Strasser Woods State Preserve is 40-acres of dense woodlands on Des Moines’ east side. It’s a unique area along the Four Mile Creek Greenway, featuring upland forest and bottomlands.
About Strasser Woods State Preserve
In 1981, Joseph and Elizabeth Strasser donated this 40-acre plot to the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. The land ownership transferred to the Iowa DNR in 1982, and it became a state preserve. Today, it’s owned by the state of Iowa and managed by Polk County Conservation.
Things to Do
The most popular activity at Stasser Woods is hiking through the dense forest! You’ll soon forget you’re in the city under the thick canopy of trees. It’s the perfect spot for a short (but hilly!) hike. Though the .45-miles of hiking trails are a bit short, they connect to the Gay Lea Wilson paved trail to the east. From there, you can go on for miles!
The varied landscape at Strasser Woods is the perfect place to spot a wide range of bird species. Waterfowl, woodpeckers, warblers, flycatchers, owls, and more get spotted regularly. You might even glimpse a Bald Eagle or American White Pelican passing through.
Polk County Conservation allows gathering nuts, fruit, and edible mushrooms as long as it’s not for commercial use. The preserve is ideal for finding morels and draws mushroom hunters each spring. If you’re new to mushroom hunting, make sure you know what to look for (and where) before heading out!
Removing plants, hunting animals, and harvesting wood is strictly prohibited.
Strasser Woods Map
Other Things to Do Nearby
The Gay Lea Wilson Trail is on the east edge of Strasser Woods and accessible from the hiking trail. It’s a great trail through diverse landscapes, with plenty of fun stops along the route. The trail is still expanding too. Currently, it’s about 21 miles long. It has two intersecting segments—from Ankeny to Pleasant Hill and Pleasant Hill to Altoona.
Copper Creek Lake Park is about 1½ miles southeast of the preserve in Pleasant Hill. Get to it from the preserve via the Gay Lea Wilson Trail (or drive there, it’s off of University Ave). It’s a 40-acre lake, surrounded by a 1.2-mile paved trail, with a picnic shelter and lakeside playground. Copper Creek Lake is at 4390 E University Ave, Pleasant Hill, IA 50327.
Easter Lake Park is about 8 miles south of Stasser Woods. The park has a 178-acre lake, miles of paved trails, a covered bridge, a swimming beach, boat rentals, and much more!
Ewing Park is about 7 miles to the south. The Lilac Arboretum, Children’s Forest, BMX track, and disc golf are a few features in this one-of-a-kind park.
Just 7½ miles east of the preserve is Des Moines Water Works Park and Gray’s Lake Park. They offer a ton of outdoor activities on over a thousand acres of parkland and trails near downtown Des Moines!
Future outdoor recreation nearby! Four Mile Creek Greenway extends along the east edge of the preserve. The 450-acre area is in the beginning stages of restoration. Polk County Conservation’s master plan involves changing a formal flood-prone residential area into native prairie, wetland, and woodlands. Future parks and water trail access points are part of the 10-15 year project.
Visit Strasser Woods State Preserve Today!
Strasser Woods is at 1552 E 36th Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50317.
Strasser Woods is near the Iowa State Fairgrounds. From I-235, take exit 10A to head east on East University Ave. Follow E. University for 2 miles, and turn left (north) onto East 36th Street. Follow East 36th to the end of the road. The parking area is at a dead-end on East 36th Street.
Park hours are 6:30 am – 10:30 pm. A small gravel parking area is at the park entrance, at the end of East 36th Street.