Ada Hayden Heritage Park

Trail: Ada Hayden

Location: North of Ames on Highway 69

Surface: Asphalt

Terrain: Flat

Park Information


  • Opened to the public in 2004, this park is on land once used as a gravel quarry.  Today it is a place of beauty and remembrance of Ada Hayden. Born and raised in Ames, Ada’s family once owned the land that is now the park.  As a girl she played here and cultivated a love for plants.  She attended Iowa State University and was the first woman to earn a PhD. Ada also worked for the University as a professor, a researcher, and curator. She wrote many research papers and collected over 30,000 plant specimens for the herborium that now bears her name.

  • Parking is located on the north, and southwest corner of the park. Picnic and restroom areas are located on the north and southeast corners.

  • The bike trail is an asphalt figure 8 pattern traveling 3.2 miles.  There’s also an crushed stone upland trail winding through open prairie.  I chose to stay on the asphalt trail during my visit.

  • There are countless opportunities for fun; boating, picnicking, fishing, biking, walking, birdwatching, hiking and even geocaching.  

  • I circled the lake several times taking in the scenery of the lake and it’s surrounding marshes while my husband and son fished.


  • Ada Hayden is a great spot for kids to ride their bikes and get in touch with nature.  With so many ways to spend time together it’s a perfect park for family outings.

  • ISU alumni, nature lovers, and fans of Iowa history, will all cherish this park.  

  • This blog about Ada Haden Park is a great one to follow.  Beautiful photographs are posted of the park’s wildlife.  Photographers capturing the beauty of nature at the park can submit their pictures for posting.


  • Along the bike path there are nine concrete boulders serving as memorials to individuals who contributed conservation efforts in Iowa.

  • Kayakers were out on the lakes paddling the perimeter of the lake.

  • Three marshes surrounded by prairie grasses are on the west side of the lake.  They serve as filters for water coming into the lake area from neighboring farm and urban areas.  

  • The 50 foot deep, 130 acre lake serves Ames as a backup water source.

  • Lots of spots to sit for a spell surround the lake.  There are shaded picnic benches, and even porch swings suspended from pergolas.

  • It wasn’t a pile of rocks that I spied from the trail, but an inuksuk, created by artist Peter Irniq.  These were navigational tools used by Inuit people from Northern Canada.  An inuksuk would indicate great hunting and fishing spots or serve as a reference point along a trail.  

Wrap Up

It was a lot of fun pedaling around the lake and learning bits of history from the educational signs posted.  Next time I go back I’m going to combine some geocaching with my bike riding.  Ada Hayden was a gem herself, and so is the park dedicated in her honor.  

Happy Riding!