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Here's the Top Winter Things to Do in DSM USA

Winter Activities in DSM

February 9, 2018

There’s an old saying that goes, “there’s no such thing as bad weather — just bad clothing.” Grab the long johns and stocking caps, and enjoy everything Iowa’s outdoors has to offer in the winter. After all, with so many opportunities in Greater Des Moines (DSM), the nearest hot chocolate shop can’t be too far away for a quick warm up.

Blaze a trail

Swing by Walnut Woods State Park on the southwest side of West Des Moines for a quick hike. Keep your eyes open for wildlife and their tracks, as bare trees and bright white snow help critters stand out. Warm up with cider and s’mores around a campfire in one of the park’s picnic areas. Thinking about a bigger shindig? The historic lodge is available for rental.

Hit the ice

Come out to Lake Petocka in Bondurant or Banner Lakes at Summerset State Park near Carlisle for a chance to catch trout through the ice! The DNR’s urban trout stocking program brings trout to areas that can’t support them in warmer months, giving you a unique and kid- friendly fishing opportunity close to home. Just be sure to bring a fishing license with a trout privilege.

Really rough it

Yes, winter camping is a thing! Set up your tent and well-rated sleeping bag in the Walnut Woods campground for a serene, rustic experience (water is turned off in the park until spring, but there is a portable restroom). First, get prepped with tips on winter camping from Iowa Outdoors magazine.

Winter is for the birds

Winter is for the BirdsWhich means it’s incredible for watching eagles, swans, owls and more. Stop by any of the dams along the Des Moines River in Downtown DSM to watch bald eagles swooping in to grab lunch or swing by Maffitt Reservoir to see incredible numbers of North America’s largest waterfowl, the trumpeter swan. Head over to watch cardinals and other songbirds at Walnut Woods’ covered bird blind, perfect for budding to expert wildlife photographers. Head out after dusk along wooded trails to call for owls — one of the easiest is the barred owl, which sounds like it’s saying “who cooks for you, who cooks for y’all.”

Winter Adventures DSMUltimate winter adventures

Head north to Big Creek State Park near Polk City to take in some invigorating disc golf, or put in a few miles on the groomed cross-country trails. There are plenty of other trails for hiking and fat biking, and you can try your hand at ice fishing on the lake, too. Just be sure to follow these ice safety guidelines.

Rack up the fun

In late winter, Iowa’s whitetail deer begin shedding their antlers – which means it’s the perfect time to go hunting for shed antlers. The best places to look for deer sheds are where deer feed, along their trails, and where they bed down. Look in one of the local state parks, but keep in mind you need permission from the landowner to look on private land. There are no special permits needed to search for or keep shed antlers.

Take your best shot

The Butch Olofson Shooting Range near Polk City recently reopened after a complete renovation with a new building, classroom, archery ranges, trap and skeet shooting, and more. Head out to sharpen your skills or sign up for a class to learn the basics.

Share your adventureShare your adventure

Be sure to share your winter adventures with The Partnership and Iowa Department of Natural Resources on social media by tagging @dsmpartnership and @iowadnr or using the hashtags #DSMUSA, #IowaDNR and IowaStateParks and — we may regram your photo!

From entertainment and attractions to nightlife, sports and shopping, Greater Des Moines (DSM) has plenty of opportunities to have fun. Take a look at an array of attractions and events happening in the region and in Downtown Des Moines (DSM).

Jessie Brown

Jessie Brown is social media manager for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, where she broadcasts live from ice fishing shacks and recycling centers. A University of Iowa grad from Cedar Falls, she serves as Co-Executive Director of Social Media Club Des Moines and has called Greater Des Moines (DSM) home for 15 years.