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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 Park

Outdoor Rec DSM

Western Gateway Park is a 13-acre space located at the western entrance into Downtown DSM. It incorporates a mix of green space and buildings as well as private and public spaces, including:

  • The John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park — 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. 
  • The Des Moines Central Library — Designed in 2006 with an unconventional building shape by renowned British architect, David Chipperfield. The Library was architecturally designed to serve as a link between the park and Downtown DSM, and includes Des Moines' first green roof.
  • The University of Iowa John and Mary Pappajohn Education Center — Developed/built for continuing education geared toward the Downtown DSM business community. A water runnel spans across a block and a half of the Education Center and Library.
  • The Temple for Performing Arts — A Masonic Temple built in 1913 that was renovated by private owners and now houses a theater, offices, restaurants, the Des Moines Symphony Academy and a Starbucks.

The Park is an exemplary collaboration between the public and private sectors, including partners such as the City of Des Moines, John and Mary Pappajohn and other private donors, the Des Moines Art Center, Operation Downtown, private redevelopment and the Downtown DSM business community.

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 and The Riverwalk Hub.

Featured Artwork

The project was a gift to the City of Des Moines in honor of the 125th anniversary of Principal. The Principal Riverwalk was 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.