Explore Parks in Greater Des Moines

image of park overlooking DSM

With its robust trail system of 800+ miles of connected recreational thoroughfares ideal for walking, running and biking — Greater Des Moines (DSM) also boasts a strong network of parks, connected by the trails found throughout the region. 

The City of Des Moines’ Parks and Recreation system ranks in the top 25 of all park systems in the country and this spirit of excellence extends throughout the region, with various places to explore and amenities to enjoy in all corners of DSM.  

New Park Developments Around Des Moines

Among the newest parks (and among the coolest parks!) around DSM is Triumph Park in Waukee. A whopping 66-acres, the park includes a 15,000-square-food EPIC Inclusive Playground including features such as sensory play, STEM panels and mobility device access at various levels. Also on-grounds are 12 softball/baseball fields, an 11-acre pond with ADA-compliant fishing pier, greenspaces, trail access and the Greater Iowa Credit Union Miracle League® Field. This park is one you have to experience for yourself (the word EPIC comes to mind). 

MacRae Park in Des Moines is undergoing major renovations including a new fishing pier, boardwalk, trail and bridge, new playground and shelter area, water play, shelter and more. The improvements will complement the newly added EMC Overlook, which picture-perfect views of Downtown DSM.  

Greater Des Moines Parks with Water Play

people playing in a water park

Nestled beneath the skyline just outside of Downtown Des Moines is Gray’s Lake where you’ll find a nice sandy beach, swimming, watercraft rentals, mature trees for an afternoon hammock nap and access to the adjacent trail system leading to Downtown restaurants, shops, and more. Next to Gray’s Lake is Water Works Park, a 1,500-acre Des Moines Park including the newly added Reichardt Family Natural Play Area which sits adjacent to the Lauridsen Amphitheater. West Des Moines’ Raccoon River Park is an ideal spot for swimming, watercraft rentals, fishing, playground and ballfields — all surrounded by a 3.2 mile looping trail for walking, running and biking. 

Des Moines Parks with Splash Pads

American Legion Park in West Des Moines is a hidden gem, just a short walk from the Historic Valley Junction area. It includes traditional playground equipment as well as a sprayground area open during the summer months, plus a large picnic shelter, tennis fields, horseshoe, softball, basketball and a skatepark. Fox Creek Park in Waukee and Central Park in Grinnell make for more fun destination for kids and families to participate in splashpads. 

The City of Ankney also has three splashpads and a new facility is coming soon to Pleasant Hill. Altoona’s pool features a splashpad and you’ll find over 20 water play options in the City of Des Moines (in addition to five pools and aquatic centers). 

Nature Play Parks in Des Moines

children playing in a garden

Located outside of Carlisle, Scotch Ridge Nature Park has several natural play features including large boulders for jumping and climbing, a massive downed tree to explore, rope swings and checkers. 

Jester Park Natural Playscape draws kids and families all summer long, offering rocks and logs for active play and a water feature to explore. Also within the Park, you’ll find a robust trail system, elk and bison, camping, fishing and boating. 

Brenton Arboretum, just outside of Dallas Center, includes 140 acres of tree and shrub varieties. Photographers love this location for family photos in front of spring flowering trees, autumn colors and the weeping willow located near the front entrance. Families are drawn to the Arboretum for its trails and ponds, as well as the natural play area made up of boulders, trees stumps, tunnels and more. 

Dog Parks in Des Moines

Your furry, four-legged friends can have a ball at the region’s many dog parks. Several cities (including Des Moines, Ankeny, Windsor Heights and West Des Moines) operate dog parks under their Parks and Recreation departments. Paws & Pints is the place to gather with friends (human and four-legged) for drinks, food and pet camaraderie. (And it has both indoor and outdoor facilities, too!) 

More Parks Around the Des Moines Region 

image of Ankeny Miracle Park

Colby Park in Windsor Heights is located along the trail system connecting several western and northern suburbs to Downtown DSM. Colby Park is made up of the Windsor Heights Community Center, playground, pavilion, ballfields and Harmony Park — a series of outdoor musical instruments providing fun and multisensory experiences for children of all ages and abilities. 

Ankeny Miracle Park is an all-inclusive playground and is the largest playground in Ankeny at 14,000 square feet. Its play amenities are designed for youth with or without special needs, and for able-bodied participants to interact and play with friends of all kids.