Best Trails in Cedar Rapids for Hiking, Biking and More!

by Steve Shriver
Best Trails in Cedar Rapids for Hiking, Biking and More!

What’s your favorite trail to bike or hike in Cedar Rapids? If you don’t have one yet, or you’re looking for something new, we can help with that. We asked around town to learn about everyone’s favorite trails for biking, hiking and running, as well as your favorite places to stop along the way. We narrowed it down to your top five trails.


Best scenic trail in Cedar Rapids

The Sac & Fox Trail

Crushed limestone; 7.1 miles 

This peaceful, shady gem, maintained by the City of Cedar Rapids, runs seven miles long Indian Creek and the Cedar River on the Southeast side. There is virtually no elevation change, you’ll enjoy gorgeous scenery along both waterways, and the crushed limestone makes it easy to navigate. It’s great for biking and hiking alike. Just use caution after high water, as this trail lies in the floodplain.

Favorite bike route: Start at the trailhead just off East Post Road SE where Indian Creek crosses under the road (there’s a frog sculpture at the trailhead that is adorned in seasonal clothing by a friendly neighborhood woman named Dee. You can also spot her picking up trash along East Post Road on the reg. Tell her thanks, if you see her). Ride the entire seven-mile length of the trail and head back. The fourteen-mile round trip is perfect for a Sunday afternoon ride with your family, or on a weekday evening. Keep an easy pace; the trail is also a pedestrian favorite.

Favorite pedestrian route: Park at the Sac & Fox trail lot across from Indian Creek Nature Center’s barn building on Otis Rd SE. Just down from the parking lot, you’ll cross Indian Creek. Take a right, and either walk along the creek portion of the trail as far as you’d like, or hang an immediate left onto Indian Creek Nature Center’s trail system - see below.


Best hiking trails in Cedar Rapids

Indian Creek Nature Center trail system

Four miles; mowed grass, wood chips, dirt

Indian Creek Nature Center offers roughly four miles of trails through wetlands, forests, tallgrass prairies and oak savannas on the organization’s 210 acres of land on the southeast side of Cedar Rapids. The hilly, wooded trails are particularly scenic. You’ll feel like you’re miles away from civilization, and it’s only a 10-minute drive from downtown.

This is the place to hike if you enjoy solitude and wildlife viewing. (You can peek into bluebird houses posted right along one of the prairie trails!) The terrain can be rugged, so bikes are not allowed, and strollers are not advised. Check out the full trail map before you go to plan your ideal route.

Make an experience out of it. Bike the Sac & Fox to the Nature Center trails, hike the rest of the way in, and visit the Nature Center’s Amazing Space building during open hours. Live honeybee and creek animal exhibits, as well as the visitor-favorite bird viewing room, make it worth your time.


Best long-distance/multi-purpose bike trail

Cedar Valley Nature Trail

51 miles (in Linn County); paved and crushed limestone

Looking for an all-day biking adventure? Hit the Cedar Valley Nature Trail at one of its many trailheads, including Center Point Road, Boyson Road, County Home Road, and Robins. This trail will take you through wooded areas and past farmlands and wetlands, with more sun than shade. It’s ideal for biking, hiking and running, and the paved parts, closer to town, are separated (marked with dotted lines) for safer riding.

The Cedar Valley Nature Trail is maintained by Linn County Conservation within the county, but if you’re feeling really ambitious, you can continue on this trail north all the way to Waterloo. There are plenty of amenities along the trail, including bathrooms, drinking water, and several campgrounds, so you truly can make an adventure out of it!


Best commuter trail with great stops

Cedar River Trail

Paved, 13 miles (north section 5.7 miles, south section 7.2 miles)

The great thing about most trails on this list is they connect to each other, so you can create your perfect route. The north section of the Cedar River Trail begins on Center Point Road in Hiawatha, where the Cedar Valley Nature Trail leaves off. It makes its way south along I-380, around Cedar Lake (you can choose to do the full 1.6 mile Cedar Lake Loop here, if you wish, and stop at the ever popular Sag Wagon Deli & Brew), and finally to the heart of downtown. Here, the south part of the Cedar River Trail begins and takes you through the New Bo district, to Sokol Park in Czech Village, and south along the Cedar River and C Street SW.

We heard from many people who like to take this trail downtown and enjoy a drink or take in some culture. “We love to jump on the Cedar River Trail and stop at Lucky’s [in Czech Village] for brunch on the weekend,” said Lesli Nesmith of Cedar Rapids. Other favorite stops include: Lion Bridge Brewing Company in Czech Village, right next to SOKO Outfitters; and Kickstand, a bar/restaurant dedicated to cyclists, just on the other side of the 16th Avenue bridge in New Bo.

The options for stopping along this trail are endless since it goes right through the heart of downtown, and it’s a favorite among commuters since you can easily travel north to south, and vice versa, through the entire city.


Hidden gem for trail runners and hikers

Morgan Creek County Park trails

Crushed limestone and mowed grass; 4 miles

“The trail around Morgan Creek Arboretum is a hidden gem. It’s quiet, clean and beautiful,” said Jennifer Biewen, a member of the local Corridor Running Club. Morgan Creek County Park lies on the far west side of town near the Stoney Point neighborhood, nestled around its namesake creek. It boasts an extensive system of all-purpose trails, including two miles of open prairie trails and two miles around the Arboretum and through the woods along the creek.

The best thing about Morgan Creek is that the trail is rarely busy. Even on the most picturesque evening, with perfect weather, you’ll see only a few other people strolling the trails, walking their dog, or jogging. Visit in the spring when the many crab apples and other flowering trees in the Arboretum are blooming, or in the fall when the maples are turning - it’s really something to take in.

If you have kids, this is a great place to bring the family for a hike and let the kids dip their toes in the creek, skip stones, and see butterflies in the pollinator garden.


Before you go 

Keep safety in mind when using trails. If you’re on a bike, be mindful of pedestrians! Proceed slowly around blind corners, and give the right-of-way to pedestrians. Also remember that bicyclists are responsible for following the same traffic laws as vehicles when using the roadway. Don’t give bicyclists a bad name: stop at the stop lights, use hand signals when turning or merging, and always use lights on both the front and back of your bike when it’s dark. And respect the PEDESTRIAN ZONE markings on downtown sidewalks.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of biking and hiking trails in the Cedar Rapids area. Visit Linn County Trails for an interactive, easy-to-use map of all Linn County bike trails. Linn County Conservation and the City of Cedar Rapids also offer extensive trail information on their websites.

 

by Steve Shriver

Popular Posts

Instagram

Follow Us

Newsletter