Fall in central Iowa is the ideal time to get the family outdoors for a nature walk or easy hike, when trees are ablaze with fall colors and temperatures are just right. So, lace up your hiking shoes and don’t forget the sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, and water bottle! We’ve rounded up a great list of guided, family-friendly hikes led by local conservation naturalists at Des Moines area parks.
Family-friendly fall hikes at Des Moines parks:
Friday, September 13 at 8:00 pm
Explore the wonder and beauty of Thomas Mitchell Park at night under a full moon at this guided hike hosted by Polk County Conservation. All ages welcome.
Friday, September 13 at 8:00 pm
Take a brisk guided hike through moonlit meadows and woods. You’ll learn about various points of interest and seasonal highlights at the Brenton Arboretum during this 2-3-mile hike. Appropriate for ages 16+. Registration required. $2 for members, $5 for non-members.
Saturday, September 21 at 6:00 pm
Take a stroll with a ranger at Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge along a paved two-mile Tallgrass Trail loop to enjoy an evening on the prairie. Look and listen for changes in the fall wildlife, while meandering through the prairie sunflowers as the sun goes down. Registration required.
Monday, September 23 at 6:00 pm
Learn about the fall equinox as you enjoy a walk around the pond and through the woodland at historic Fort Des Moines Park. Appropriate for ages 5+.
Saturday, October 5 at 10:00 am
Observe the magnificent colors of autumn as you hike through the woods in Thomas Mitchell Park. You’ll also learn how to identify common woodland plants by their leaves and collect fallen leaves to make a collective art project. All ages welcome.
Saturday, October 12 at 10:00 am
Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt is a unique and compelling place, where one has access to a rare ancient landscape. Join Polk County Conservation as they explore the prairie, woodland and wetlands of Chichaqua. All ages welcome.
Monday, October 21 at 6:30, 6:40, 6:50, 7:00, 7:10, 7:20, and 7:30.
Join the Friends of Warren County Conservation for a non-scary Rule Breakers’ Halloween Hike! This year’s theme is all about species that break the rules! Trek down the jack o’ lantern lit trail and meet some interesting species, including the platypus, bat, ostrich, venus flytrap, and the slender glass lizard. Afterwards, you can enjoy a craft and a snack in the nature center. The event is $2 for children and $3 for adults, children 3 and under are free. Pre-registration is required.
Friday, October 25 at 6:30 pm
After a brief discussion, around the campfire, about these flying predators of the night, you’ll go for a hike in , Thomas Mitchell Park and learn how to call three different species of owls. Appropriate for ages 5+. Registration required. $5.
Tuesday, November 12 at 6:00 pm
Explore the wonder and beauty of Jester Park at night under a full moon. All ages welcome.
Sunday, November 17 at 10:00 am
Enjoy a one-mile hike through beautiful Yellow Banks Park. You’ll learn about turkeys and how animals are preparing for winter all while burning some calories. All ages welcome.
Friday, November 29 at 1:00 pm
Choose to #OptOutside on Black Friday with your friends and family. Polk County naturalists will reconnect you with nature on a hike through Jester Park. All ages welcome.
Saturday, November 30 at 2:00 pm
OPT outside should be more than just on Black Friday, don’t you agree? Or maybe you just need to burn some holiday calories. Bring the whole family, in-laws and all to hike the trails at Annett Nature Center. There will be light snacks and time after the hike to explore the educational exhibits. Registration is required.
What’s your favorite trail to hit with the fam in Des Moines? Let us know in a comment below.