29 Awesome Farm And Food Experiences Near Omaha

Picture yourself in a place with wide open spaces, fresh air, and perhaps, adorable animals. That, my friends, is what I’ve been seeking lately: Outdoor farm experiences near Omaha. There’s a term for it. Agritourism. If you’re interested in some farm experiences (and maybe a little food or drink), read on!

What Is Agritourism

Agritourism is a growing type of travel that combines agriculture and tourism. That’s simple enough, right? But, what does it mean? Let’s use the National Agricultural Law Center for a better definition:

Sign at Nelson Family Farm in Nebraska

“Simply stated, agritourism could be thought of as the crossroads of tourism and agriculture. Stated more technically, agritourism can be defined as a form of commercial enterprise that links agricultural production and/or processing with tourism in order to attract visitors onto a farm, ranch, or other agricultural business for the purposes of entertaining and/or educating the visitors and generating income for the farm, ranch, or business owner.

“Regardless of the exact definition or terminology, any definition of agritourism should include the following four factors:

• combines the essential elements of the tourism and agriculture industries;

• attracts members of the public to visit agricultural operations;

• is designed to increase farm income; and

• provides recreation, entertainment, and/or educational experiences to visitors.”

Farms Near Omaha

If a farm has animals, it’s a hit with my family. Here are a few of our favorites! The listings are based on proximity to Omaha, starting with the closest.

Milking a goat near Honey Creek Creamery in Iowa.
  • Scatter Joy Acres (4966 Newport Ave., Omaha) – Scatter Joy Acres is all about animal encounters, from goats, cows and horses to more exotic species like peacocks and a porcupine.
  • Nelson Produce Farm (10505 N. 234th St., Valley, Neb.) – Pick produce off the plants (or buy from their farmstead), plus check out adorable animals at Nelson Produce Farm. You can buy food to feed some of them. This farm has a small cafe where you can buy lunch, or treat yourself to a large watermelon slice or a tasty strawberry shortcake.
  • Honey Creek Creamery (25593 Old Lincoln Highway, Honey Creek, Iowa) – My first introduction to Honey Creek Creamery was early spring one year when they started hosting goat yoga sessions. It was more cuddle time with the babies than serious stretches, and I loved it. It’s located next door to Stanley’s Snack Shack, where you can buy ice cream made with goat’s milk. If you’re lucky, they may show you how to milk one of the goats!
  • Other farms – Gifford Farm (700 Camp Gifford Road, Bellevue, Neb.); Hansen’s Dairy (8461 Lincoln Road, Hudson, Iowa)

Farm-To-Table Experiences

Another sub-group in the farm category are the ones that involve eating good food or wine straight from the farm. While having fresh watermelon at or goat’s milk ice cream is one thing, the following take the food experience to the next level.

Luna Valley Farm in Decorah, Iowa.
  • Weekends at Slattery Vintage Estates (8925 Adams St.,  Nehawka, Neb.) – Come for the wine tasting (during non-COVID times) and wood-fire pizza, stay for the live music outdoors. The setting is absolutely charming (though, technically, the ingredients for the pizza weren’t grown there). We spent a night in one of their glamping tents, making it an easy walk to dinner and entertainment that night.
  • Farm to Table (Nelson Produce Farm at 10505 N. 234th St., Valley, Neb.) – One weekend a month, the farm hosts a dinner on Friday and Saturday nights with a fresh menu. Dates are up for August and September, with October to be determined still.
  • Farm to Fork (Central Avenue in Nebraska City, Neb.) – I’ve been eyeing this annual event in Nebraska City and have never been able to snag tickets. They go on sale in March/April and sell out long before the event in August. Each year, the multi-course, family-style dining experience features “dishes created by regional restaurateurs utilizing locally-sourced products complemented with regional wine.” Sounds amazing.
  • Luna Valley Farm (3012 Middle Sattre Road, Decorah, Iowa) – This is the farm that started an obsession for me. I had wood-fire pizza at a farm one weekend in Decorah and I’ve never forgotten it. The ingredients were grown and raised on the farm. And they had live music and beer to pair with it. Heaven. Note: I’ll be the first to confirm this is not close to Omaha. But if you’re in that part of Iowa, make an effort to go!
  • More options: Pizza on the Prairie at Wallace Centers of Iowa (2773 290th St., Orient, Iowa)

Living History Farms

See what life was like on a farm a century (or longer) ago at these living history farms.

