Saylorville Lake


Saylorville Lake Trails

Trails are an integral part of our natural environment that provides meaningful and satisfying outdoor experiences for the public.  Trails have the power to provide countless environmental, health, economic, and community benefits in which many overlook. Saylorville Lake strives to manage readily accessible trails throughout a diverse landscape to provide the building blocks to a better life.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers play a large role in managing two featured National Recreation Trails.  The Neal Smith Trail and Des Moines River Water Trail allow the public enjoy the outdoors by land or water. 

The Neal Smith Trail is a 26 mile multipurpose trail that extends from Des Moines through the Saylorville Lake area to Big Creek State Park.  Named after former U.S. Congressman Neal Smith from Iowa, the Neal Smith Trail allows for year round outdoor activities including hiking, biking, running, rollerblading, 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.  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 Des Moines River Water Trail is a 20 mile state designated water trail that provides an opportunity to connect a diverse group of both rural and urban trail users.  This unique trail not only promotes a critical healthy community, but it also connects outdoor enthusiasts with rich cultural tradition.  The water trail exhibits tremendous bird and wildlife viewing opportunities for boaters and paddlers alike.  The Des Moines River Water Trail runs through the Saylorville Lake area and features several accesses to recreational areas, campgrounds, and cities and towns. 

Trail Etiquette

Remember the Rules, Remember the Fun!

Enjoying the trail is fun, healthy, and a great family activity.  Before you set off on your journey remember to:


  • Check bike brakes, tires, etc. before riding
  • All ages should wear a helmet
  • All users should use lights and reflectors after dusk and before dawn
  • Ride at proper speed for current conditions
  • Know your surroundings and always watch and listen for others


  • Travel on the right side of the trail and pass on the left*
  • Wheel yield to heel – Those traveling at higher speeds should yield to slower travelers
  • Slow down when passing other and warn them with a bell or by calling out “On your left!”
  • Move off the trail when stopped
  • “Leave No Trace” – Leave only footprints, take only pictures


  • Bikers must obey stop signs
  • Motorized vehicles are prohibited on the trail
  • Alcohol, drugs, firearms and explosives are prohibited
  • Pets must be on a leash under six feet long at all times
  • No littering allowed (this includes pet waste)