Margo Frankel Woods State Park is a small 136-acre park on the north side of Des Moines. It’s a lesser-known park and the perfect place to retreat to the peaceful rolling hills and dense woods.
The park is an Iowa State Park, but managed by Saylor Township and supported by volunteers.
A Brief History of the Park
Margo Frankel Woods was once an ancient Algonkian and Sioux hunting ground. The park was first named Saylor Woods after John Saylor, an early settler on the park’s land. Apple trees near the entrance to the woods hint at the location of Saylor’s homestead.
Margo Frankel is now the namesake of this unique state park. Frankel was an environmentalist who served on the State Park Board and Conservation Commission.
Things to Do at Margo Frankel Woods
One playground is at the entrance to the park, near the parking area. The second is a hidden playground in the woods. Take the trail and go up the stairs to find the playground (or drive there on the park road!). Kids love making an adventure of “finding” the secret playground!
Margo Frankel Woods Trails
Trail markings and signage are sparse at Margo Frankel Woods, but the trails are wide and easy to follow. There are gravel, dirt, and mowed paths, which are about 2 miles out and back. The trails wind through mature oak and walnut trees and over small streams.
The trail that leads to the hidden playground goes by a shallow (splashable!) creek and up a long wooden staircase.
Have a picnic
The shelters at Margo Frankel Woods offer a peaceful, beautiful setting for a picnic! Two shelters near the main entrance have several picnic tables and are first-come, first-serve. There’s also a small side shelter along the main road and a larger back shelter at the hidden playground area, both available for rental.
Hunt for morel mushrooms
Each spring, mushroom hunters head to Margo Frankel Woods for delicious morel mushrooms! The woods at the park are ideal for mushrooms under the right conditions. If you’re new to mushroom hunting, make sure you know what to look for (and where) before heading out!
Things To Do Nearby
A few miles northwest of the park is Saylorville Lake, with endless outdoor recreational opportunities. Visitors love the beautiful campgrounds, marina, and recreation areas at Saylorville. And the Visitor’s Center is a great place to stop. Children and adults enjoy the interactive displays, butterfly garden, and lake views.
Float Beaver Creek in nearby Johnston! Start at the carry-down access off of NW 70th Street, just east of the intersection with 86th Street. For kayak rentals, contact Quarry Springs Outfitters.
Riverview Park is just south of Margo Frankel Woods and was once home to a popular amusement park. The amusement park closed in 1978. But the park remains, with a new 4 million dollar amphitheater nearing completion. The concert venue opens in the summer of 2021.
Mally’s-Weh-Weh-Neh-Kee Park is a great place to hop on the Chichaqua Valley Trail. It’s about 5 miles east of Margo Frankel in Berwick. The Chichaqua Valley Trail is a 25-mile, paved, multi-use trail and a great place to walk or bike ride.
Visit Margo Frankel Woods Today!
Margo Frankel Woods State Park is near Saylor Township, off of NW 2nd Street (Hwy 415), north of I-80.
From I-80, take Exit 145, and head north on NW 2nd Street. The park is on the east side of NW 2nd, between NE 60th Avenue and NW 66th Avenue.
Free parking is near the entrance. There is also some parking near the hidden playground, at the end of the park road. Vault toilets are at the entrance and the back shelter, near the second playground.