Best Jogging Places in Des Moines Iowa

A jogger’s delight of over 300 miles of scenic trails weaves in and around the city of Des Moines, IA. From the heart of downtown, to the outer suburbs and beyond, there’s a trail to match any jogger’s wish list. The paved Chichaqua Valley Trail follows 20 miles of a vintage train route offering scenic river views, wildlife and rustic stone bridges creating a back-to-nature flavor. Contrast that with the 1.5 mile Bill Riley Trail in the metro. The short urban trail leads to the Great Western Trail and a flat 17 mile run south of the city. In other words, if you are into jogging it’s all good in the capital city.

Gray’s Lake tops the list for downtown places to jog.

Many locals and even some politicians claiming Iowa as home during the 2008 caucus season, endorse the loop at Gray’s Lake as a top pick. From Hotel Fort Des Moines, following Fleur Drive to the lake and back makes a brisk 4.5 miler. Cross into nearby Water Works Park and run along the Raccoon River for a longer route. Starting from the Marriot and jogging a similar path is about a 5 miler around the lake. Gray’s Lake Park is a popular spot and a great place to meet for running, biking and other activities. The new mile pedestrian bridge hooks up with the jogging loop on the south side of the lake. This trail’s safety features include emergency phones and lighting along the entire 2 mile loop around the lake as well as spectacular views of the water with a downtown skyline backdrop.

Downtown Des Moines offers urban jogging trails that hook up with some downtown attractions. In addition to Gray’s Lake Park, trails connect the Court Avenue district, the East Village area, the Science Center of Iowa and Principal Park. The Meredith Trail, the MLK Trail, the Kruidenier Trail, the Principal Riverwalk and the John Pat Dorian Trail are part of the downtown trail loops providing joggers with great routes of varying length.

The Greenbelt is a top place for jogging in the surburban area.

For joggers outside of the downtown area, a hot spot for locals is the popular Clive Greenbelt. One of the best places to jog in the metro area, this well-known trail winds through 10 miles of wooded scenery and connects to the Raccoon River Valley Trail’s 56 miles of paved pathways. That trail snakes through small towns, tree lined streets, open prairie and ends two counties northwest of the city. The Greenbelt trailhead proper starts about 7 miles northwest of Des Moines.

A good choice for a longer run, the Saylorville-Des Moines River Trail’s amazing views take in riverbed, prairies, forests and ponds to the east edge of downtown then stretches up to Big Creek State Park on the northern edge of Saylorville Lake near Polk City. Known as the Neal Smith Trail, the 23.5 mile length of the S-DMR trail picks up at Birdland Marina and follows the Des Moines River to the beach at Big Creek. Amenities such as restrooms and refreshments are available at posts along the trail network. Other trails exist in the city and suburbs considered part of the metro. Check for a complete list.

In addition to the impressive trail system, joggers will find other places to run in Des Moines. Some neighborhoods provide natural inclines. The areas known as the Waterbury District as well as the Roosevelt Cultural District, offer interesting architecture, tree-lined boulevards and friendly neighborhoods for joggers. Interstate 235 provides easy access at the 42ndSt exit. Park at Waveland Park, Theodore Roosevelt High School, Greenwood Park or the Des Moines Art Center and pick a path north of Grand Avenue and west of 42ndSt to access these neighborhoods. Polk Boulevard connects University Avenue to Grand Avenue and gives access to Kingman Boulevard. Take Kingman to Cottage Grove for an excellent short run. Waterbury Rd is another option. The Beaverdale neighborhood just north of these districts also sports year-round sidewalk joggers.

Even more options exist for jogging. Public schools in the greater metro area provide schedules for indoor and outdoor track availability to the general public. Another indoor venue for joggers who might want to slow it down just a little and experience a one-of-a-kind route, the downtown sky-walk system offers a place like no other. An impressive network of 4 miles of climate-controlled sky walks serves as a convenient walking route for business, pleasure or exercise. The system links major businesses, great restaurants, pubs and clubs in addition to its exercise purpose. Consider combining lunch and doing the sky walk as a social outing with a friend prior to an afternoon run on the Bill Riley Trail.

Top places for joggers will vary depending on individual goals and preferences, but any jogger should be able to find a top spot in the diverse options available. All of the venues and the extensive organized trail system might be hidden gems to newcomers, but locals enjoy great places to jog during all seasons in Des Moines, IA.