Snowshoes have been around for quite some time; with earlier versions made of wood with rawhide lattice-work inside the wooden frame and bindings made of leather. These snowshoes were long, bulky and heavy. Many of today’s snowshoes are constructed with light, durable aluminum frames and synthetic decking made of a cold resistant rubber or plastic material. Today’s snowshoes are smaller, lighter, stronger and much more maneuverable than their older counterparts.
Where to Go
Snowshoeing can be enjoyed by anyone just about anywhere in Polk County. The only places to avoid snowshoeing are on groomed cross-country ski trails found at Jester Park, Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt and golf courses.
Brown’s Woods: Front and back loop
Yellow Banks Park: Savanna Trail
Easter Lake Park: Wymore Trail
Fort Des Moines Park: Nature Trail (trail starts off the SW corner of the dam)
Jester Park: Hickory Ridge Trail
If you can walk, you can snowshoe! The only difference is walking with a wider stance than normal. This prevents you stepping on your own snowshoes. In hard packed snow, press the cleats firmly into the snow with each step to get traction and prevent backsliding. In fresh powder, the surface will shift and compress under your weight.
BREAKING TRAIL: Walk in a single file line when snowshoeing in a group. When it’s your turn to lead, take consistent, even steps that are easy for everyone to follow.
CLIMBING: To ascend a slope, kick the front of your snowshoe into the snow and press down firmly to compact it.
DESCENDING: Heel cleats are the key to an easy descent. Keep knees slightly bent, lean back, and keep your weight on the heel cleats to maintain control.
GLISSADING: This is sliding downhill on snowshoes. Apply weight to the heels of the snowshoes to help keep the toes up and "glissade" using a cross-country skiing diagonal stride, or stand, or sit and slide on the shoes.
- Don’t step on one snowshoe with the other – always keep the snowshoes as level as possible.
- Don’t bridge a snowshoe. Step directly on a log or rock and then step over or side step.
- Utilize crampons for traction on crusty snow.
Snowshoe rentals are available at Jester Park at the Polk County Conservation admin office. Snowshoes, cross-country skis, boots and poles are also available to rent. The snowshoes are sized for kids and adults, with a weight range of 40-250 pounds.
Skis and snowshoes will only be rented if there is at least 4 inches of snow on the ground.
Hours and Rates
- Equipment can be reserved in advance by calling (515) 323-5339
- Equipment must be picked up and dropped off at Jester Park during normal business hours, Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Snowshoe Rental (snowshoes only): $10/day
Skis, boots, poles: $10/day
Snowshoe rentals are also available from the following:
Des Moines Parks and Recreation | Snowshoes are located at the Richard A Clark Municipal Service Center. 1551 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, Des Moines, IA 50317. For more information, please call 515-248-6369.