Conveniently located on Interstate 80, right in the heart of Iowa’s Creative Corridor, Coralville is an easy and beautiful hub from which to launch an Eastern Iowa adventure. But don’t hurry out of town for that side trip just yet! Iowa City’s western neighbor has its own worthwhile attractions, including an impressive and ever-expanding system of trails connecting the beautiful, wooded Clear Creek Trail with the new Iowa River Landing.
Start your walk at the newly opened Tom Harkin Trailhead where the trail crosses Camp Cardinal Boulevard. This new facility offers parking, restrooms, a picnic area, and access to Clear Creek for non-motorized watercraft.
Follow the trail through the suburban forests and wetlands to its first intersection and check the handy signpost map. For a quick visit to Downtown Coralville, take a left and follow the trail to 12th Avenue and 2nd Street (Highway 6). To continue toward the Iowa River, follow the trail to the right and back into the trees.
When the trail emerges into a field of tall prairie grass, leave the wide path and follow the small trail to the left into Mormon Handcart Park. The narrow path winds through this nature preserve and historic site set aside in memory of the Mormon pioneers who camped here on their journey west. Signboards throughout the park tell the story of the hardships and dangers of the trip, made by handcart rather than covered wagon.
Upon exiting Mormon Handcart Park, a quick left on Hawkeye Court leads to the connection with the Iowa River trail. Explore more wetlands and follow signs for the trail as you enter the city once again, all the way to the confluence of Clear Creek and the wide Iowa River.
Coming around the bend, you can’t miss the dam at the Iowa River Power Restaurant. Stop for a rest at this Coralville classic before continuing—first walking across the dam itself for a stunning view of the rushing waters—following Iowa River upstream to your final destination.
The trail enters Edgewater Park—with trailside restroom facilities—and continues to the Iowa River Landing Wetland Park. Here, visitors have the rare opportunity to experience this important habitat without the need for waders. Grated walkways crisscross this small wetland preserve, allowing intimate looks at the plant and animal life here, and information boards identify the most important functions and species of the wetlands.
Finish your Coralville trail exploration with a well-deserved refreshment at the Iowa River Landing. Since the devastating floods of 2008, this area has been rebuilt and revitalized. A number of food and entertainment options await you here, including Backpocket Brewing, a new brewpub with an impressive menu of local beers.
Coralville offers much more than just suburban hiking, but an exploration of this well-maintained trail system is a great start—especially on a cool Iowa autumn day.
Cory Hanson grew up in Dubuque and lived in Coralville for six years before becoming a travel writer and moving to Dublin, Ireland. His writing has appeared in various print and Web publications. Find his free eBook, The Frugal Guide: Dublin and more travel writing on his website.