There’s a hidden gem I hesitate telling you about because I love it so much: the Rock Island Stone Arch Nature Trail in Shelby!
The Stone Arch Trail is 4 miles long and actually runs from the interstate where the giant cornstalk is located, all the way through Shelby (and through their park), and out into the country in a beautiful area of farmland. It is an old railroad bed and tracks still run parallel in some parts of the trail. It’s truly spectacular!
And it’s like the best kept secret!
Why do I love it so much? Lots of reasons, but one is that it’s mostly flat which is really nice when you have a kid with training wheels and you’re old like me! Did I mention that almost all of it is paved? Oh, yeah, that’s nice, too! Also, it has a ridiculous amount of shady areas which are a dream come true when it gets hot and humid outside as it always does in Iowa! At one point, I thought I was in a scene straight out of “Dirty Dancing” – it was shady, deep green and woodsy, and a tree branch was crossing the brook that runs literally right by your side for part of the trek! My other reason: it’s picturesque.
It’s peaceful and yet there’s plenty to see. You can find bird houses scattered throughout the trail, and they are especially to attract purple martins. So if you are a bird-watcher, this place is your haven! This time of year, trees are blooming and berries are starting to grow. There’s just so much to notice! Also, the brook babbles nearby and runs along your course for a good portion of the trail. It really works all your senses. Plus, the Rock Island train car and depot (with restrooms that in non-COVID-times would be open) can be spotted along the trail (Littles love it!). And then there’s the architecture of the old Stone Arch Bridge: it’s gorgeous (you just have to go under the trail to find it!) and the viaduct is actually listed on the National Register of Historic Places! (Get that homeschooling history lesson in, too!)
Normally, I’d tell you that the kids should check out the A-MAZ-ING play area, too, but obviously, that’s not an option currently, but the park is fabulous with a ridiculous amount of kids play equipment in a tree-covered area!
The City of Shelby obviously takes pride in their trail, and they should! They've done a rockstar job of preserving it! It’s well-maintained and has benches for resting or simply taking it all in.
In a hard time like COVID-19, it’s a great place to get away and forget your worries for awhile. It’s that stay-cation escape! Be sure to check it out!