Aptly named, the Heart of Iowa Nature trail travels through Central Iowa from Slater to Melbourne and is part of the American Discovery Trail. The majority of the HOINT is crushed limestone, but also includes portions of paved highway and gravel roads. The trail is wide with an equestrian trail along it’s shoulder. It connects to the High Trestle Trail in Slater and the Iowa 330 Trail in Melbourne.
Having heard about the landmark along the Collins to Rhodes segment of the Heart of Iowa trail I wanted to see if for myself. It had rained quite a bit the previous night and I wasn't sure what condition I would find the trail. I wasn't too worried though thanks to the fat bike I had rented from As A Dad LLC.
The trailhead outside Collins at 730th Ave and 310th Street was the starting point for my ride. There's plenty of parking here, but no water or facilities. The trail was in great condition. It was a smooth combination of moss, grass, dirt, and limestone. The cottonwood trees were letting go of their leaves leaving a sprinkling of brown on the green path.
The HOINT is a unique treasure to Central Iowa, providing refuge to folks needing time to get away from busier trails. Here you can experience feeling like you're "out in the middle of nowhere" despite being only minutes from civilization. I certainly felt this way as I pedaled through the timber watching squirrels scatter.
About halfway to Rhodes I came upon what I was looking for. The Hoy Bridge. Built in 1912, it is considered to be an undiscovered treasure. The view from atop the bridge is picturesque, but don't just ride across. Take a moment and hike down the boarded walkway to see it from the angle it deserves. With it's enormous stone arches it's a sight to behold.
Believe it or not, there are cyclists in Central Iowa who hold the opinion that the Heart of Iowa trail should be paved. They describe the trail as "quite unfriendly to the bicycles that most folks ride" and also view paving the trail as an economic opportunity for surrounding committees. I disagree!! This trail needs to be left unpaved.
True, not everyone has the luxury of owning a bike for tougher terrain. But, why not walk, run, snow shoe, or cross country ski? The Collins to Rhodes segment would be a perfect place for experiencing the trail on foot. Once you visit, you'll see why the Heart of Iowa Nature Trail should be left as is.