Trails & Viewing Areas

Rail Trail

All of Ankeny's trails, boardwalks, and kiosks provide family-friendly wildlife viewing areas. The refuge has few hills, so all trails have very little elevation-gain, offering easy walks without losing any of the nature-experience opportunities. Need help navigating? Print your own trail map or pick up one of the yellow trail description brochures when you arrive on the refuge.

Viewing Areas & Kiosks

Ankeny Overlook

Open: Year Round

The Ankeny Overlook is located on the south side of Ankeny Hill Road and is a great place to get a view of the entire refuge. Take a look at the different marshes, agricultural fields, and wetlands before you. Look for geese browsing the fields and hawks hunting for their next meals. Interpretive signs at the Overlook provide information about the refuge and the types of animals you might see here. Public restrooms are located at the Ankeny Overlook

Eagle Marsh Kiosk

Open: Year Round

Located on the south side of Buena Vista Road, the kiosk looks out onto Eagle Marsh--the largest marsh on the refuge. This permanent wetland provides year-round viewing opportunities and is a popular stop-over location for migrating shorebirds and waterfowl. Canada geese, American white pelicans, American bittern, and northern pintail are a few species you might see. Shorebirds like to spend their time feeding along the edges of the marsh and bald eagles are often seen soaring above. This is a great stop for families and the kiosk is handicap accessible. In the summer-time, cliff swallows often use the kiosk roof to build their nests, so stop by in July to see squawking fledglings harassing their parents! Interpretive signs describe seasonal variations on the marsh, and how the refuge provides sanctuary for wintering waterfowl.


Trails & Boardwalks

The Dike Trails

Length: Variable      Open: April 1st-September 30th

Seasonally accessible dikes weave around most ponds and marshes on the refuge. Take a stroll down one of these paths for a closer look at activity on the water. See the refuge map for trail locations.

Rail Trail Boardwalk to Observation Blind

Length: .75 mile      Open: Year Round

The start of Rail Trail is at a parking lot on the south side of Wintel Road. Interpretive signs at the trailhead provide information about the refuge. From the Rail Trail parking lot, follow the gravel trail to the boardwalk. The boardwalk will take you through seasonally flooded ash woodlands. Stop at benches and interpretive panels along the way to look for downy woodpeckers pecking away at the branches or listen for black-capped chickadees in the shrubs. At the viewing blind, make sure to stop for a look at Wood Duck Pond where hooded mergansers, egrets, and Canada geese are often seen. From here, you can return the way you came, or continue a short way down the boardwalk as it wraps around Wood Duck Pond to a dike where the loop portions of the trail begin.

Rail Trail, Woodland Loop & Prairie Extension

Length: .5 to 1 mile     Open: April 1st-September 30th

From the end of the boardwalk, follow the trail across the dike and into an oak woodland habitat. An excellent summertime trail, the Woodland Loop is shaded under the forest canopy and provides opportunities to listen for songbirds in the branches above. After hiking about a quarter mile you come out of the forest onto a dike. Here you can complete the Loop by following the dike back to the boardwalk junction, or turn left for the Prairie Extension. This mown trail wraps around an open prairie for a half mile and back to the Rail Trail parking lot. This is a great spot to look for raptors such as northern harrier hunting over the fields. 

Rail Trail, Dunlin Pond & South Pond Loops, Killdeer Marsh Extension

Length: Variable     Open: April 1st-September 30th

From the end of the Rail Trail Boardwalk, follow the dike around Dunlin Pond. Look for great blue herons and great egret hunting in the waters, or shorebirds feeding along the pond-edges on the mudflats. The three-quarter-mile Dunlin Pond Loop will connect you to the start of the boardwalk on Rail Trail. The half mile South Pond Loop leaves Dunlin Pond Trail to extend viewing opportunities of the ponds and marshlands around the Rail Trail riparian area. Marsh wrens and dragonflies may be seen zipping through the cattails on the pond banks. To give yourself an extra 0.45 mile of wetland trails, follow the Killdeer Marsh Extension and listen for red-winged blackbirds singing near the water. These trails are best in the early morning or evening due to lack of shade.

Pintail & Egret Marsh Boardwalk

Length: .25 mile        Open: Year Round

Pintail & Egret Marsh Boardwalk begins at a parking area on the north side of Wintel Road. An interpretive sign at the trailhead describes the Marshes. The boardwalk follows Bashaw Creek where red-legged frogs are often seen. Make sure to pause along the way to look for animal tracks in the muddy banks, listen for songbirds, and read interpretive signs to learn more about the different residents of this habitat. The boardwalk ends at an observation blind overlook Pintail and Egret Marshes. If you are quiet, you might be rewarded with spotting an osprey soaring overhead. Flocks of waterfowl frequent these marshes, so keep a lookout for various duck species as well as tundra swans and Canada geese.