Best areas in Ames to embrace the great outdoors


Enjoy the last days of summer with these outdoor areas near Ames. 

Eleanor Chalstrom

With the final days of summer approaching fast, soaking up the outdoors is vital. Ames and the surrounding areas boast some perfect spaces to enjoy the great outdoors.

Reiman Gardens

Reiman Gardens is Iowa State’s very own celebration of horticulture and nature. The Gardens were completed in 1995 and have grown to cover 17-acres of land over the years. The Gardens are home to walking paths that bring visitors through different horticultural displays. Whether it’s the sprawling field of tulips in the spring, the tropical greenhouse or the massive garden gnome statue, visitors can find a little piece of the Gardens that they find special. The Gardens also boast an indoor facility that includes a butterfly garden and educational exhibits on horticulture. Reiman Gardens holds frequent events for students and the public to enjoy the Gardens in alternative ways. Admission is free to Iowa State students, as well.

Ada Hayden Heritage Park

Named after former Iowa State University botany professor and conservationist, Ada Hayden Heritage Park is an Ames landmark that celebrates Iowa prairie land. The park situates around a small lake that can be used for kayaking, canoeing and fishing. With five different trail options, Ada Hayden is ideal for runners and bikers. The park also has shelters and grills for picnics. This park exemplifies how Iowa’s natural beauty invites people to enjoy it in more ways than one.

Ledges State Park

Only a short drive from Ames, Ledges State Park is located near Madrid, Iowa. Ledges is known for its forested scenery and canyon views. The park settles around the Des Moines River and the valley that surrounds it creates a stunning geological effect. Visitors can drive along the river and take in the site of the sandstone ledges that tower almost 100 feet above the river bed. Ledges provides four miles of hiking trails that wind up and around the ledges. Visitors can fish, kayak and wade in the river when the weather permits, as well. Ledges State Park also serves as a campsite, so those wanting a weekend in the wilderness can get their dose.

McFarland Park

This year-round park is located just north of Ames and spans about 200-acres. McFarland has walking trails, ponds, docks for small boats and picnic areas. But it is especially suited for those with an adrenaline-junkie side. McFarland has 5.5 miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking in the summer. McFarland is also open in the winter months for cross-country skiing and ice fishing with proper permits.

Take a walk around Iowa State’s campus

Iowa State is a great place to take in nature itself. Founded in 1858, the land-grant college has an impressive collection of modern architecture and classic buildings from the university’s beginnings. Hammocking in central campus, taking a sculpture tour or walking around Lake LaVerne are perfect ways to get your fix of the stunning campus.