Leave This Trail Be - The Heart of Iowa Nature Trail

The Trail

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.

Trail Map

Trail Information

The Ride

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. 

Happy Riding!

Fat Bike Adventures - Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt

The Bike

A rented Surley Pugsley courtesy of As A Dad LLC  was starting to feel like part of the family.  The only thing missing was my handlebar bag.  I've gotten hooked on that piece of gear and when it's not in use it just doesn't feel right.  I filled the void by using a fanny pack....yes you read that right.  Full Doris, pedaling with pride!

The Trail

A showcase for conservation work in central Iowa, the Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt was born in 1960 when damaged land along the Skunk River was purchased by Polk County.  It's network of grass trails are great places for hiking, snow shoeing and cross country skiing...and fat biking!

Viewing Platform as seen from space.

Viewing Platform as seen from space.

A wildlife viewing area is located northeast of Bondurant at mile marker 93 on US Highway 65.  There is paved parking, restrooms and a bird watching platform designed in the shape of a raptor.  Decking boards are in the form of primary feathers.  The viewing area has binocular stations for those who left their field glasses at home.

The greenbelt was all mine this sunny afternoon.  The trails were in good shape and a perfect match for the fat bikes wide tires.  I took my time pedaling north to the ponds.  The water was quiet with only a Blue Heron using the pond. 

Riding through sections of tall prairie grass I thought of Laura Ingalls and other pioneer families who traveled through similar landscapes.  Imagine what she would have thought having seen someone ride past the covered wagon on a fat bike!  

Happy Riding! 

Fat Bike Adventures - Maffitt Reservoir

The Bike

Ah, fat bikes. They seem to becoming more popular by the minute.  I've seen them on the trails, roads, and even my neighborhood streets.  Watching them roll by I'd wonder what it would be like to ride one.   I decided it was high time to give it try and contacted Arik Peterson.

Arik owns As A Dad LLC, located in Des Moines.  He provides fat bike rentals to folks wanting to gain experience but not another bike.   Arik (the Dad) has a fleet of four Surly Pugsley's.  Each is equipped with a flat repair kit and air pump. Bar mits are available during the cold months.  He doesn't mind if you bring back a muddy bike. In his opinion it's proof you had fun.

The Ride

My first adventure was at  Maffitt Reservoir.   It's a popular spot for fishing, hiking, and picnicking.  Maffitt is also a known spot for bird watching.  According to owa ornithologists,  the Common Loon can be spotted here in the spring and fall.  

My plan was to ride the 5 mile nature path that winds around the 200 acre lake.  I would return to my vehicle via park roads and the highway crossing the dam.

The grass path was in decent condition.  Bumpy but not unbearable.  Recent rainfall resulted in a couple of muddy sections but with the super wide tires of the Pugsley I was able to navigate through them easily.

Several small fishing paths branch off from the trail leading down to the water.  A fat bike would certainly come in handy for a fisherman who's eager to get to the water!

Thick foliage made it challenging to catch more than a fleeting glimpse of the lake. Once I reached the end of the nature trail I was finally rewarded with a great view of the water.  Unfortunately no Loons.

Maffitt Reservoir was a great kick-off to my fat biking adventure.  The bike handled great and was comfortable to ride.  It was exciting to explore a trail where bikes aren't typically found and I was eager to see where else the bike could take me. 

Where to next?