Family walking around Living History Farms in Urbandale, Iowa
  • Living History Farms (11121 Hickman Road, Urbandale, Iowa) – This giant, open-air museum is probably the most well known living history farm for Iowans and Nebraskans. It’s so well done, and covers several Midwestern eras of farming. My kids loved the hands-on nature of it and the knowledgable staff.
  • Other living history farms: Wessels Living History Farm (5520 S. Lincoln Ave., York, Neb.); Carstens 1880 Farmstead (32409 380th St., Shelby, Iowa)

Orchards Near Omaha

Whether you choose to pick your own apples or berries, or buy them straight from the farmer who grew them, these are the orchards to visit in Nebraska and Iowa. The listings are based on proximity to Omaha, starting with the closest.

Apple picking at Ditmars Orchard in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
  • Ditmars Orchard (19475 225th St., Council Bluffs, Iowa) – I’ve loved this charming little orchard for years now. It’s never crowded, it’s a super close orchard to Omaha, there’s a good variety of apples and they have a fun play area for kids. Oh, and they have the most delicious apple cider donuts. And wine. Don’t forget their wine.
  • Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure (2611 Arbor Ave, Nebraska City, Neb.) – Picking apples is just a small part of the fun activities at the Tree Adventure. However, one of the unique things about this orchard is the chance to pick and taste heirloom apples.
  • Other orchards – Bellevue Berry Farm & Pumpkin Patch (11001 S. 48th St., Papillion, Neb.); Trees, Shrubs & More (3803 Cornhusker Road, Bellevue, Neb.); Small’s Fruit Farm (1844 194th St., Mondamin, Iowa); Union Orchard (2405 S. Highway 75, Union, Neb.); Kimmel Orchard & Vineyard (5995 G Road, Nebraska City, Neb.)

Pumpkin Patches Near Omaha

Pumpkin patches have grown to be more than strolling through a field of pumpkins. The whole-day experiences. The listings are based on proximity to Omaha, starting with the closest.

Vala's Pumpkin Patch & Apple Orchard in Gretna, Neb.
  • Vala’s Pumpkin Patch & Apple Orchard (12102 S. 180th St., Gretna, Neb.) – It’s not fall until my family has been to Vala’s. Some people (myself included) refer to it as the “Disney of Pumpkin Patches” because there is so much to do there, it takes an entire day. The apple orchard is fairly new. Don’t leave without trying a slice of pie.
  • Other pumpkin patches – Welch’s Pumpkin Patch (17676 Sunnydale Road, Council Bluffs, Iowa); Pioneer Trail Orchard & Pumpkin Patch (21534 Chestnut Road, Council Bluffs, Iowa); Skinny Bones Pumpkin Patch (3935 NE-133, Blair, Neb.); Bloom Where You’re Planted Farm & Pumpkin Patch (911 108th St., Avoca, Neb.); McCurdy’s Pumpkins (intersection of Highway 71 and Highway 6 on the east edge of Atlantic, Iowa); Poppy’s Pumpkin Patch (55275 837th Road, Norfolk, Neb.); Uncle Bill’s Farm (244 400th Ave., Grinnell, Iowa) 

Hay Rides Near Omaha

While many farms and orchards have a variation of a hay ride, if the ride itself is what you seek, rather than picking fruit or petting an animal, then read on.

Tractors lined up for hay rides at Shady Lane Ranch in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
  • Shady Lane Ranch (17744 Shady Lane, Council Bluffs, Iowa) – A great place to combine a hayrack ride with a bonfire, a trip to Shady Lane is a fall favorite of mine. Fun warning: Hay rides usually involve hay fights between passing tractors.
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Tours Near Omaha

Find out where your food and drink comes from, and how things get made, on these tours.

Passport for the Living Loess tour in Iowa.
  • Living Loess tour (various destinations around western Iowa) – This monthly (and seasonal), self-guided tour highlights various destinations in the Loess Hills of western Iowa. Each month, a different destination is featured and hosts activities. On one outing, we went to Harvest Studio, where botanical artist Cynthia Gehrie, works. With her guidance, my family painted nature art. As you visit a destination, be sure to get the stamp on your passport for a chance to win a prize.
  • Other tours – Tassel Ridge Winery Tour (1681 220th St., Leighton, Iowa; see the steps “from vine to bottle”)

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Explore agritourism in Nebraska and Iowa with these farm destinations near Omaha. Farm experiences include farm-to-table dinner, petting zoos, goat yoga, living history farms, u-pick fruits, and more!

14 Awesome Iowa Road Trips For The Summer

I’m always up for a weekend getaway, and Iowa has become my reliable, go-to state. Iowa cities provide an inexpensive vacation, and all within just a few hours from Omaha. Here are a few of my favorite, memorable vacations in Iowa, plus recommendations from Iowa travel bloggers.

