Winter in Iowa can be cold and snowy, but not always! And even if it’s cold and snowy (and long), that doesn’t mean you can’t get out and enjoy the outdoors. You just need the proper clothing! And if you wonder what to expect during winter in Iowa, you’re in the right place! Below we’ll cover average winter temperatures and snowfall. And we’ll suggest what to do outdoors too!
There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing!”Norwegian proverb
Table of Contents
- Winter temperatures in Iowa
- Average snowfall in Iowa
- Things to do during an Iowa winter
Winter temperatures in Iowa
The coldest months are usually December through February, with January being the coldest. According to US Climate Data, in January, the average high is 31°F, and the average low is 14°F. But there are times when temps drop below zero and stay there for a couple of weeks.
Average winter temperatures in Central Iowa (November – March)
Average snowfall in Iowa
Iowa can see snow as early as October and as late as May. But when it does snow in early fall or spring, it usually doesn’t stick around. Most of the snow falls in Iowa from December-March, particularly in January and February.
Average snowfall varies, depending on the part of the state. The statewide average snowfall totals range from 18-42 inches each year. Southern counties average half the annual snowfall of the northern counties. And, in Central Iowa, the capital city of Des Moines receives an average of 36.5” annually.
Winter driving conditions
If you plan to travel from, through, or to Iowa in the winter, our best advice is to plan ahead. When we travel during the winter, we allow flexibility on either side of our road trip. This way, if snow or ice affects road conditions, we can (hopefully) work around it.
The best way to check winter road conditions is through the Iowa 511 app. There you can see snowplows (and plow cams), traffic cameras, and road conditions. The app is handy any time of the year because you can also see road construction, accidents, rest areas, and more.
Things to do during an Iowa winter
Believe it or not, many Iowans look forward to winter! Because there’s more to do and see in the winter months than you might think. (Remember, there’s no bad weather, just bad clothes.)
The parks and trails look like a whole new world in the winter (great for photos!). Plus, you can hike without being bothered by bugs or running into poison ivy. And the trails aren’t busy, so you can enjoy the stillness and quiet of having it all to yourself. And we think it’s even better if the snow is falling!
There are areas for downhill skiing and snow tubing, like Seven Oaks Recreation, Sundown Mountain Resort, and Mt. Crescent Ski Area, to name a few.
Ice skating is something fun to do with family and friends! If you have your own skates, there are several ponds and community rinks in Central Iowa. And for a great outdoor ice skating rink with rentals, check out Brenton Skating Plaza in Des Moines!
Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are other great ways to explore snowy trails. And many places rent equipment for you to try before you buy. Some ski shops and many of the Iowa county conservation boards have rentals and trails.
And when there’s snow, you have to go sledding! So, find a hill in a park, or do a quick web search on your town to find the best snow hills! In Des Moines, Winter Park, Waveland Golf Course, and Ewing Park are a few go-to’s!
And if the weather outside is frightful, there are fantastic things to do indoors too. Rent a cozy cabin, take a museum tour, see the holiday lights, or visit restaurants, breweries, and shops in your community!
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• Midwest Winter Getaways: Top 10 Winter Road Trips
• Winter in Des Moines