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

Pint Night Ride - DSM - Iowa Bicycle Coalition

15 Thursday Aug 2024
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Party Ride
  •    399

Midwest Tandem Rally

30 Friday Aug 2024 - 2 Monday Sep 2024
  • Ankeny, IA
  • Trail Ride
  •    1,993

Embrace the Hills 2024

21 Saturday Sep 2024
  • Mondamin, IA
  • Road
  •    695

Inaugural High Raccoon Trail Grand Fondo

19 Saturday Oct 2024
  • Ankeny, IA
  • Trail Ride
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Past Events

FORE! Our Parks Golf Outing and Bike Ride

14 Friday Jun 2024
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Trail Ride
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Coolest Bike in Town Show

19 Sunday May 2024
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Expo/Sales/Swap
  •    540

2024 Des Moines Mayor's Annual Ride (MAR)

4 Saturday May 2024
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Trail Ride
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The Badness Continues! Fun Haters Ride!

4 Saturday May 2024
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Party Ride
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Shiver on The River

17 Saturday Feb 2024
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Party Ride
  •    1,211

Vinyl Bingo Wednesday with RAGBRAI at Captain Roy's

24 Wednesday Jan 2024
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Destination
  •    1,033

Vinyl Bingo Wednesday with BIKEIOWA at Captain Roy's

8 Wednesday Nov 2023
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Destination
  •    1,186


30 Saturday Sep 2023
  • Polk City, IA
  • Other
  •    1,420

Bike-in Movie Night: Breaking Away

21 Thursday Sep 2023
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Other
  •    1,538

Embrace the Hills 2023

16 Saturday Sep 2023
  • Mondamin, IA
  • Road
  •    5,982

Kyle's Bikes Parking Lot Sale 2023

14 Thursday Sep 2023 - 17 Sunday Sep 2023
  • Ankeny, IA
  • Expo/Sales/Swap
  •    1,332

Bicycle Poker Run

3 Sunday Sep 2023
  • Ankeny Des Moines and Slater, IA
  • Other
  •    1,348

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Tour de Recho - Disaster Relief and Virtual Ride

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FRIDAY FIVES - EP.1 - May 22 2020

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The Pig n Pedal joins as a Premier BIKEIOWA Sponsor

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Sponsor Spotlight - Enjoy your Ride with Fenders Brewing

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  • Tue June 18 2019
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12 Patios Worth the Pedaling

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  • Wed July 18 2018
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Lake Country Cyclists join as BIKEIOWA Sponsor

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  • Wed July 4 2018
  •   15,068
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Fenders Brewing joins as BIKEIOWA Sponsor

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  • Mon March 5 2018
  •   16,870

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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