Is it a day trip or a weekend trip?

So, good question. How far away are these places from Omaha? And should you plan just a day or a weekend? I almost always plan overnight trips, even to nearby towns in Iowa.

I typically plan overnight stays for anything more than a two-hour, one-way drive from Omaha. But, to help you decide, here are the distances from Omaha:

Elk Horn – 65 miles from Omaha

Audubon – 80 miles from Omaha

Lake Icaria – 85 miles from Omaha

Sioux City – 100 miles from Omaha

Des Moines – 135 miles from Omaha (so much to do, I’d recommend more than a day)

Estherville – 190 miles from Omaha

Okoboji – 200 miles from Omaha (definitely an overnight – but you’ll want a whole weekend there)

Ottumwa – 220 miles from Omaha (definitely an overnight trip)

Clear Lake – 250 miles from Omaha (definitely an overnight trip)

Decorah – 330 miles from Omaha (definitely an overnight trip)

Summers are for road trips! If you're looking for a Midwestern destination, here's where to road trip in Iowa, with tips on what to do in each city and what to see. Iowa has wide-open spaces, amusement parks, and quirky attractions.

Closer Iowa road trips

Looking for places closer to Omaha for a quick getaway? I recommend exploring southwest Iowa. Here are a few notable places and things to do:

Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek

Hikes in the Loess Hills in southwestern Iowa

14 unique trails in Pottawattamie County, Iowa

Wabash Trace Nature Trail in southwestern Iowa

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Need an inexpensive but fun summer getaway? Here are 13+ Iowa road trips this summer, with tips on what cities to visit, what to do, where to eat, and what's not-to-miss.

Awesome Things To Do In Des Moines On A Weekend Getaway

Des Moines, Iowa, is one of those cities that I take for granted that it’s so near. We’ve visited the city just a handful of times since I started this blog, and each time, we discover something new and exciting. It’s probably time I compile some of the greatest hits of our DSM adventures for you!

COVID-19 Update: Businesses in the state of Iowa is opening at a limited capacity, so double check before your visit to see what the restrictions are. Either contact the restaurant or attraction or see if there is an update on Catch Des Moines, the city’s official tourism website. Check the Iowa Department of Public Health for the latest health updates.

Plan a weekend getaway using this list of fun things to do in Des Moines,  Iowa. List includes attractions, must-try Des Moines restaurants, and tips  on what to do with kids. #Iowa #DesMoines #DSM #Midwest #Travel #familytravel

Des Moines Attractions

Discover Des Moines attractions, museums, and restaurants to visit on your next weekend getaway. Here are a few of my favorites, as well as a few that are on my to-visit list for our next trip.

Sample family-friendly weekend itinerary for Des Moines

We’ve “done” Des Moines in two different ways: As an extended pitstop on a longer road trip through Iowa, and as a dedicated weekend ‘o fun.

Based on both experiences, and on my experience of always stopping at a particular restaurant in Des Moines every.single.chance. I get, here is my suggested itinerary.

Day 1

Spend the day in downtown Des Moines. If it’s a Saturday and it’s summer, stroll through the farmer’s market. Sample a few foods as you make your way down the street to your first destination: The Science Center of Iowa.

After a few hours there, you’ll be hungry. Lucky for you, Fong’s Pizza is on the same block. Get the crab rangoon pizza. Just trust me.

If your kids are, somehow, still full of energy, have them run it out at the Pappajohn Sculpture Garden. If you’d rather be indoors, head to the state capitol building for a tour.

End the night with a crazy huge burger at Zombie Burger in the Historic East Village.

Slice of crab rangoon pizza at Fong's Pizza  in Des Moines, Iowa

Day 2

Hope you’re rested. Today you can choose between thrills at Adventureland or history and cows at the Living History Farms. Either way, you’ll be walking a lot and probably really hot by the end of the day.

If you’re at Adventureland, just plan on eating in the park for lunch.

At the Living History Farms, you’re not farm from the Machine Shed. The servings are huge, so I hope you’re hungry.

For dinner, pick something off Megan’s list of the best restaurants in Des Moines. And, um, take a shower before you go.

Slice of chocolate cake at the Machine Shed in Des Moines, Iowa

Where to stay in Des Moines

To be honest, I don’t have a favorite hotel in Des Moines, but I can recommend a few that are near some attractions, and maybe that will be enough of a deciding factor.

If you are planning to spend a day or two at Adventureland, I wrote about the hotel that’s super close to the amusement park.

