Cross-Country Skiing

Don’t dread the winter season! Get outside and go cross-country skiing! Fresh snowfall creates perfect conditions for prime skiing and physical exercise.

Cross-country skiing is a great way to exercise in the winter. It burns more calories per hour than any other sport, by using almost every muscle in your body. It’s also a peaceful way to enjoy the winter season. Whether it’s seeing animal tracks in the snow or listening to birds sing, cross-country skiing offers you an opportunity to enjoy and become a part of the winter landscape.

Click Here for Hours & Rental Prices 

Where to Go

Groomed cross-country ski trails can be found in Jester Park and Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt. Trails will be groomed after a snowfall over six inches. A groomed trail is maintained with a groomer to pack the snow and tracksetter to lay classic tracks. **Hikers, runners, and bicyclists are asked stay off groomed trails.

Jester Park
At Jester Park (ski trail map) there are almost 6.1 miles of trails. The Outdoor Recreation & Wellness Center and the campground registration area will serve as trailheads. Trails will lead skiers through the woods, near Saylorville Lake and along the edge of the golf course. Skiers may break their own trail in the park but must remain on the groomed portions if skiing the golf course. 

Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt
Flat trails can be found at Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt (ski trail map) in northeastern Polk County. Trails will wind through the woodlands, following the old Skunk River channel. Many different loops will be groomed, all beginning from the campground. You may see deer, fox, and otter tracks along the trail.

Other Areas to Explore

There are many other places to cross-country ski in Polk County parks that do not have groomed trails. Beginner skiers will enjoy skiing along the Chichaqua Valley Trail and Great Western Trail, two recreational trails through the countryside on abandoned railroad lines.

A scenic route beginning at the covered bridge at Easter Lake Park leads skiers along the shoreline of this beautiful lake on the Southside of Des Moines. Brown's Woods and Thomas Mitchell Park also offer trails for more advanced skiers.

The Gay Lea Wilson Trail extends for approximately 35 miles throughout the eastern and northern parts of Polk County.

In Story County, the Iowa State University cross-country course and portions of East River Valley/Carr Park are groomed for cross-country skiiers.


Learning how to cross-country ski is as easy as walking. The motion of your arms and legs alternating when you walk is the same when you ski. Your left arm and right leg come forward, then your right arm and left leg.

Cross-Country Ski Rental

Cross-country ski rentals are available inside the Outdoor Recreation and Wellness Center, adjacent to the nature center. Snowshoes, cross-country skis, boots and poles are also available to rent. Cross-country skis are sized mainly for adults.

Skis and snowshoes will only be rented if there is at least 6 inches of snow on the ground. RESERVATIONS are strongly encouraged! Online ski reservations are available by clicking here. Call 515-323-5330 with questions.

Click Here for Hours & Rate 
Trail Conditions

Trail conditions can be found on the Des Moines Nordic Club's Facebook page

Other Rentals

Cross-country Ski rentals are also available from the following local stores: