Hiking Sycamore Trail in Des Moines, Iowa

It took some extra work to finally find Sycamore Trail when I was working on the Polk County geocache challenge last summer, but it ended up being one of my favorites! I think this might have been the most wildlife-filled hike I’ve ever taken, which is one of my favorite parts about being outdoors.

You can see more specific details on the Sycamore Trail page below or check out its location on the interactive map.

Sycamore Trail – Des Moines, Iowa

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When we initially set out to find the geocache, we parked in a different lot that was East of the river and led to a paved trail. After walking for over a mile, I realized no bridge was coming up and that we were on the wrong side of the river. There is another parking lot on the west side, but last summer it was under construction, so we parked in the lot near Sycamore Park and the soccer fields (pictured above). I couldn’t see any obvious trailheads but just happened to bump into a Polk County worker who pointed out the subtle sign (above, to the right).

sycamore trail map

I took a screenshot of the helpful map at Central Iowa Trails, The star is where I parked and is shown above with a little added path onto the larger loop, and two circles for the other parking along the paved trail that we initially walked down. You can see signs for the other two circles in the photo below.

sycamore trail signs des moines iowa

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Walking back, it felt like a completely different place! I love when the light filters through huge trees like this, I always call it the “fern gully feeling”.

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The trail was relatively thin and dirt, with some swampy sides and a few wet spots when we visited.

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It was so fun to spot this face along the trail!

sycamore trail des moines iowa johnston iowa

It seemed like prime turtle spotting territory, but the waters were peaceful and quiet.

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Look at all these critters! The crayfish totally shocked me, it was just waltzing along the trail along a swampy section.

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Spotted! My daughter saw the frog before me, and then I found the snake.

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In addition to animals, we found the most vibrant orange mushrooms and some other neat nature things.

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One last shot! My daughter was so interested in watching the snake slither around. We had so much fun hiking these trails and spotting all the wildlife and can’t wait to get back, I think this trail is popular for mountain bikers but totally underrated for those of us on foot!

2 thoughts on “Hiking Sycamore Trail in Des Moines, Iowa

  1. Abby says:

    We tried that cache mid-summer….and ran out in a crazed frenzy about 10 minutes in, literally covered in mosquitoes! I have meant to go nack to find it before the bugs get bad. I agree, it’s a neat trail that looks underappreciated for foot traffic, but definitely bike popular.

    And the orange mushrooms are edible; sulfur shelf/chicken of the forest 🙂

    1. swoodsonsays says:

      Thanks for the ID! Yes, bugs are the absolute worst. Get back out there now before they all come out 🙂 Thanks for reading!


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