Banner Lakes at Summerset State Park offers one of the most unique (and scenic!) landscapes in the Des Moines area! The 222-acre park was once a coal mine, which created a series of lakes surrounded by woods and wetlands. The great thing is, you can get out and explore this beautiful area just a few miles south of Des Moines.
A Brief History of Banner Lakes
What is now Banner Lakes at Summerset State Park was once a coal mine. In the 1930s, the Banner Coal Company operated a strip mine there using an open-pit method (locals called the area as “Banner Pits”).1
In 1954, the Iowa DNR purchased the land to serve as a wildlife management area. Unfortunately, it became run down and polluted over the years. But it was clear that people wanted to use it for outdoor recreation—they climbed the fence to explore the scenic lakes.2
So, in 2002, the Iowa DNR and a group of supporters decided to clean up the area and make it a park.1 It opened to the public in 2004 and is one of Iowa’s newest state parks.
Things To Do: Banner Lakes at Summerset State Park
Hike or Bike Banner Lakes Trails
The most popular feature of Banner Lakes is the trails! Whether you want to walk, run, or bike, it’s the perfect place to hit the trails.
The Banner Lakes Loop
The park road forms a ~2-mile paved loop with a wide pedestrian lane for biking or walking. It’s the perfect way to explore the park!
The great thing is, there’s also access to Summerset Trail on the east side of the park. It’s a 12-mile paved trail extending from Carlisle to Indianola and runs near Banner Lakes.
5.5 miles of singletrack dirt trails run through the woods and wetlands of Banner Lakes! The trails are fantastic for mountain biking, hiking, and trail running. And they offer an experience not found anywhere else in central Iowa!
The dirt trails wind over the tailings left by the old coal mine. Some of them have short but steep hills and fun water crossings. And the views from the top are amazing.
Fish from boat or shore at Banner Lakes! There are several types of fish in the lakes, including bluegill, catfish, largemouth bass, crappie, and…trout.
The south lake gets stocked with trout in the cooler months. And this offers a rare fishing opportunity for Central Iowans. Trout range from ½ pound up to 10 pounds! (When fishing for trout in Iowa, you must pay a trout fee.)
Take Your Boat Out
Take your motorboat, kayak, or canoe to Banner Lakes! It’s an excellent place to paddle. And motorboats with any motor are okay at low speeds (lakes are no-wake).
Two boat ramps are at the park. The one near the entrance is for the north lake. The second is near the start of the one-way loop and is for the south lake.
Practice at the Shooting Range
The Banner Lakes Shooting Range is on the park’s north side. It has rifle and handgun lanes and an archery area. For more information, prices, and hours, see the DNR website and the Facebook page. To get to the shooting range, take the gravel road straight from the park entrance. The address is 13796 Elk Horn St, Indianola, IA 50125.
Banner Lakes Map
Other Things to Do Nearby
Easter Lake Park is only 10 minutes north of the park! It’s a 178-acre lake surrounded by beautiful trails, picnic areas, and even a covered bridge.
Ewing Park is also 10 miles north of the park, right across from Easter Lake. It’s a unique park with a lilac arboretum, children’s forest, soapbox derby track, and accessible playground.
Zo-El Annett Woods is a small nature area, about 15 minutes west of the park. It has a relatively short trail, but the long suspension bridge makes it worth the trip!
Woodland Mounds State Preserve is a 185-acre nature area 20 minutes to the southeast. The native Woodland culture once lived here—and you can see their burial mounds from the 3-mile loop trail.
Lake Ahquabi is 15 minutes south of Banner Lakes. This state park has over 6 miles of trails, a 115-acre lake, beach, campgrounds, and more!
Visit Banner Lakes at Summerset State Park Today!
Find Banner Lakes at Summerset State Park at 13084 Elk Horn St, Carlisle, IA 50047.
Several small parking areas are along the park road. Larger parking lots are near the park entrance and at the two boat ramps. Restrooms are latrine pit toilets.
- Banner Lakes State Park. OhRanger.com. http://www.ohranger.com/ia/banner-lakes
- DNR Will Convert Banner Area in Indianola to Park. BikeIowa.com. https://www.bikeiowa.com/News/504