Hiking is an excellent way to stay healthy, both physically and mentally. Besides being great exercise, being outside in nature is a proven way to improve your mood. If you’re intimidated by the idea of hiking or aren’t in tip-top shape, don’t worry – Iowa has plenty of trails that are short enough for anyone to tackle. These trails are all five miles or under, and their difficulty level is low enough that even novices can enjoy them.
1. Boyson Park Trail, Marion
The Boyson Park Trail follows Indian Creek and Dry Creek in Marion. Start at Boyson Road and continue to Collins Road for a beautiful, tree-lined 3.4-mile hike. It connects several parks, so stop off at any of them for a nice rest or to play with the kids.
2. Central City-Wapsi Nature Trail, Central City
This paved trail in Central City follows the banks of the Wapsipinicon River. The two-mile hike connects downtown Central City to Pinicon Ridge Park.
3. Copper Creek Trail, Preston
This short .75-mile trail starts in Preston and heads northeast along Copper Creek. More seasoned hikers can hook up with the longer Jackson County Recreation Trail, but those looking for a shorter hike can stop and enjoy the gazebo at the spot where the two trails meet before turning around and heading back.
4. Inter Urban Trail, Des Moines
This trail runs along the abandoned tracks of the Urbandale streetcar line. Pass over the beautiful Wakonsa Bridge and enjoy the wooded Beaverdale Park on this 1.3-mile hike. The trail links up to the Neal Smith Trail and the Trestle to Trestle Trail, if you're inclined to continue your walk.
5. Pony Hollow Trail, Elkader
Start out at Elkader's City Park and walk the 4-mile round trip along the old Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad bed. The view is positively breathtaking.
6. Prairie Springs Recreational Trail, Cresco
This three-mile paved trail is simply beautiful, with views of farmland and peaceful woods.
7. Ringgold Trailway, Mount Ayr
This former railroad right-of-way was turned into a lovely short trail of just about two miles between Mount Ayr and Poe Hollow County Park. Visit the caboose at the western end of the trail for a fun taste of Iowa railroad history.
8. Rock Run Creek Trail & Bridge, Iowa Falls
This path runs a little more than five miles all-told, but it's an easy walk on a paved surface. The trail connects parks, schools, and businesses in the city.
9. Russel White Nature Trail, Lanesboro
This gorgeous unpaved trail is a great place for birdwatching. At just under four miles, the trail passes through wooded areas and over the Raccoon River on an old train trestle.
10. Trolley Trail, Waterloo
This short, scenic trail is the only leftover part of the Waterloo, Cedar Falls and Northern Railway passenger service which connected Waterloo and Cedar Falls. The gorgeous wooded trail is only about 1.4 miles long - short enough for even the complete beginner.
11. Western Historic Trails Center Link, Council Bluffs
After you visit this awesome educational attraction (highly recommended), take a nice little walk outside on the easy 1.9-mile paved trail. This short walk is actually a connection between Veterans Memorial Trail and the Iowa Riverfront Trail, but the link itself provides a fun stroll all on its own.
Even if you’ve never hiked before, you can get out and enjoy the great outdoors in Iowa on any one of these amazing but easy hikes. What’s your favorite short hike in Iowa? Let us know in the comments!