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

no events found

Past Events

Future of Biking in Johnston

22 Thursday Jul 2021
  • Johnston, IA
  • Safety/Education/Training
  •    159

Kyle's Bikes Big Ride Repair Event

17 Saturday Jul 2021
  • Ankeny, IA
  • Other
  •    120

Jersey Ride 3.0

10 Saturday Jul 2021
  • Polk City, IA
  • Party Ride
  •    485

Firetrucker Dan's Memorial Ride - Day 1

5 Saturday Jun 2021
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Trail Ride
  •    2,140

Ride To Break The Stigma

5 Saturday Jun 2021
  • Ankeny, IA
  • Party Ride
  •    1,239

2nd annual Bike to the Des Moines Renaissance Faire

14 Friday May 2021 - 16 Sunday May 2021
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Destination
  •    874

Down the Kuskokwim Film

30 Friday Apr 2021
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Other
  •    775

RAGBRAI Roadshow - Neal Smith Trail

17 Saturday Oct 2020
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Other
  •    1,387

Friends of Des Moines Parks Bike Ride

18 Friday Sep 2020
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Trail Ride
  •    842

Tour de Recho - Virtual

30 Sunday Aug 2020
  • Polk City, IA
  • Other
  •    1,415

Bike Neal Smith Trail to new location of Des Moines Renaissance Faire

7 Friday Aug 2020 - 9 Sunday Aug 2020
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Destination
  •    1,721

Bicycle Night - Pork Chop Dinner @ Triangle Tap

1 Wednesday Jul 2020
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Destination
  •    1,207

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2020 - BIKEIOWA Year In Review

  • bikeiowa
  • Sun December 20 2020
  •   1,893
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Small Business Saturday 2020 - SHOP LOCAL

  • bikeiowa
  • Fri November 27 2020
  •   2,120
Feature Features Image

Trailside Tap joins as a Premier BIKEIOWA Sponsor

  • bikeiowa
  • Fri October 9 2020
  •   1,529
Review Features Image

Friday Fives Ep. 19 Sept 25th 2020

  • bikeiowa
  • Sun September 27 2020
  •   1,774
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RynoVelo joins as a new BIKEIOWA Sponsor

  • bikeiowa
  • Mon August 31 2020
  •   1,442
Review Features Image

FRIDAY FIVES - EP.14 - August 21st 2020

  • bikeiowa
  • Fri August 28 2020
  •   985
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Tour de Recho - Disaster Relief and Virtual Ride

  • bikeiowa
  • Fri August 21 2020
  •   1,147
Review Features Image

FRIDAY FIVES - EP.1 - May 22 2020

  • bikeiowa
  • Sat May 30 2020
  •   831
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The Pig n Pedal joins as a Premier BIKEIOWA Sponsor

  • bikeiowa
  • Mon February 24 2020
  •   1,774
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Sponsor Spotlight - Enjoy your Ride with Fenders Brewing

  • bikeiowa
  • Tue June 18 2019
  •   3,413

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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