5 Best Places to See Fall Leaves in Central Iowa


fall leavesCentral Iowa is beautiful this time of year! If checking out fall color is on your bucket list, check out one of these spots. Take a drive and enjoy the fall leaves. 

Where to See Fall Leaves

Clark Tower, Winterset City Park

Clark Tower is a 25-foot limestone structure that looks out over Winterset City Park. It’s a great place to check out the leaves from a higher view and kids will love the castle-like vibe. The park also has a covered bridge and trails to explore. The views on the drive along Highway 169 is lovely too!

High Trestle Trail Bridge, Madrid

The High Trestle Trail is home to one of the largest trail bridges in the world. Spanning a half-mile over the Des Moines river valley, a walk or bike across this 13-story-high bridge will give you a spectacular view of fall leaves. It’s also educational! You can stop along the way and learn all about the history of the area and the bridge. You can walk from 2335 QF Lane in Madrid.

If you want a short bike ride and a meal, park at QF lane, cross the bridge, and continue to Woodward. The Whistling Donkey is right off the trail and has plenty of outdoor seating. I’m a fan of the pickle fries and the kids love cheeseballs.

Then, head back across the bridge to your car. The round-trip ride is about five miles.  

High trestle bridge
The High Trestle Bridge spans the Des Moines River Valley. The views are amazing!

Your Neighborhood

Get out and explore your neighborhood! The City of Des Moines’ Forestry Department has programs centered around trees. You can even check out My Tree Keeper to learn about the benefits of trees in your neighborhood. Local parks are also a great option to view fall leaves if you don’t want to go far.

Ledges State Park, Boone

Ledges has a four-mile trail system with options for little hikers and those who are more advanced. It’s a great place to explore during the fall – there’s so much color! Our boys love taking the “off-road” paths and finding their favorite spots.


Walnut Woods State Park, West Des Moines

Explore over two miles of trails that wind through the 260-acre Walnut Woods Park. The park is right along the Raccoon River – bring your fishing pole! The largest surviving natural stand of black walnut trees in North America is also located in this park.

Get out and explore! When you’re done, cozy up at home with one of these easy fall apple recipes to cap off your day.

What’s your favorite place to see fall leaves? 

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Brittney Rutherford
Brittney and her husband, Tyler, have been married for 10 years and live in Ames. Their two sons, Beckett (5) and Hudson (3), keep them on their toes with constant wrestling, dinosaur-related questions and daily inquiries as to when their next trip to get ice cream will be. Brittney works full time in marketing and communications. She likes to bike (the kind with pedals), visit family, hang out with friends, be in or on water - and always has good coffee and red wine on hand.


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