Stumped on where to go for your next family hike? Here are seven of my family’s favorite trails to hike near Omaha to inspire your next outdoor adventure.
UPDATES: This post was first written in 2017 and updated in July 2020 with COVID-19 details. Some places charge admission and you may want to call ahead to be sure they are open.
Where: Omaha city limits
Why: Head here if you want a taste of nature but you’re short on time. This pretty wetland sanctuary in the heart of the city feels like an escape once you’re in the thick of it, but it’s not very large (so it’s great for little legs). Definitely venture to the little boardwalk over the pond.
Read more about Heron Haven.
COVID-19 UPDATE: The buildings are closed at Heron Haven temporarily, though trails ARE OPEN. There are usually Wetlands Programs held monthly, but they are temporarily suspended.
Where: Omaha city limits
Why: This city park has easy to somewhat difficult trails, plus a nice visitor center. There are some interesting features on trails, like the stairs that no one seems to agree on the number of them, plus unique slides.
If you’re hiking with little ones, you may want to factor a little playtime in this unique Omaha playground.
Tip: Omaha City Parks & Recreation holds quite a few FREE activities each year, that you should check out! My family has done a firefly night event and the Halloween themed one.
Where: Bellevue, Neb. (about a 10-mile drive from Omaha)
Why: Fontenelle Forest has 26 miles of trails, including the area’s best accessible boardwalk that makes it easy for wheelchairs and strollers to go deep into the woods.
They also have Acorn Acres, a great children’s outdoor playscape, and the new Raptor Woodland Refuge space that my kids insist we see each time we’re there. Both areas are open with some modifications.
Tip: While these trails have more signs posted than others, grab a map before heading out on your hike. If you have kids, consider checking out a backpack (they are disinfected after each use).
COVID-19 UPDATE: Fontenelle Forest trails have reopened. Masks are required to enter the Nature Center, and the lower level is not open at this time.
Hitchcock Nature Center
Where: Honey Creek, Iowa (about a 20-mile drive from Omaha)
Why: This park tucked in the Loess Hills is beautiful in any season. You’ll find 10 miles of trails with a good mix of easy ridge lines and difficult, rugged trails, plus an accessible boardwalk. The visitor center is top-notch, and there’s a lookout tower that kids enjoy. Time a visit well and participate in the Hawk Watch.
Read my tips for visiting Hitchcock Nature Center every season of the year.
Tip: Check out a backpack at the visitor center. They’re free to borrow and include kid-friendly items to enhance your hike.
COVID-19 UPDATE: The lodge, cabins and trails are all open to visitors now.
Arbor Day Farms Tree Adventure
Where: Nebraska City, Neb. (about a 50-mile drive from Omaha)
Why: The South Table Creek Trail at the Tree Adventure is a favorite of my family. It has a couple bridges, some fun kids structures, and a bird sculpture-spotting game.
In addition to the trail, we love the outdoor education center, the treehouse, and the most amazing new addition in 2019 – the Treetop Village.
Read more about the Tree Adventure. There is a paved trail and a dirt trail here. They are not difficult to hike.
Tip: There are frequent special events held at the Tree Adventure, so check the calendar to time a fun visit. We visited one time when there was a gnome scavenger hunt!
COVID-19 UPDATE: Reserve your tickets to the Tree Adventure in advance. Arbor Day Lodge Mansion, Discovery Rides and the Tree Adventure gift shop are temporarily closed.
Platte River State Park
Where: Louisville, Neb. (about 30-mile drive from Omaha)
Why: This is one of my family’s favorite Nebraska State Park, with a good variety of easy to difficult trails. A favorite trail that’s great for kids is very short and flat leading past a waterfall.
There are definitely more difficult trails in this state park. It’s a tough call which park, Platte River or Hitchcock, have the best terrain for hikes out of this list.
Tip: Bring a map with you when exploring these trails. There aren’t a whole lot of signs out there, and you can end up taking a much longer hike than anticipated.
Read more about Platte River State Park activities.
COVID-19 UPDATES: The spray park is open. State Parks have fully reopened for camping, fishing, hiking, biking, wildlife viewing, and other recreation that provides adequate room for proper physical distancing among guests who are not experiencing signs of illness. Wear a mask when entering visitor centers.
Schramm Park State Recreation Area
Where: Gretna, Neb. (about 30 miles from Omaha)
Why: Schramm Park used to be the “forgotten park” for me, but in 2019, I revisited it with my family and found a whole new appreciation for it. The trails are scenic, and the bridge is a memorable one.
Schramm has a new aquarium and visitor’s center that has a fee to enter, but it’s a really nice facility. There’s also a nearby fossil dig site that kids will marvel at.
COVID-19 UPDATES: The Schramm Park Education Center reopened July 6.
Eugene T. Mahoney State Park
Where: Ashland, Neb. (about 30-mile drive from Omaha)
Why: Mahoney State Park is full of things to do. It’s not a particularly great place for hiking, but there are some trails and they are pretty easy. There’s a paved path around the park, too, though it’s not very shade. One highlight for kids is the trail near the lookout tower, which leads you to an overlook where you might catch a train passing by.
Tip: Bring a swimsuit and cool off at the park’s amazing aquatic center after your hike. Or, keep the trail theme going and go on a horseback ride at Mahoney.
COVID-19 UPDATES: The aquatic center is open, as are cabins and the lodge. State Parks have fully reopened for camping, fishing, hiking, biking, wildlife viewing, and other recreation that provides adequate room for proper physical distancing among guests who are not experiencing signs of illness. Wear a mask when entering visitor centers.
More places for hiking near Omaha
There are a few state parks within 60 miles of Omaha that are said to have excellent hiking trails. I can’t vouch for them having not actually hiked them with kids. However, if you’re eager to find new places, check out Indian Cave State Park and Schramm Park, both located in southeastern Nebraska.
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