How To Step Up Your Nature Game At Fontenelle Forest

I love hikes and finding new outdoor spaces to explore, like trails near my home in Omaha. However, when hiking with my kids, I hear a lot of questions I don’t have answers for (unless I bust out my iPhone to Google it). Fontenelle Forest has created a non-tech solution: Family Backpacks.

Disclosure: I’m a member of Fontenelle Forest, so my admission was free, and for this post, the forest provided a complimentary backpack to check out.

Where’s Fontenelle Forest?

Before jumping into what’s in the backpack, for those unfamiliar with Fontenelle Forest, this lovely nature center is located in Bellevue, Neb., just south of Omaha.

Related post: 10 Must-Try Bellevue Restaurants

Boardwalk at Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue, Nebraska

It’s a beautiful place to take the family. There are miles and miles of trails, plus a long boardwalk, making it accessible for wheelchairs and strollers. There’s also the Raptor Woodland Refuge to explore and a fun nature playscape.

COVID-19 update: Although Fontenelle Forest buildings are closed, the trails are open to members, or with the purchase of daily admission. Memberships and daily admission can be purchased online at FontenelleForest.org or by calling (402) 731-3140. The boardwalk is marked with one-way arrows to help with social distancing. The Raptor Woodland Refuge and nature playscape space, as well as all buildings, are closed temporarily.

Fontenelle Forest COVID-19 guidelines

What’s a Family Backpack?

Fontenelle Forest started the Family Backpack Program in May. Each backpack contains guides, activities, and tools to enhance a visit to the forest. Two themes are available: Hiking or birding.

I’ve used similar backpacks at Hitchcock Nature Center or DeSoto Wildlife Refuge and loved how they added a lot to our hikes!

We used a backpack on our recent visit to Fontenelle Forest. We checked it out before hitting the ropes course at TreeRush Adventures.

My 8-year-old was eager to sort through the backpack to see everything available.

Girl using binoculars from the Family Backpack at Fontenelle Forest

She was immediately drawn to the binoculars and magnifying glasses.

Each backpack comes with a lot of items and activities – some items are yours to keep.

Items include:

  • Map and activity sheets
  • Cloud identification guide
  • Guide to common birds of Fontenelle Forest
  • Flashcards to common trees at Fontenelle Forest
  • Guide to common spring and summer plants at Fontenelle Forest
  • Don’t touch flashcards with photos of plants you want to avoid (super helpful!)
  • A pair of kid’s binoculars
  • Five magnifying glasses
  • One bug box
  • And to keep: Crayon pucks, pencils, construction paper, stickers
Girl with Fontenelle Forest's Family Backpack

While the backpack itself is pretty large, it’s not too heavy for a kid to carry.

How long can you use the backpack?

Bags are to be checked out for two hours, and in my opinion, there’s no way you’ll get through all activities in one backpack in two hours.

And I think that’s the point. These bags would be great for multiple visits.

Think of it as having easy-to-plan, themed field trips this summer.

Girl with magnifying glass at Fontenelle Forest

Do the backpacks cost money?

Yes. A backpack costs $10 for two hours. You’re going to call ahead to reserve the backpack at 402-731-3140. It’s a first-come, first-served basis.

Be sure to return the backpack within two hours. You will be charged another rental fee if you keep the backpack beyond your allotted time.

Are the backpacks safe during COVID-19?

Fontenelle Forest stresses the fact that they sanitize each backpack and everything in it after every use.

The items that they cannot sanitize were ours to keep.

Planning a trip to Fontenelle Forest, near Omaha Nebraska? Here's a way to learn about the plants and wildlife you'll see there! #outdoors #Nebraska #familytime #Midwest #hiking

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