19 Trails in 19 Days

The Johnsons hikingWe were six days into my family’s #covid19 challenge when I wrote this post. That was early in the experience of social distancing and learning and teaching and working from home. We completed the #covid19 challenge, and still hike three or four times a week.

I documented our adventures on Instagram, and I’ve gotten a ton of questions about where to hike and what to do when the going gets tough. So here I’m posting a list of central Iowa trails we’ve visited, and a short description of each.

If we haven’t visited your favorite place, please let me know. It’ll help us decide where to go next! I’ll get to the list, but here are some quick tips:

  1. Be safe–Check out CDC guidelines on Visiting Parks and Recreational Facilities during Covid-19.
  2. Keep it simple–Take sunscreen and a water bottle. Make sure everyone wears shoes that can get muddy and/or wet.
  3. Enjoy the adventure–don’t stress about the small stuff…just pick a place to go, set a time to leave, and enjoy the sights and sounds along the way.
  4. Here are some activities you can incorporate into your visits; kids may need something to do besides hike, and they can even satisfy your home learning needs!

Now…for the list of trails, in no particular order:

  • Carney Marsh (Ankeny) – paved trail, lots of wildlife. Take bikes and/or fishing poles.
  • Easter Lake (Des Moines) – wide paved trail, beautiful lake, super cool bridges, we want to go back and take our bikes. *This was Brandon’s (dad) favorite trail.
  • Margo Frankel Woods (Des Moines)– wooded area with trails and a “hidden staircase,” fun water crossings for kids.
  • Tedesco Environmental Learning Corridor (Ames) – located in the ISU Research Park, paved trails, an old railcar with stools (take a picnic lunch) and a focus on water quality. *This was Mary’s (7 years old) favorite trail.
  • Principal River Walk (Des Moines) – paved trail in the heart of downtown, was a fun “change of scenery” after we had spent many days in-the-woods.
  • FossilsJester Park (Granger) – bison, elk and bird watching are always a highlight. *Oh, and be sure to check out the mindful meditation area near the Nature Center and Discovery Pond.
  • Greenwood/Ashworth Park (Des Moines) – several paved trails, peaceful places; once you start walking it’s hard to believe you’re in the heart of Des Moines. *This was my favorite trail.
  • DMACC Pond and Trail (Ankeny) – biking, walking, and fishing friendly! *adults, don’t forget to get a fishing license – easy to do online.
  • Steps with kidsLedges State Park (Madrid) – adventurous terrain is always fun and we *almost* convinced Mary to cross the water independently. *This was Gus’s (11 years old) favorite park!
  • Peterson Park (Ames) – water shoes are a must at this park; a sandy beach and the beautiful Skunk River. Have you ever tried teaching your kids to skip a rock? *Not easy.
  • Lake Ahquabi State Park (Indianola) –  a restful place, easy trails, buckeye trees and paddle boats.
  • Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt (Maxwell) – kids were looking for snakes, made me want to get a kayak.
  • Big Creek State Park (Polk City) – paved trail through wooded and prairie areas – beautiful places to stop and admire the lake. Take fishing poles.
  • Brown’s Woods (West Des Moines) – amazing forest, lots of different kinds of trees; I loved talking about decomposers. *This was Wyatt’s (5 years old) favorite adventure.
  • Oralabor Gateway Trail (Ankeny) – paved trail, we rode our bikes, and I was happy with the highly-controlled crossings.
  • Mally’s Park (Berwick/Ankeny) lovely scenery along the river, cool wildlife spotting. Kids loved looking down at the water from the “high up” bridge.
  • Fourmile Greenway (Des Moines) you can walk or bike this paved trail and see plants and wildlife.
  • High-up crossingLinwood Cemetery Trail – McHose Park (Boone) – surprisingly beautiful scenes next to the water – as well as a paved path for walking or biking. The kids had a blast hopping across rocks to get to the other side of the stream. Brandon had a blast reliving his childhood.
  • Neal Smith Trail at Cherry Glen Recreation Area (Polk City) – rolling hills with a paved trail weaving through natural and residential areas. Watch for wildflowers and a scenic, serene pond.

Reader interactions

2 Replies to “19 Trails in 19 Days”

  1. Wow! This is awesome. Such a great summer activity. Thanks for sharing!

  2. […] Creek walking – This one takes close supervision, but is a favorite. Water shoes or any old sneakers protect feet.  Encourage getting as wet as possible exploring creeks in the city or county parks. Shelly has a great list to explore! […]

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