Strasser Woods State Preserve: Park Visit

Every time we drove by the Iowa State Fairgrounds, I noticed the brown sign for Strasser Woods State Preserve and wondered what it was. I finally drove out to check it out in person, and what a pleasant surprise to find actual trails! This whole area was lush, leafy, and peaceful.

You can see more specific details on the Strasser Woods Preserve page below or check out its location on the interactive map.

Goeldner Woods – Earlham, Iowa

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Google Maps took me to the right spot and we used the cute little parking lot. We doused ourselves with Bug Soother* (which you can also find at Hy-Vee locally) as we got out, it’s tick and mosquito season! I’ve also been checking us with a lint roller before we even get in the car to go home.



I couldn’t find a trail map anywhere; we opted to initially take the right fork and then keep left at every bend after that. There were lots of stairs down as the elevation dropped, all pretty steep and deep. My 2-year-old asked for help a couple of times but could mostly handle it.


Making it down to the bottom was worth it, there were so many birds flying overhead and around! It was really pretty with the sunbeams shining through.

gay lea wilson trail strasser woods

I didn’t realize other trails were nearby but when we came to the end, it connected to a paved trail that I now know is the Gay Lea Wilson trail. I don’t know where this spray paint came from, but it made me laugh. I could use this at every single place I hike! You can see on the map about where that was, on the paved trail. I don’t know why the state preserve doesn’t show up on google maps, but it is to the left of the blue dot indicator.

gay lea wilson trail des moines iowa

A view of the Gay Lea Wilson trail, curving around the bend.


Turning back to go back up to the car was daunting; all the steps wore my daughter out so I wore her on my back all the way up. I was panting! Pictures don’t do this incline justice (above).

des moines area state preserves

Spotted on the trail were hoofprints, honeysuckle, and two purple wildflowers that my daughter loved.

While I’m not sure Strasser Woods had anything compelling enough that I would drive over from the western suburbs where I live solely to hike it, but it is a great little spot to stop and stretch your legs or get some nature time! Had you heard of Strasser Woods State Preserve before?

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