Homer's Travels: Hiking Iowa: Wabash Trace Nature Trail - Silver City To Malvern

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Hiking Iowa: Wabash Trace Nature Trail - Silver City To Malvern

The Wabash Trace Nature Trail is another local rails-to-trails biking/hiking trail that stretches 62.3 miles from Council Bluffs, IA to Blanchard, IA, passing through six towns in between. I decided to pick a segment that would be close by and would offer me a challenge. The segment between the small town of Silver City (pop: 259) and Malvern (pop: 1,256), stretching eight miles, seemed to fit the bill.

Silver City is about an hour from Omaha. It is if you don't take a wrong turn on the way. Google Maps missed a whole segment in its directions which got me headed in the wrong direction. When I passed the Council Bluffs' Wabash Trace trailhead I knew I was on the wrong path. I stopped and pulled out a map and figured out my error and I made it to Silver City some 20 minutes later than I'd planned.

I parked near the labeled trailhead and, before starting, went cache hunting at the nearby restored 1911 Silver City Jail where I found "
The Big House". The jail is just a simple white box but the sign is kind of cool.

I fed the metal ranger and headed south-east. The trail crosses main street Silver City, passes behind a farm supply business (the smell on anhydrous ammonia was wafting in the morning air - nasty stuff), before leaving town. The trail parallels the gravel road for the first 1 and 1/3 miles before veering off through the farm fields. The trail is a one lane wide, crushed limestone path. A lot of the stone has washed away in some sections revealing the packed dirt underneath. I imagine it can't be easy to maintain a 62.3 mile trail on donations. Despite this, the trail is in excellent condition. Trees line the trail on both sides for most of the trail, branches from both sides arch inward to meet overhead. When the trees are leafed out parts of the trail would be like a long tunnel - a reason to revisit during the spring.

The trail was pretty quiet in the middle of the week - one guy letting his
dog relieve itself and a solitary biker. This doesn't mean there wasn't any sounds of civilization along the trail. The farmers were out in force harvesting and preparing their fields for winter.

I found three geocaches along the trace including "
Flat Tire", "Queen Anne's Corner", and "Train Wreck?".

The high point of this section in my opinion is the
Silver Creek Bridge. It is the largest bridge (and there are many) on this section, crosses Silver Creek, Silver City's namesake, and is about half way between the two towns. On the east bank of the creek are at least eight, probably more, old, rusty, half buried box cars. It looks like the aftermath of some decades old train wreck. In fact, according to one geocache description (Train Wreck?), the cars were dumped there to control erosion. Not as exciting as where my imagination took me. I will return to explore sometime - the little kid in me won't have it any other way.

Two miles from Malvern you begin seeing half mile markers, something the rest of this section lacked. At Malvern I decide to walk up to main street and look around. Malvern has a typical small town main street with a couple cafes, a grocery, a library (impressive size for the small town), a volunteer fire department, and a few little storefronts. Next to the library is an old log cabin built by one of the pioneers of the area. A plaque talked about Malvern being a stop on the underground railroad for slaves escaping from Missouri.

I decided not to stop for lunch. This probably wasn't the smartest thing. Instead I went into the grocery and bought a diet Code Red (caffeine) and a Milky Way Bar (sugar, carbs, and fat) and sat on a bench on the street corner and watched the traffic go by while I rested and consumed junk food.

On the way back I spooked some pheasant, chased some cardinals, and ran across a
group of deer grazing along the trail.

The return was a little bit tough on the legs and feet. This trail, unlike last week's
Oak Creek Trail has several benches along it but they were spaced out at weird intervals and the last four miles don't have any. Along the way back I downed two bottle of water and two snack bars.

At about the eleven mile mark my left knee started hurting. I've had surgery on both my knees and lately I've found my left knee to be a little cranky when I get past the eight mile point or so. I hope this will go away with more use and not get worse. The pain, while quite sharp and wince-inducing, comes and goes and rarely lasts very long.

The hike turned out to be a little longer than I expected: 17.4 miles. This is a personal best, a full 2.1 miles longer than my last record on the way to
Topa Topa Ridge. That hike had over 4,500 ft of vertical, this one only 331 ft. I liked this section of the Wabash Trace. Can't wait for my next, shorter, section.
Photographs are here.


  1. HD - you and GH find great places to hike. Those were really good pics - and nice rack ... on the deer!!

  2. Okay, I guess I'll have to add biking some of these traces to my life list...

  3. Dobegil: LOL! I'm sure there is good hiking in your area as well.

    GH: I wonder if there are any rails-to-trails trails in California?

  4. Excellent read. I just moved to Malvern and started running on the trail. My goal was to run from Malvern to Silver City before the end of the summer. I wasn't sure how far the run would be and this is the only resource I have been able to find that actually gave the mileage. I am interested in seeing the train wreck. Once I start my run I don't stop until I meet my goal, is the wreckage more visible going from Silver City to Malvern or from Malvern to Silver City? Either way I will have to have my wife either drop me off or pick me up so the route doesn't matter to me.


    1. Anon: Thanks for visiting Homer's Travels. I'm glad you found my posts helpful.

      The train cars can be seen rom the large bridge that crosses the Silver Creek. They are visible no matter which direction you are going. Here is a map of the location: https://goo.gl/maps/UDzcU

      Hope you find this useful too.