Iowa Trails :: Shell Rock River Greenbelt

I have decided to start a short little series on trail running in Iowa. I have already talked about Lime Creek Nature Preserve in a few previous posts, but there are other places to run trails in North Iowa, so I’d like to explore them a bit.

First on my list is the Shell Rock River Greenbelt!

According to, the Greenbelt is a 7.5 mile “drive, walk, canoe float, or bicycle or horseback ride along the limestone bluffs on the Shellrock River”. That actually describes it pretty well – the path from Nora Springs to Wilkinson Pioneer Park in Rock Falls basically follows the river with a one-lane gravel path through woods and over a few gravel roads. Elevation changes are minimal and the trail is not very technical – nothing to trip over but your own feet and a few easily avoided potholes.

The trail is an out and back type of trail, only giving you the ability to run east or west – wherever you go, you’ll have to turn around or hitch a ride to back. I’m not generally a fan of those types of trails, I like to be spontaneous and explore, but I did literally no research before running it. All I did was see a sign telling me where the trail head was in Nora Springs and decided to run it.

I really felt like I was running on a path with no other signs of civilization, save for a few houses and fences, until I get to Wilkinson Pioneer Park when you come across a few paths mowed into a few small sections of prairie grass and this cool covered bridge:


photo credit


Suddenly, at the end of the trail, I was among campers and a few trucks with inner tubes on the back to float down the lazy Shell Rock River. There are a few wonderful spots to sit and look out on the river – the little offshoot trails are not marked but are easily seen if you have your eyes open. One place, in particular, was really nice – it was a piece of bare limestone that met the river with a sheer rock face, maybe 2 meters (6 or 7 feet) above the water. The river, there, is very clear and I was partially mesmerized by the water moving the submerged greenery around. After a few minutes of enjoying this view I got up and saw a cigarette butts around, so I know that I’m not the only person to discover this nice vantage point.

My overall opinion of the greenbelt is that it is a nice little out-and-back trail. I imagine, in the autumn, it’s a nice little run or drive. However, I wouldn’t necessarily drive too far to run it. If you live in the area, though, it might be a nice place to check out!

3 Comments on “Iowa Trails :: Shell Rock River Greenbelt

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