5 Places for Fall Photos in Des Moines


fall photos in des moinesFall is probably everyone’s favorite time to have family photos taken. It’s usually not too hot or too cold, the vibrant fall colors on the trees make such a beautiful backdrop, plus it’s just the right timing to have fresh new photos to put on Christmas cards to send out to friends and family.

But all of these lovely benefits to getting fall photos also mean that EVERYONE is trying to find the best photo spots and photographers at the same time.

Des Moines Fall Photos
Photo by Annaberry Images

If fall photos are on the top of your list, here are five local photo spots you might not know about.

Saylorville Lake Visitor’s Center and Butterfly Garden

Find it: 8250 N.W. Horseshoe Road, Polk City

The Saylorville Lake Visitor’s Center is the perfect launching pad to explore some of the beautiful scenery around the lake. Head north on the trail/path from the Visitor’s Center to enjoy the natural landscapes and trees before reaching the butterfly garden, which is chock full of colorful flowers in carefully planted beds. You’ll also find benches, rocks, and a small bridge. Fall colors in this spot will be extra beautiful and the bike path/trail provides the perfect wide-open vistas for fall colors. If you’re up for more walking, you can keep following the trail beyond the butterfly garden to discover even more fantastic photo opportunities.

Des Moines Fall Photos
Photo by Annaberry Images

Brenton Arboretum

Find it: 25141 260th St., Dallas Center

Brenton Arboretum is a bit of a drive outside the main metro area (it’s about 30 minutes away), it’s worth the trip! It provides a fantastic opportunity to relax, explore nature, and learn about a variety of trees. Stop at the information booth near the main entrance to grab a map. Then follow the main road to one of the numerous parking areas.

If you’re up for a bit of walking, follow one of the wide grassy trails for the most beautiful vistas. The Lake Homestead Trail is a manageable path of rolling hills around a beautiful pond. The entire area is surrounded by colorful yellow flowers and tall grasses with trees in the background. Stop by the water deck to enjoy the weeping willow tree and take a quick shot on one of the benches. Then, hop back in your car and drive down the main path to the Nature Play Area. This is a fantastic spot for family fun and photos, with large limbs, tree stumps, and other natural features for the little ones to climb and explore.

Up the hill, the Pavilion provides some beautiful views of the surrounding arboretum trails and some shade/stonework. This is just a small slice of the beauty, scenery, and color that Brenton Arboretum has to offer.

Brenton Arboretum Des Moines Photo Spots

Pond/Walking Trail on the DMACC Ankeny Campus

Find it: 2006 S. Ankeny Blvd., Ankeny

On the Southeast side of the DMACC Ankeny Campus, you’ll find a 1.2-mile paved walking trail around Lake Future. Near the main lot, there’s a nice gazebo and stone benches. If you’re up for some walking, there are plenty of tall grasses, landscaping, and other vegetation around the lake trail. Plus trees of all sizes. This lake/trail loop is an ideal spot for wide-open landscapes and a bit of water in the background. When the trees begin to change color, you’ll get an extra layer of color and texture.

Des Moines Fall Photos

Walnut Woods State Park

Find it: 3155 Walnut Woods Drive, West Des Moines

If you’re looking for a simple, quiet, out-of-the-way spot for classic fall colors, Walnut Woods State Park is the place to go. In the middle of the park, there’s a parking area across from the lodge. This is a great starting point, with tall, carefully spaced trees in a large grassy field near the playground. If you’re looking for a more architectural background, you can find some cool spots across the road at the lodge, which was built in the 1930s with limestone brought in from an eastern Iowa quarry. If you’re feeling more adventurous, the park offers 2.5 miles of trails.

Walnut Woods Fall Photos

Centennial Park

Find it: 1255 Warrior Lane, Waukee

Centennial Park in Waukee, just down the road from Waukee High School, is a fantastic spot for exploring. From either end of Park Road, you can access the drive that takes you to the Picnic Shelter Parking Lot near the playground. From there you’ll be within walking distance to two bridges that are ideal spots for photos. One is a covered red bridge near the southeast corner of the park. The other is a classic wooden bridge on the south side of the park that leads to an enclosed shelter and parking area. The wide open grassy areas in between are the perfect spot for catching action shots of your little ones. There’s also a playground, complete with a large sand pit and digging tools.

Centennial Park Waukee Fall Photos

Find more of our favorite Des Moines photography spots here. 

Where are your favorite places to take fall photos in Des Moines? 

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Kimberly is a Northwest Iowa native, a Drake University graduate, and a fan of all things Des Moines. She is a girly girl who grew up and became a boy mom, and is now an expert on all types of construction equipment and big machines. She shares her Des Moines home with hubby Sam (2006) and sons Jack (March 2014) and Henry (December 2016). Kimberly studied magazine journalism in college, spent 10 years working for a newspaper, and recently became a postpartum doula. In her abundant (and almost nonexistent) free time she enjoys writing about mom life, drinking coffee, documenting time with family and friends, starting Shutterfly projects she rarely finishes, doing Crossfit, and daydreaming about future decorating and crafting projects.


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