Finding Natural Beauty in Iowa

“If we get acquainted with natural communities, we feel at home. And any place we feel at home, we feel like protecting.”

-Sylvan Runkel


For more information and photos about where and how to enjoy Iowa’s outdoors, visit the Explore section.

Multi-use trails

INHF Iowa trails page: Gives you county by county listings of trail info with maps.

DNR’s Hiking and Biking in Iowa page: This site offers a transportation map for bicyclists, gives tips on bicycle safety and provides various information regarding Iowa’s trails.

BIKEIOWA: Cycling news, upcoming events, and features about cycling in Iowa.


Iowa DOT Transportation Map for Bicyclists: Includes maps and information on trails located in major cities throughout Iowa.

RAGBRAI: Home page for the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa.

Iowa Coalition of Off-Road Riders: Trail and activity information for mountain bike trails across the state.


DNR’s Destinations page: Maps of Iowa State Parks including specific park information on history, facilities, camping, trails, river activities, nearby towns, and contact info.

Public Campgrounds: General info about camping in Iowa including registration, camping fees, listing of camping sites at state parks, seasonal info.

Canoeing and Kayaking

DNR Canoeing and Kayaking Guide: Provides information on specific water trails in Iowa, useful resources and many water-reveling opportunities.

USGS Streamflow Data: Gage height, streamflow, and median height information for rivers across the state.

Silver Creek in rural Mills County, IA ~ Iowa in May

Silver Creek in rural Mills County, IA ~ Iowa in May


DNR Hunting Information:

  • Hunting & trapping regulations,
  • registration information,
  • and wildlife management area information.


DNR Fishing Information: Fishing locations,

  • types of fish in Iowa,
  • regulations,
  •  licenses,
  • fishing news,
  • programming,
  • and other information.

Silver Creek in Southwest Iowa

Bird Watching

Where to bird in Iowa: Lists of state birding organizations, hotspots for birding and important links for birding in Iowa.

Audubon, Iowa chapters: Information on Audubon’s local chapters and how you can get involved. Birding locations, interactive maps, events calendar, rare bird species, and membership information.

Important Bird Areas (IBAs) Program: Information on the IBA program including how to identify essential bird areas, how to monitor sites, and how to conserve these areas. Includes chapter info and event listings.

General Iowa Tourism Iowa attractions, recreation info, and upcoming events as well as other travel information including accommodations, contacts, etc.

close to sunset ~ Iowa in November

close to sunset ~ Iowa in November

Nature Centers

Iowa Nature Centers: Gives basic information on nature centers found in Iowa.

Environmental Education/Interpretive Services: Listing of educational services and resources available across the state including camps, university department contacts, and county conservation boards.

Scenic Byways

Iowa Department of Transportation: Information about Iowa’s scenic byways.

National Scenic Byways Program: Homepage for America’s scenic byways.

Featured Destinations

Iowa River Greenbelt: INHF feature about the Iowa River Greenbelt attractions including recreation info, natural features, greenbelt activities, and a map of the greenbelt.

Upper Iowa River: INHF feature focusing on the natural features of the Upper Iowa River and what INHF is doing to protect it. Also includes info on recreational features.

Outdoor Maps

Topographic maps of DNR wildlife management areas: Interactive maps on topics such as water well location, Iowa’s water quality, species at risk, threatened natural communities and other topics relating to the Iowa environment. You can also find an Iowa park, preserve, or wildlife area and then create a customized map wtih aerial photos or topo maps by visiting the site and clicking on the “recreation map” link.

Wabash Nature Trail

This article was updated in April 2010.

About this place
Southwest Iowa Nature Trails, Inc. (SWINT) established this 63-mile trail through the Loess Hills, in partnership with the INHF. It took 10 years to convert this abandoned railroad corridor for use as a trail, but it was worth it. The trail has been frequently recognized as one of the nation’s best.

The Wabash Trace Nature Trail travels from Iowa’s beautiful Loess Hills to its southwestern prairies. The Wabash has gentle grades, beginning in the popular, wooded northern section and ending in the wide-open vistas of the southern portion. This limestone-surfaced trail passes through eight towns: Council Bluffs, Mineola, Silver City, Malvern, Imogene, Shenandoah, Coin and Blanchard.

With about 50 percent of its riders coming from outside Iowa, the Wabash Trace brings economic benefits to these towns and the entire area. Cities like Mineola — which hosts a weekly Taco Ride from Council Bluffs during the summer months — have learned how to draw riders to local businesses.

INHF’s role
INHF purchased the railroad corridor when it became available and then helped local leaders raise the funds to pay for the land and its conversion to trail use. A state Recreational Trail Fund grant provided much of the funding, and more than 1,000 private donors provided the rest. Working with SWINT, INHF owned and managed the trail for over a decade. Today, INHF continues to own the Pottawattamie County segment, but the segments that pass through Mills, Page and Fremont counties are owned and managed by their respective county conservation boards.

What to do
Jogging and cycling on the trail are obvious choices, but other recreational activities are available including cross-country skiing, wildlife identification, picnics and dog walking (on a leash). Visitors can also travel the scenic byways through the Loess Hills and visit historic buildings and museums.

The area’s Taco Ride is a popular cycling event on Thursdays during the summer months. Visit for more information.

The Wabash Trace Nature Trail has trailheads in Blanchard, Coin, Shenandoah, Imogene, Malvern, Silver City, Mineola, and Council Bluffs (listed geographically from south to north). For more information on the locations of these trailheads, please visit INHF’s Iowa by Trail site at

Site Map

Tourism Info

Council Bluffs Chamber of Commerce
Phone: 712-325-1000

Shenandoah Chamber of Commerce
Phone: 712-246-3455

Site partner
Southwest Iowa Nature Trails, Inc is a private, non-profit organization made up of volunteers who are committed to recreational trail development. SWINT members organize all official activities and maintenance efforts on the Wabash Trace.

President of SWINT – Bill Danforth
Phone: 712-246-2591



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