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Downtown DSM Outdoor Recreation & Trails


Whether it’s a morning run along the river or an evening spent riding the extensive bike trails that connect at Downtown Des Moines (DSM), it's easy to live an active lifestyle in the city. Explore Downtown DSM east to west and discover everything from a six-mile art route to hidden gardens in the heart of the city – every day is an adventure in Downtown DSM!

Western Gateway

Outdoor Rec DSM

Western Gateway is a 13-acre space located at the western entrance into Downtown DSM. Designated a "Frontline Park" by City Parks Alliance in 2017, the program identifies inspiring examples of urban park excellence, innovation and stewardship across the country. It incorporates a mix of green space and buildings as well as private and public spaces, including the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park, made up of 4.4 acres and home to 28 sculptures by some of the world's most celebrated artists. It was designed as an outdoor museum in the open air.

Pro Iowa Soccer Stadium and Global Plaza

The Pro Iowa Soccer Stadium and Global Plaza, a revitalization of the Dico Superfund site, will transform the area into a welcoming community space for sports, community gatherings and events, including the Pro Iowa Stadium and Global Plaza that is planned to host a USL Championship professional soccer team.

The Principal Riverwalk

Principal Riverwalk in Downtown Des Moines

The Principal Riverwalk is located in the heart of Downtown DSM. It features lighted, landscaped public spaces, world-class public art and unique pedestrian bridges and pathways that connect to 800 miles of trails. It is also home to the Rotary Riverwalk Park, a playground that includes a 65-foot long fishing pole with a 12-foot wide bobber at the end.

Other focal points of The Principal Riverwalk include Brenton Skating Plaza, Hansen Triangle Park, the Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge, the Lauridsen Skatepark and the Riverwalk Hub.

Featured Artwork

More downtown artwork can be found at dsmpublicartfoundation.org.

The Principal Riverwalk was a gift to the City of Des Moines in honor of the 125th anniversary of Principal, completed in early 2013. As hoped, the project has helped strengthen the heart of the city, unite the east and west sides of Downtown DSM and provide opportunities for outdoor recreation. It has also spurred additional development in the surrounding area, adding to a more vibrant Downtown DSM.


BCycle in Downtown Des Moines

DSM has an active cycling community. If you like to get around on two wheels, there are plentiful options to take advantage of your favorite mode of transportation in Downtown DSM. Check out the links below for more details!


DSM has plentiful trails, and Downtown DSM is no exception. Run, bike or walk through our connected city and enjoy the scenery of Downtown DSM. For more interactive trail information, try the Iowa By Trail app. The Central Iowa Trail Association updates trail conditions daily for Center Trails such as Greenwood/Ashworth Park, located on the western edge of Downtown DSM. There are more than 800 miles of connected walking, biking and running trails in the region, with Downtown DSM as the culminating point for many of these trails. Additionally, mountain biking and hiking trails are nearby as well.

Iowa Confluence Water Trails (ICON)

Iowa Confluence Water Trails (ICON) will connect 80+improvements across 150 miles of rivers and creeks in the DSM region, providing easy access for kayakers, anglers and campers, as well as bikers and hikers. The project will include multiple access points in Downtown DSM, including at the Center Street Dam along the Principal Riverwalk, at the Scott Avenue Dam at the Confluence of the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers, and at the Fleur Drive Dam near Gray’s Lake.

Additional Downtown Parks & Other Outdoor Recreation

Downtown DSM has several other nearby parks and outdoor spaces ideal for recreation, including:

  • Cowles Commons — located in the core of Downtown DSM, this area features a sprayground well-loved by families as well as a lighting display, outdoor seating and foliage
  • Gray’s Lake — featuring watercraft and bicycle rentals, boat ramp, beach, walking/biking path and playground
  • Water Works Park — a 1,500 acre open wooded space where patrons can enjoy walking, running, biking, hiking, fishing and picnicking
  • Riverview Park — located just outside of Downtown, this 43-acre park includes a unique playground, walking loop and lighting display
  • Birdland Park & Union — located just outside of Downtown, north of the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden and accessible via the trail system, this historic park includes marina access to the Des Moines River, playground and a 1930s wooden carousel, the Heritage Carousel
  • Riverwalk Dog Park — located just outside of Downtown, north of Interstate 235 and on the west side of the Des Moines River, this is an ideal location for residents and visitors to bring their furry friends for exercise
  • MacRae Park — located on the south side of Downtown DSM and across the Raccoon River, MacRae Park offers a walking/biking path, playscape with water feature, pond and the EMC Overlook, offering a beautiful, scenic view of the Downtown skyline

For more information about participating in athletic or sporting events in Downtown DSM such as Dam to DSM, the Des Moines Marathon and more, visit the Sports page.