Fort Des Moines Park has a small arboretum, playground, and trail going around the lake.
Easter Lake Park is shady and green, with several trails to choose from. Several playgrounds are available for playing, with Polk County’s only covered bridge along the trail. We have hiked the Wymore Trail; there is a mix of grass and paved trails available. While the beach is currently defunct with the lake drained (as of summer 2017), there is a cool firetruck playground on that side of the park.
Walnut Woods Park is a short drive from anywhere in the metro, but feels like you’re out in the woods. There are trails as well as a traditional playground, along with a busy bird blind. The playground is small, but has rubber footing under the playset and swings (there is a sand pit, however).
Ledges State Park has some of the prettiest scenery in the area, with unique, shallow water crossings over the main road. There are several challenging trails as well as a very accessible one. This is a perfect place to go “creek stomping” with pets and/or kids – be sure to check the DNR website for flooding closings before you go. The main canyon road is currently closed, but read my summer blog post for where to park and walk up! There is easy creek splashing access here, you can see more specific details about how to get into the water in this post.