Type: Nature Trail

Length: 26 miles

Surface: Paved

Sycamore Access North has been re-paved in 2010 and is smooth although some linear cracks are starting to appear in the center of the trail. Des Moines to Sycamore Access is rough is certain areas and scheduled for a re-pave 2014/2015.


Above Average

Grade - Rolling Mild Hills



Enjoy the natural scenic beauty of this 26 mile multipurpose trail that extends from Des Moines through the Saylorville Lake area to Big Creek State Park. Names after former U.S. Congressman Neal Smith from Iowa, the Neal Smith Trail is a designated National Recreational Trail that allows for year round outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, running, roller blading, snow shoeing, and cross country skiing.

In addition to the recreational opportunities, the trail showcases mature forest, rolling prairie, oak savannas, and panoramic views of Saylorville Lake.

PDF Map of Trail by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Thirteen miles of this trail are managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with the remaining miles managed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the City of Des Moines.

The trail that the City of Des Moines maintains is plowed when it snows. The rest of the trail is unplowed when there is snowfall.

This is one of BIKEIOWA's favorite trails to ride. We like the rolling hills, swoopy turns and great views.

 If the river is above 13 feet (flood stage) parts of the trail will be underwater. You can check the river height here:

Location - Where is this Trail?

The trail starts in Des Moines, and goes on the East end of Sayloville Lake to Big Creek State Park Central Iowa.


There are at least 13 trail heads offer trail access and have room for parking.

Sites & Attractions

Mature forest, rolling prairie, oak savannas, and panoramic views of Saylorville Lake

The Saylorville Lake Marina is a great place to stop for food & drink, or stop at the Caseys in Polk City or venture into Polk City for more eating and drinking establishments

Big Creek State Park offers a beach, and food & drink (in season only)

Des Moines offers all sorts of amenities from lodging to food & drink and night-life activities.

You can venture on-road East from Big Creek State Park approx. 3 miles to connect with the High Trestle Trail

History of the Trail

Future Plans

Planned Mileage: 0 miles -


The following members have contributed to the above Trail content.

This trail was last edited by thskadow on Apr 26, 2019.

Upcoming Events

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Past Events

Coolest Bike in Town Show

28 Sunday May 2023
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Expo/Sales/Swap
  •    730

HANDLEBAR Happy Hour - Fenders Brewing

25 Thursday May 2023
  • Polk City, IA
  • Destination
  •    564

Johnston Mayor's Annual Bike Ride

13 Saturday May 2023
  • Johnston, IA
  • Other
  •    263

HANDLEBAR Happy Hour - Triangle Tap

10 Wednesday May 2023
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Destination
  •    403

Captain Roy's Shiver On The River

18 Saturday Feb 2023
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Destination
  •    666

Southern Tier Cross Country Tour Program & Social Hour

17 Tuesday Jan 2023
  • Ankeny, IA
  • Other
  •    740

23rd Annual Turkey Day Ride

24 Thursday Nov 2022
  • Polk City, IA
  • Fat Bike
  •    846

Vinyl Bingo Wednesday with BIKEIOWA at Captain Roy's

16 Wednesday Nov 2022
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Destination
  •    998

Pork Chop Night @ the Triangle Tap

26 Wednesday Oct 2022
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Destination
  •    1,015

FFFing Ride

23 Sunday Oct 2022
  • Polk City, IA
  • Party Ride
  •    2,045

Pork Chop Night @ the Triangle Tap

19 Wednesday Oct 2022
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Destination
  •    1,456

FFFing Ride

16 Sunday Oct 2022
  • Ankeny, IA
  • Party Ride
  •    1,238

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READY. SET. BIKE IOWA! - a Fun Friday Word Search

  • bikeiowa
  • Fri March 24 2023
  •   621
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RAGBRAI L Pass-through towns announced

  • bikeiowa
  • Mon March 13 2023
  •   826
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The Torres Team with RE/MAX Concepts joins as a new BIKEIOWA Sponsor

  • bikeiowa
  • Wed November 9 2022
  •   853
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Remembering Neal Smith: Passing along a love of nature

  • Ryan Smith
  • Tue November 30 2021
  •   1,863
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2020 - BIKEIOWA Year In Review

  • bikeiowa
  • Sun December 20 2020
  •   5,061
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Small Business Saturday 2020 - SHOP LOCAL

  • bikeiowa
  • Fri November 27 2020
  •   5,146
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Trailside Tap joins as a Premier BIKEIOWA Sponsor

  • bikeiowa
  • Fri October 9 2020
  •   3,281
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Friday Fives Ep. 19 Sept 25th 2020

  • bikeiowa
  • Sun September 27 2020
  •   4,002
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RynoVelo joins as a new BIKEIOWA Sponsor

  • bikeiowa
  • Mon August 31 2020
  •   3,310
Review Features Image

FRIDAY FIVES - EP.14 - August 21st 2020

  • bikeiowa
  • Fri August 28 2020
  •   2,366

Edit Trail

Members of the BIKEIOWA Community can update Trail information. We figure that YOU may know more about the Trail than WE do.


Latest Neal Smith Trail News

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Iowa By Trail

As of approximately 7:15am this morning there was a fallen tree blocking the path between the I-35 underpass and Morningstar Drive access. The tree isn't big enough to keep most from climbing over with their bike, but too big to move off the path alone.

#1 - twodog posted Jul 19, 2016

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