take Center St. north across the river, then turn left onto Lone Tree Rd. and continue west into the park. To reach the trailhead at Gateway Park in Cedar Falls from SR 58, take the exit for SR 57 toward Cedar Falls. Go 1.3 miles, and turn right onto Main St. Go 0.2 mile, and turn right onto Lincoln St. Turn right into the trailhead parking lot.
The closest parking at the southeast part of the trail is in Waterloo. To reach the parking lot from I-380, follow the route to US 218, and continue on US 218 N for 1.3 miles. Keep right to continue on Washington St. for 0.2 mile. Turn right onto W. Sixth St. Go 0.4 mile, and turn right into the trail parking lot at the intersection with Water St. If you pass the University of Northern Iowa Center for Urban Education, you have gone too far. The endpoint is located 2.5 miles southeast along the trail at Randall Ave.
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