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Tucked away in the suburban surroundings of West Des Moines, Walnut Woods offers a relaxing nature escape close to all the hustle and bustle of a big city. Encompassing 260 acres, the park sits on the banks of the pretty Raccoon River and is home to the largest surviving stand of black walnut trees to be found anywhere in North America.
The park's riverfront location opens up excellent fishing and paddling opportunities for visitors, while there are also two and a half miles of hiking trails to explore. Best of all, even though Walnut Woods State Park is just minutes from downtown Des Moines, its RV-friendly campground lets visitors experience the great outdoors and the true relaxation that only a camping vacation can bring.
There's plenty to see and do here, but the first outdoor activity most Walnut Woods State Park campers choose to indulge in is a bit of good old-fashioned relaxing. With the river nearby and surrounded by woods, Walnut Woods State Park is an ideal destination for anyone looking to escape their everyday life for a little while.
But once you've spent a little while putting your feet up, it's time to get active. The Raccoon River lies at the heart of most activities in the park, with fishing a particular highlight.
There's a boat ramp near the western end of the park if you want to get out on the water, as well as cast a line straight from the riverbank if you prefer. Smallmouth and largemouth bass, channel catfish, walleye, and more can be caught here, so it's well worth remembering to pack your fishing rod.
Canoeing is another popular pastime for those camping at Walnut Woods State Park. The peacefully meandering river offers prime paddling conditions, but vehicle shuttling to or from access points along the river is recommended.
When you're not enjoying the park's watersports, the other main activity on offer in Walnut Woods State Park is hiking. A two-and-a-half-mile trail network winds its way through the river's wooded surroundings, and you can set out to explore it at your leisure. The three-mile Raccoon River Trail is a popular route that offers great water views, while birders will relish the opportunity to spot the more than 90 species of birds that call the park home.
Want to camp at Walnut Woods State Park in an RV? Book an RV in Polk County and then find yourself a site in the park's small and peaceful campground. Conveniently located close to the river, the Walnut Woods State Park RV campground boasts 22 shady campsites, including:
The modern restrooms are clean and easy to access from all sites, but please note that there are no showers in the campground. Some sites are small and some of the interior campground roads are quite tight, so this is not the perfect destination if you're traveling in a large rig.
On the plus side, all sites come with picnic tables, fire rings, and concrete pads. Firewood sales are available from May to September, and a quarter of all sites here are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.
If you're visiting with your dog, you'll also be happy to learn that pets are welcome on all sites. However, you'll need to keep your pet on a leash and clean up after them whenever necessary.
When you've finished making the most of the outdoor activities on offer in Walnut Woods State Park, you'll probably be ready to check out some attractions a little further afield. Happily, there are plenty of great destinations and activities nearby.
If you decide to head off to explore downtown Des Moines, make sure you stop at one of the city's locally owned breweries. Afterward, walk off the extra calories and admire the quirky installations at Pappajohn Sculpture Park.
If you'd like to explore another beautiful state park instead, make the 25-minute drive southwest to Badger Creek State Park. There, you'll find excellent fishing and boating opportunities, but please note that camping is not permitted in the park.
And if you've got a green thumb or you just love spending time in a peaceful garden, head north to Ames to spend a morning wandering through the 14-acre Reiman Gardens.
Whichever way you look at it, there's a whole lot to see and do when you rent a camper near Walnut Woods State Park. Why not get out there and make the most of it?