Greater Des Moines Parks

Pack a picnic, lace up your tennis shoes and head out to our beautiful Greater Des Moines parks. Each one is unique and scenic in their own way; from beautiful landscapes to murals and interactive sculptures, experience the beauty of nature throughout the metro.  


Birdland Park 

This must-visit park is located on the city's north side, right along the Des Moines River. For hikers, bikers, and wildlife watchers, Birdland Park is the southern endpoint of the Neal Smith Trail following the Des Moines River to Saylorville Lake and then on to Big Creek State Park. This trail offers a marina with a beautiful lake view; it's also an excellent representation of the rolling prairie spreading out north of the city. 

Gray's Lake Park 

Walk, ride, or roll along the 1.9-mile trail encircling the lake. During the day, rent or bring your own canoe or sailboat and drift around Gray's Lake. You can also try stand up paddleboarding! At night, enjoy a leisurely walk on the illuminated bridge featuring hundreds of colorful panels to light your way as you take in the sparkling downtown Des Moines skyline.  

John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park 

Be inspired while taking a stroll through an iconic Greater Des Moines attraction in the heart of downtown. The Pappajohn Sculpture Park is a collaboration of the Pappajohn family, the City of Des Moines, the Des Moines Art Center, and numerous corporate and private donors. With 31 contemporary art pieces, it's the perfect place to enjoy a picnic, snap a few selfies or simply drink in the masterful works. 

Lake Ahquabi State Park

You can find Lake Ahquabi State Park just a few miles south of Indianola. The multi-use trails are a great way to get outdoors and take in central Iowa's picture-perfect scenery. The lake's bright blue waters attract plenty of anglers who enjoy a no-wake setting while fishing for bluegill and channel catfish. Lake Ahquabi also welcomes electric and non-electric campers on the lakeshore, so you can make a weekend trip out of this beautiful state park. 

Banner Lakes at Summerset State Park 

Known as some of the most challenging in the state, the narrow, wooded trails and technical areas at Banner Lakes deliver a good workout with intense climbs, sudden curves on old mine tailings, and enough surprises to keep you on your toes. This unique park provides excellent fishing for redear sunfish, channel catfish, and largemouth bass, among other species.  

Ledges State Park

With its intense sandstone cliffs and dense woodlands, Ledges State Park makes for an essential day trip or campsite in Madrid. Tackle Ledges on foot or by car and take advantage of many scenic areas for picnicking. Soak in nature's beauty as you navigate the well maintained but challenging paths. Feel rejuvenated by walking through the creek crossings and follow the stream. 

Jester Park 

One of central Iowa's favorite outdoor playgrounds since 1958, Jester Park's 1,675-acres on the western shore of Saylorville Lake offers 197 campsites, an equestrian center, golf course, cabins, elk and bison, eight miles of nature trails, playgrounds, and much more, in a quiet country setting just 30 minutes from downtown Des Moines.  

Raccoon River Park 

You'll never run out of things to do at Raccoon River Park in West Des Moines. Spacious and filled with wildlife, this park is known as the western community's "crown jewel." Featuring over 600 acres of land with a lake, swimming beach, boathouse, fishing pier, sports complexes, playground, and nature lodge. Bring the whole family, and we mean the WHOLE family. Let your pups run to their heart's content off-leash in Raccoon River's 10-acre dog park!  

Easter Lake Park 

The centerpiece of this beautiful park on the southside of Des Moines is its 172-acre lake, encircled by a 4.1-mile paved trail. Five picnic shelters and three children's playgrounds overlook Easter Lake, and during summer months, the whole family will enjoy the swimming beach. A boat ramp and accessible fishing pier provide access for anglers after walleye, bass, and catfish stocked by the Conservation Board each year.  

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