High Trestle Trail

High Trestle Trail Bridge, Boone County

INHF + Trails

INHF’s first trail projects (the Heritage Trail and Cedar Valley Nature Trail) began over 30 years ago. INHF’s leadership in the 1980s to convert former railroad corridors into multi-use trails created the momentum that has made Iowa a trails destination. Since then, INHF has helped create over 65 percent of Iowa’s rail-trails.

Unlike surrounding states, Iowa’s multi-county trails are managed by local rather than statewide agencies. These local groups often rely on INHF for technical expertise and statewide perspective. INHF’s role on any given trail can range from minor — providing technical advice — to extensive — acquiring the trail corridor, marketing and promotion, education and/or fundraising. We’re also a partner in statewide trail planning and connection efforts and a central hub for trail information — from the progress of ongoing trail projects to where to find the best trailside restaurants.

If you are interested in starting a trail project or want to learn more about INHF’s work in trails, contact Andrea Boulton, INHF statewide trails coordinator, at aboulton@inhf.org or 515-288-1846, ext. 27.

Iowa Trails FAQ

What’s a “rail-trail”?
A rail-trail is a previously existing railroad corridor that has been discontinued for rail service and has been repurposed as a trail for recreation. 

How many miles of trail are in Iowa?
Iowa has over 2,000 miles of multi-use trails (rail-trails and city trails used for biking, walking, etc.) In total, there are nearly 8,000 miles of hiking, water, equestrian and multi-use trails throughout the state.

Who builds, manages and owns Iowa’s trails?
Trails are generally built, managed and owned by local governing agencies, like cities or county conservation boards. With long distance rail-trails that pass through multiple counties, each jurisdiction will own and maintain its own separate section. There are also several cases where trails are owned and maintained by private nonprofit organizations or multiple partners, like the Wabash Trace Nature Trail, the Grant Wood Trail and the Old Creamery Trail.

How are Iowa’s trail funded?
Funding for Iowa trails is fluid and relies on annual legislation for federal and state budgets. Funding for the development and maintenance of trails normally comes in the form of competitive grants that require some level of local funding match. Many of these grants are administered by the Iowa Department of Transportation.

Most Iowa trail projects require significant private funding and volunteer support. Learn more about current trail projects in need of support.