We Tried Out Every Sledding Hill in the Cedar Rapids/Marion Area. Here’s How They Stack Up

sledding hills

As the snow began piling up (and piling up) during December and January, our family decided, when life gives you snow, go sledding.

We set a goal of visiting every public sledding hill in the area – and I’m proud to say, that after 8 weeks, 7 sledding hills, 4 gallons of hot chocolate, and 3 visits to the chiropractor, we accomplished our goal!

We couldn’t let our sledding tour knowledge go to waste, so we’re sharing a round-up of Linn County sledding hills here with our family’s personal assessment of each one.

Since it looks like we’ll have snow around for a few more weeks, we hope you’ll try one out!

Pinicon Ridge – Most Thrilling

4729 Horseshoe Falls Rd, Central City, IA 52214

  • Difficulty of climbing hill: 7/10, The hill is steep, but there is a clearly marked path to climb up the hill, and the hill is not as long as others in the area.
  • Thrill of the ride: 9/10. So, so fun – with just a slight hint of terror.
  • Amenities: Currently, none nearby. There is a lodge at the top of the hill, but it is currently closed.
  • Preschool friendly? 4/10. There is a smaller slope near the base of the larger hill which works for younger kids, but I would only ride down the main hill with a tight grip on my little one – we caught some air.
  • My kids say: “Scream-worthy, exciting, and felt a little bit dangerous!”

Wanatee Park: Most Beautiful View

1600 Banner Dr, Marion, IA 52302

  • Difficulty of climbing hill: 9/10. Saddle up for this hike, but it is absolutely worth it to zoom down from the pinnacle of the sledding hill. Not to mention what my daughter called “Grant Wood Scenic Views”
  • Thrill of the ride: 8/10. After my breathing finally slowed down from the climb, my heartrate climbed right back up again during a speedy zoom down the hill.
  • Amenities: Warming hut, public restroom, and benches. There is an enclosed lodge, which is not currently open to the public.
  • Preschool friendly? 4/10. There is a smaller hill for younger kids close to the parking lot, but most will not be up for the climb to the top of the primary sledding hill (our five year old opted out).
  • My kids said: “Quite exhilarating, fun, and bumpy.”

Jones Park – Longest Ride

201 Wilson Ave Dr SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404

  • Difficulty of climbing hill: 6/10. Jones has a long hill with a moderate climb, but no one in my family tired out too quickly.
  • Thrill of the ride: 8/10. When I think of a classic sledding hill, this is what you experience at Jones – a long, pretty thrilling ride.
  • Amenities: Playground and picnic shelter near the top of the sledding hill
  • Preschool friendly? 5/10. Yes, there is a playground nearby, but the sledding hill is the main attraction. I would not send a younger child down the hill without a parent or older child due to the pond at the base of the hill.
  • My kids said: “We rode this hill the most – it’s a great thrilling ride!”

Bowman Woods Park  – Best Party (or Most Crowded, depending on how you look at it)

141 Boyson Rd NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402

  • Difficulty of climbing hill: 7/10. This is a long double hill which is often quite busy, making the climb back uphill dicey at times.
  • Thrill of the ride: My kids say 8/10, my husband and I say 3/10, but that’s usually because we are very concerned we are going to plow into someone while going down the hill. This is definitely a hill where kids and grown-ups disagree on the fun factor.
  • Amenities: While Bowman Woods Elementary School is adjacent to the park, its playground and grounds are not technically part of the park and sledding hill. An unexpected amenity is that due to its popularity, you may run into friends while you’re there. Possibly literally.
  • Preschool friendly? 4/10. Not particularly. The hill is often crowded, and one slope causes you to catch air. We made sure our youngest never went down the hill alone.
  • My kids say: “This is the ultimate party hill.”

Shawnee Park – Most Like a Ski Resort

2198 Belmont Pkwy NW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52405

  • Difficulty of climbing hill: 7/10. There are many different slopes to choose from at Shawnee, just like a ski resort, but most were a fairly long climb. We tired more quickly than we thought at this hill.
  • Thrill of the ride: 6/10. It was fun, but not particularly memorable.
  • Amenities: Playground and picnic shelter at the top of the hill
  • Preschool friendly?  6/10. There is a small playground at the top of the hill, and while most slopes take awhile to climb, it does not appear to be a particularly busy hill.
  • My kids said: “Exciting but tiring. Hard to choose which hill to go down first.”

Thomas Park: Most Low-Key

343 Marion Blvd, Marion, IA 52302

  • Difficulty of climbing hill: 5/10. The hill at Thomas Park has a fairly gentle slope, but still feels like a long climb.
  • Thrill of the ride: 4/10. We had trouble getting momentum going on this hill. It probably works best on very packed down snow, but the hill has a tendency to push your sled toward the trees.
  • Amenities: Skating rink and playground nearby
  • Preschool friendly? 7/10. Yes, but the playground is far enough away that you will have to choose between sledding and swinging.
  • My kids say: “A little boring, but the skating rink was awesome.”

Donnelly Park   – Honorable Mention: Best for Preschool Aged Kids

290 W 8th Avenue, Marion, IA 52302

  • Difficulty of climbing hill: 3/10. While not a true sledding hill, Donnelly has a great, short hill that is ideal for young kids who want to go sledding but tire easily. It’s also a great beginner hill for snowboarding.
  • Thrill of the ride: 5/10. The slope is steep enough to be fun, but not long or bumpy.
  • Amenities: Playground, benches, and a picnic shelter nearby.
  • Preschool friendly? 9/10. Not only is this a short friendly slope for younger kids, but the playground is extremely close to the hill, making it easy for parents to keep an eye on kids. A restroom would have made it 10/10 for preschoolers.
  • My kids said: “A fun little sledding hill, and even more fun to ride down on your bike in the summer.”

    Published originally on February 2, 2021.

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