Did you know there is a big wooden playground right here in the Des Moines area! We discovered it a few summers ago by accident and have returned ever since, it is so unique and fun. Big Creek State Park has a swimming beach, a big playground, paved trails, and lots of boating options. It’s pretty big, and we actually spent over an hour looking for the trails last time we went, so keep reading for pictures of what to expect and where to look!
You can see more specific details on the Big Creek State Park page below or check out its location on the interactive map.
Every single time we drive here, via Google Maps, we wonder if we’re lost. You feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere! Coming from south of Polk City, you drive over a long bridge that is fun to look out over and then eventually bump into this small sign.
If you want to hit the trails (trail map linked on the official page above), pull in and follow the sign to the beach but then take the first parking lot on your left. The paved trail is right in front of the parking lot, paved, and goes off to the left. We walked it for maybe half a mile and picked up a ton of trash; there wasn’t anything super exciting along the path. A few shelters, a few benches.
We did find this cool tree, which was perfect for climbing.
And then, my husband called out that he had spotted some wildlife! My favorite part of hiking! Can you see it in that photo?
Up a little closer, here it is! A tiny little snake. I love finding critters. After watching it for a while, we headed back to the big playground.
There is a lot of parking across from the playground, it’s a bit of a walk to get over there.
On top of the wooden aspect, there are so many unique playground elements! That balance beam is tricky, I had trouble with it. As you can see in the top left photo, it could be easy to lose a kid in all the nooks and crannies.
There is a clear younger kid side of the playground, with a fence and everything. I wouldn’t trust it 100%, but it’s nice to have something of a barrier since you’re around water.
There is a smaller side, a few baby swings, and some other low elements.
My kids always love this tic tac toe game.
The “bigger kid” side has bigger slides and other fun spots.
You can see some big tires to climb on off to the right, tire swings, and big kid swings to the left. There are lots to do!
We’ve been to the beach in the past and will have to revisit once it’s warmer, but this playground is super fun and worth a trip. It is almost always colder there since the wind blows off the water, so be prepared!