10 Incredible Things to do at Raccoon River Park

Raccoon River Park located in West Des Moines is one of our family’s favorite parks to be active, enjoy the outdoors, and have some family fun!

The park also has a brand new impressive playground that the kids will absolutely love. 

Plus the ground surface is both rubber and turf which will make the parents happy, too!

Check out our list of 10 incredible things to do in Raccoon River Park throughout the year!

Stone bench seating area near the playground at Raccoon River Park.

1. Play at the Playground

Raccoon River Park’s new thrilling playground is at the top of the list of things to do at this park.

I think this playground is great because there are dedicated areas for children’s varying ages and abilities.

Baby, Toddler, and Small Children Pod

The playground has a cute section for the younger ones that includes two small playhouses with opportunities to manipulate and explore different objects.

A new crawler or walker can easily get into the smallest playhouse to have his or her own spot for fun too!

The larger of the two houses has a tunnel to crawl through plus a slide. 

Also, in this section are a couple of baby swings. 

The ground surface is rubber too so no more wood chips in the mouth!

Medium Sized Obstacles and Roller Slide

Additionally there are a couple of medium sized climbing structures with a roller slide. 

These are both built into the side of a rubber ground hill. 

My two-year-old enjoyed climbing up the “big” hill.

This is a fun section to enjoy the rubber ground surface as kids will LOVE trying to climb the hills and maybe even slide down them too!

Tall Slide Tower

The kids’ favorite feature may definitely be the thrilling tall slide tower.

Kids can climb straight up through the center of the tower to get to the slides or take the spiral walkway up.

Additionally, there is a fun rope climbing challenge connected to the slide of this slide tower plus a couple of pull up bars.

Must Know Information

This structure is designed for the older kids as there are many ways for a younger child to get injured or even fall.

Rope Climbing Structure

Another challenging but fun section of the playground is the rope climbing structure with various obstacles.

The older kids will love trying to test their skills climbing and completing the obstacles.

Swings, Teeter Totter, and Merry Go Round

My favorite section of the playground at Raccoon River Park is the swings.

The swings face Blue Heron Lake. 

Imagine swinging with the wind in your face and views of the stunning shoreline of the lake as the colors of the sky reflect off of the water.

The kids may not be thinking about all of this, but I sure am.

This area has a variety of swing types. It includes some inclusive swings as well.

The merry-go-round is always fun for kids plus the four person newly designed teeter totter is a blast too!

Spinner and Igloo

Finally, there is a small area slightly separated from the others that simply has a spinner and a blue igloo that kids can climb on or in. 

Small play area with a spinner and light blue igloo play structure.

Expert Tip

Make sure to keep a watchful eye on the younger kids. My youngest kids like to follow the older ones and there are definitely some areas of the playground that can pose challenges for younger kids. Ensuring their safety and guiding them through areas that require caution will make for a worry-free and enjoyable visit!

This playground is so fun and exciting. The restrooms are still located right next to the playground which makes it super convenient. 

2. Rent Boats or Bikes from the Boathouse

The Raccoon River Park Boathouse is open seasonally and offers non-motorized boat rentals including kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddle boards, paddle boats, peddle kayaks, and more!

Must Know Information

Life jackets are provided and required to be worn by everyone while on the boat.

We love renting a kayak or canoe with our family and rowing around the stunning Blue Heron Lake. 

You can rent the boats by the half hour, hour, or even the entire day!

The Boathouse also has bicycle rentals including burley rentals, too.

Note: Helmets are included with the bicycle rental. 

When you enter Raccoon River Park you will see the Boathouse right away in front of you.

Drive straight to get to the Boathouse parking lot.

3. Enjoy Views from the Fishing Pier

The fishing pier is a gorgeous spot to enjoy the views of Blue Heron Lake.

As you drive into Raccoon River Park, you will take a slight left and see the parking lot for the fishing pier. 

You can also easily access the trail here as well!

We love taking a few minutes during our visits to Raccoon River Park to walk on the pier and embrace the beauty surrounding us.

4. Walk, Run, or Bike on the Trail

Utilizing Raccoon River Park’s mixed crushed rock and paved trail is another one of my favorite things to do here!

I especially love being on this trail during the fall. 

This trail is surrounded by trees on both sides so the vibrant falling leaves while walking, running, or biking along this trail is such a treat.

Also, in the summer months, the canopy of trees offer a nice shaded trail. 

While on the trail, you will have the Raccoon River on one side of you and the picturesque Blue Heron Lake on the other.

The trail is 3.2 miles around.

Fun Fact

In the near future there will be a pedestrian bridge that will span the Raccoon River connecting Raccoon River Park to additional area parks. This will offer visitors even more scenic views and opportunities for adventure.

5. Have a Picnic

Raccoon River Park is a fantastic place for a picnic. 

There are numerous perfect spots to enjoy a picnic with family or friends. 

Right between the Nature Lodge and playground there is a covered shelter with picnic tables. 

Additionally, there is another shelter with picnic tables near the restrooms and playground.

One time, we even had a picnic at a table near the fishing pier. 

Additionally, the beach and grassy open fields are more great spots for a picnic.

Four kids eating McDonalds at the picnic table at Raccoon River Park.

6. Take Your Dog to the Dog Park

The dog park is a fantastic place to take your dog.

You do need a permit to utilize the dog park but can get one at the Nature Lodge during open business hours. 

Permits can also be obtained at the Parks and Recreation office at the West Des Moines City Hall building. 

The dog park is located past the beach and playground areas.

7. Swim, Relax, or Play at the Beach

The Raccoon River Park beach is a great place to spend a summer day. 

My kids love being able to wade in the water and build sand castles at a place so close to home. 

Also, during the summer, they do have life jackets available to borrow if you need one for non-swimmers.

Expert Tip

If you head to the beach early in the morning on a hot summer day, you can enjoy the sand when it is not so hot for little feet as well as have the beach basically to yourself.

DISCOVER MORE IN WEST DES MOINES: Things to do in West Des Moines

8. Book or Attend an Event at the Nature Lodge

The Nature Lodge is a gorgeous facility for an event and can be rented for various events including weddings, retreats, birthdays, and other celebrations.

Additionally the Parks and Recreation department hosts numerous programs and events for visitors to enjoy at the Nature Lodge. 

We usually go to the Halloween Hoopla held at the end of October at the Nature Center.

It is an event that you have to register for that includes a wagon ride around the lake, pumpkin decorating, smores, and more!

9. Skate at the Ice Rink

Skating at the ice rink at Raccoon River Park is a fantastic activity to do during the winter season.

Skaters must bring their own ice skates.

The rink is open from dawn until dusk with weather and ice conditions permitting.

This rink is located right next to the dog park.

With its picturesque setting, the ice rink at Raccoon River Park is the perfect destination for making some lasting winter memories.

10. Play Archery 

Raccoon River Park has a fantastic archery facility.

In order to use the facility, you must purchase either an archery facility permit or a day pass.

These can be purchased online here.

Additionally, the passes can be purchased at the Nature Lodge and Parks and Recreation office.

We have not utilized the archery facility yet but plan to do so very soon!

DISCOVER MORE PARKS: Best West Des Moines Parks

From the stunning nature trails to the excitement of the playground, and serene waterside views, there is something for everyone to do and enjoy at Raccoon River Park in West Des Moines, Iowa.

So, pack up your lunch, grab your towel, and hiking shoes and head to the Raccoon River Park to experience some or all of these 10 incredible things that make this park a true gem.

May you love your adventure. KW

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