There is a wealth of outdoor activities near Council Bluffs for you and your family to explore. From historical exploration and culture to sports and recreation, Iowa has something for everyone. Here are a few of our favorites.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Unleash CB. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.
UPDATE: This post was first published in 2018 and was updated in July 2022.
Hitchcock Nature Center
Honey Creek, Iowa is home to Hitchcock Nature Center in Loess Hills, a formation of hills that provides refuge for animals. Hitchcock is situated on 1,268 acres in Loess Hills, and the activities that you can experience with your family will exceed your expectations. Most of the trails are kid-friendly (it’s one of our favorite places to hike!).
One of things we like to do at Hitchcock is climb the 45-foot observation deck. Looking into the horizon, you’ll see a 360-degree view of the natural beauty of the Missouri River Valley, the rolling Loess Hills, and the Omaha skyline.
Hitchcock offers events all year round for children, adults, and families. Hiking clubs, Yoga in the Park, tours of Loess Hills, and even an Insect Club are some of the upcoming events. (There are additional costs for some events.) Park hours are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, and admission is only $5 per car.
Botna Bend Park
Another Pottawatamie County treasure is Botna Bend Park, an incredible 119-acre park in Hancock, Iowa. Canoeing, tubing, or kayaking on the Nishnabotna River will have you booking this excursion every year. It’s so easy to get in the water with Rubber Duck Outfitters. They’ll bring everything you need to float or boat from Hancock to Oakland.
What really puts Botna Bend on the list is the elk and bison you’ll see in the park. Bring your camera and snap some shots of these magnificent animals. Like the Hitchcock Nature Center, admission is just $5 per vehicle.
Western Historic Trails
Update: The indoor trails center is closed without a reopen date set.
Take a bike ride or walk along the historic trails to trace the paths of the early explorers, including those who traveled the Lewis & Clark, Oregon, California and Mormon Trails.
Start at the indoor Western Historic Trails Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa to plan your outdoor excursions and routes. These sites expand outside of Council Bluffs.
Wabash Trace Nature Trail
On the south end of Council Bluffs, you’ll find the Wabash Trace Nature Trail, a 63-mile crushed limestone trail. The trail has a $2 daily fee to use the trail. It’s ideal for biking and walking.
It’s also home to the weekly Thursday night Taco Ride. If you join in the ride, know that it gets dark on the Taco Ride, so bring a light.
Lake Manawa State Park
Lake Manawa State Park is located within Council Bluffs and feature a large lake for boating and fishing, mountain bike trails, and a sandy beach. The large, wooden playground, Dream Playground, has reopened and is now the largest ADA-accessible playground in Iowa.
Related post: 10 Things To Do This Fall In Council Bluffs
In the fall, Ditmars Orchard is the place to be for apple picking, pumpkin patch browsing, and navigating the corn maze. There are annual special events at the orchard, as well, including hot air balloon glows, kite flying, and live music festivals.
It’s one of the closest apple orchards to the Omaha metro area, and one of my family’s favorites!
With all the outdoor activities in Western Iowa, one summer will not be enough to experience them all. Luckily, Iowa’s parks and recreation centers are open year round for your enjoyment. Come see all that Western Iowa has to offer!