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Find Beauty + Joy During Iowa’s Winters Through Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing in Greater Des Moines (DSM), Iowa

February 13, 2024

It’s the middle of February, and I know what we are all thinking — “how much longer until Spring?” Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early end to winter, and the above average warm temperatures are teasing us with the belief that warm summer air and fresh green grass are right around the corner. But we all know it’s Iowa, in the middle of winter, and the odds of experiencing another temperature swing are high.

I started writing this blog post back in January when we were buried in 12 inches of snowfall and experiencing severely cold temperatures. It’s crazy to think how drastically different the weather has changed in a few short weeks. We all know Iowa winters can be brutally cold and seem to drag on for months. If you’re anything like me, less sunlight and shorter days in the winter places a burden on my mental health and overall energy levels. Oftentimes, this leaves me wishing the winter season away and questioning why I choose to live in Greater Des Moines (DSM) and not somewhere warmer. Despite the frigid temperatures, I have learned to find beauty and joy in the Iowa winter through outdoor activity — in particular, snowshoeing. Des Moines has some incredible trails and equipment resources to help you get started!

What Is Snowshoeing?

For those who may not be familiar, snowshoeing is simply walking through snow. Except you can imagine that walking with just your boots through deep snow would be challenging and leave you with very cold/wet feet. Snowshoeing, on the other hand, is walking through snow with paddle-like footwear that helps distribute your body weight across the ground, allowing you to walk through deep snow. The historical snowshoe took a variety of shapes and sizes, but many think of an oval wooden frame enlaced with leather lattice taking a similar shape to a tennis racket. Though those would still be quite effective, snowshoes today have evolved to be much lighter and designed to better maneuver any snowy terrain. The size of a snowshoe can depend on your weight, type of snow terrain and shoe size.


Where to Rent Equipment in Greater Des Moines

Snowshoeing is a great activity for all ages and abilities. The only equipment you need are the shoes themselves (although some prefer to have trekking poles for assistance) making it one of the least expensive winter activities. DSM has multiple options available for snowshoe rentals that I encourage you to take advantage of.

  • Jester Park Outdoor Recreation and Wellness Center
    Located at 12112 NW 128th St., Granger, IA 50109
    (515) 323-5339
    Online reservations are available and encouraged for snowshoes. See the Center’s hours and rental information here.
  • Active Endeavors
    Located at 4520 University Ave., West Des Moines, IA 50266.
    (515) 226-9345
    Snowshoeing rental information can be found here.
  • Captain Roy’s
    Located at 1900 Saylor Road, Des Moines, IA 50313
    (515) 631-2223
  • Des Moines Parks and Recreation
    Located at the Richard A Clark Municipal Service Center, 1551 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, Des Moines, IA 50317
    (515) 248-6369
    Visit dsm.city for more information

Greater Des Moines Snowshoeing Locations

DSM has beautiful trails perfect for snowshoeing. Polk County Conservation recommends the following trails to give snowshoeing a try:

  • Brown’s Woods: The front and back loop located in West Des Moines has more than four miles of trails to explore.
  • Yellow Banks Park: Savanna Trail is located southeast of Des Moines near Pleasant Hill. The half-mile loop takes you past rare Savanna oak trees.
  • Easter Lake Park: Wymore Trail is 1.2 miles near Easter Lake south of Des Moines.
  • Fort Des Moines Park: Nature Trail is located south of Des Moines near the Blank Park Zoo. The trail is a 1.9-mile loop.
  • Jester Park*: Try out Hickory Ridge Trail, a 1.2-mile out-and-back trail near Granger.

*Important note: always avoid snowshoeing on groomed cross-country ski trails. These can be found at Jester Park

In addition, the parks listed above have many more trails open to explore! You can even join the Des Moines Nordic Club group on Facebook to find out which trails to check out in DSM and connect with fellow snowshoe enthusiasts.

Snowshoeing allows you to explore nature in a new way you may never have considered. This outdoor activity is budget friendly, perfect for many ages and an excellent way to experience the regional trails. It’s a great physical activity that has the power to boost your mental health during the long Iowa winters. We may not have any snow on the ground so far this February, but I encourage you to try something new the next time we see snow. Strap on some snowshoes and find a new trail. Des Moines is beautiful in all four of our seasons, and snowshoeing is just another way to enjoy it.

Whether it’s a morning on the lake or an evening spent exploring Greater Des Moines’ (DSM’s) 800 miles of connected recreational trails, the region has many outdoor options. Don’t miss seeing the High Trestle Bridge, Terra Park or Principal Riverwalk — with attractions like Lauridsen Skatepark or the Robert D. Ray Asian Garden — all along walkways throughout the region.

With the #7 Lowest Cost of Living in the U.S. and a Top Metro for Number of Economic Development Projects (among metros with a population of 200,000 to 1 million), Greater Des Moines (DSM) is a region where you can have it all. Learn more about what it’s like to live here.

Erica Schulz

Erica Schulz is an Iowa native that grew up in Gowrie, Iowa. She is currently a Fellow with the 2023 cohort of the DSM Fellowship Program. She attended Wartburg College and is an employee of Nationwide Insurance. She has lived in the Des Moines region for the past four years.