Best Places to see Fall Leaves in Des Moines

Places to see fall leaves around Des Moines, Iowa -- tips for fall foliage in Central Iowa!

The leaves are starting to turn so I thought I’d share a list of my favorite places to see fall foliage around the Des Moines area! Several of these have observation towers or taller trails where you can see for miles, and all of them have pretty trees with lots of colors. If you’re really feeling the fall mood, you can also check out 11 places to pick pumpkins around Iowa.

Traditionally, the best time for fall colors in central Iowa is the first through third weeks of October – you can see more about fall color forecasting and information about different tree leaves on the Iowa DNR website. Please let me know if I’ve missed any of your favorite spots! I will be exploring lots of these and adding pretty fall pictures, but I’ve found the closest I could on Instagram for each location.

Listed in alphabetical order; let me know if I missed any of your favorites and I’ll add them!

Annett Nature Center – Indianola

Footing: Grass

Special notes: Two observation towers to climb and see the trees from.

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Ashworth Trails – Des Moines

Footing: Dirt and paved options.

Special Notes: The main trail goes near a train track, if you follow it far enough (guessing about 2 miles?) you’ll pass a horse farm that is fun to look at. The dirt trails are very popular with bikers. Playground and cool pond with a dugout and observation tower nearby.

Brenton Arboretum – Dallas Center

Footing: Grass

Special Notes: The natural playscape makes this an extra fun trip!

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Easter Lake – Des Moines

Footing: Paved and dirt

Special Notes: Easter Lake is still drained, but the trails are still accessible. Playgrounds nearby. Covered bridge.

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Jester Park – Granger

Footing: Dirt

Special Notes: The natural playscape is always fun.

Kuehn Conservation Area – Earlham

Footing: Gravel, dirt, grass

Special Notes: A great mix of forest and prairie to see fall foliage from.

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Lake Ahquabi – Indianola

Footing: Dirt/grass

Special Notes: Playground available.

Ledges – Boone

Footing: Rock, dirt.

Special Notes: The road is still closed, you can see here for notes on parking/walking options. Pictured above is the Lost Lake Trail, that is great for seeing trees and unaffected by the road closure.


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Greenbelt Park – Clive

Footing: Paved

Special Notes: Playground nearby.

Pammel Park – Winterset

Footing: Grass/dirt

Special Notes: The backbone trail is especially pretty for seeing fall colors. Playgrounds available.

Southwoods Park – West Des Moines

Footing: Paved trail and dirt trail

Special Notes: The paved path is a nice length for toddlers, the dirt path is steeper and goes deeper into the woods.

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Sycamore Trail – Des Moines

Footing: Dirt and paved, on opposite sides of the river.

Special Notes: Trailhead can be tricky to find, be sure to look at the maps linked above.

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Thomas Mitchell Park – Mitchellville

Footing: Grass/dirt.

Special Notes: Playground nearby.

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City Park – Winterset

Footing: Paved road that you can hike up to the tower, dirt trail down from the tower if you drive up.

Special Notes: Neat stone tower to climb and look out. The road to drive up does close once it gets icy. Playground and hedge maze, covered bridge.

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Yellow Banks Park – Pleasant Hill

Footing: Grass/dirt

Special Notes: Playground nearby.

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Zo El Annett Woods – Prole

Footing: Dirt

Special Notes: Nice loop trail with a fun bridge.

If you’re looking for a road trip, readers also suggested Backbone State Park (roughly 3 hours away), Wild Cat Den State Park (roughly 2.5 hours away), or the Loess Hills (roughly 2.5 hours away).

Places to see fall leaves around Des Moines, Iowa -- tips for fall foliage in Central Iowa!

This Post Has One Comment

  1. […] Walnut Woods State Park is a gem, and one of our favorite parks when my kids were younger. There are several trails, but we like this one so much we haven’t ever explored further! This is a loop-ish trail; the trail itself is a U and then it’s an easy walk through the open grass to get back to the beginning. My kids love this trail because the way we hike it, there is a playground at the end! It makes for a great motivator. It’s also a great place to see fall leaves, earning it a spot on this list! […]

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