If your plans take you to West Des Moines (or further), we stayed at the Wildwood Lodge in Clive. This one had a pretty cool lodge theme to it and the kids loved the pool.

15+ Things To Know About Wabash Trace Trail (Plus Taco Ride Tips)

Omaha has a pretty decent amount of paved and mountain bike trails, but every so often, we come across a trail that outshines the others. I’m talking about the Wabash Trace Nature Trail, which yes, isn’t in Omaha, but it’s close enough. Let me tell you about this long trail in southwestern Iowa.

Related post: 15+ things to do in southwest Iowa with kids

Where is the Wabash Trace Nature Trail?

The Wabash Trace Trail is a rails-to-trail path in western Iowa stretching from Council Bluffs to Blanchard. It’s 63 miles of crushed limestone and, for the most part, it’s pretty straight and flat (being a former railroad route and all).

Girl riding a bike in the fall on the Wabash Trace Trail in Iowa

Most people that I know, ie. those living in the Omaha metro area, start in Council Bluffs. The access point in Council Bluffs is on the south end of town, not far from Iowa School for the Deaf. There’s a park near the trail where you can leave your car, as well as a Lewis Central School District school parking lot.

I’ve biked this trail mostly, but there are quite a few runners and walkers on the trail, as well.

A few things to know about the trail

This trail is maintained by two nonprofits and volunteers, not taxpayer money. So, it’s extremely important to pay the minor trail pass fee so surfaces and bridges can be maintained.

And so trees and debris can be removed from the path.

A fallen tree blocks the path on the Wabash Trace Trail in southwest Iowa

The last I’d checked, the fee is $2 per day for anyone between the ages of 12 and 64, or an annual pass of $20. You simply drop your fee or donation in the collection poll at any trailhead. Annual bike passes are available at local bike shops.

The northern half of the trail, where I’m most familiar with, offers vistas of the Loess Hills. I’ve yet to make cover the entire distance. If you want to, there are places to stay overnight, making it a manageable overnight or weekend trip.

Must-stop on the trail: Mineola

Most Omaha bikers of any skill level can make the out-and-back trip to Mineola. It’s not easy — it’s nearly 20 miles in all — but it can be done.

Why Mineola? It’s the first town stop on this trail when you depart from the Council Bluffs trailhead. And it’s home to one of the first restaurants that’s a short ride off the trail: Tobey Jack’s Mineola Steakhouse.

Exterior of Tobey Jacks Mineola Steak House in Iowa

It’s located at 408 Main St., so about a block or so from the trailhead in Mineola. The town isn’t huge, so it should be fairly easy to find.

What to like about it? Outdoor seating and lots of it!

We ordered a few appetizers to split, but there’s also a kid’s menu and much heartier fare to choose from.

Riding with kids on the Wabash

There is a Wabash trail map you can check online to see the distances between each stop. We rode the Council Bluffs to Mineola leg of the trail with two kids ages 7 and 9.

Mom and daughter on the Wabash Trace Trail in southwestern Iowa

My kids are fairly seasoned bikers for their young age, so the 9.6-mile one-way ride wasn’t too difficult, but it did require us a stop to rest each way.

The good news about that route:

  • – It’s mostly shaded. I love a good route with towering trees.
  • – There are a few bridges to cross, which are always fun for kids. There’s also a tunnel.
  • -It’s pretty straight and flat, so kids who aren’t that sure on their two wheels don’t have sharp turns or steep downhills to worry about. While it looks flat, you will occasionally notice a slight incline, though.
  • – I enjoyed the scenery. It’s very easy to feel removed from the rest of the world and yet you’re not very far from the city.
  • – There’s at Mineola restaurant called Tobey Jack’s to look forward to at the turnaround point. You can order food or get a frozen treat out of the cooler. Grown-ups, there is also beer on the menu.
Boy biking on a bridge on the Wabash Trace Trail

The bad news about that route:

  • – The path is made of crushed limestone, so if you own a road bike, you’re not going to want to take it on this trail.
  • – My kids became bored with the trail being so straight.
  • – The route does involve crossing a few country roads. They aren’t busy roads, at least, but you just have to be ready to stop occasionally to look both ways for cross traffic.
  • – Water fountains are not found along this route. We refilled at our mid-way point.
  • – Bathrooms are also not a given on this trail. You may just have to use the great outdoors, mostly. We did find a port-a-potty at Margaritaville, a funny little picnic area not too far from Mineola. If you can hold it, wait until you get to the restaurant in Mineola, though.
Wabash Trace trailhead

The popular Taco Ride on the Wabash Trace Trail

Perhaps you’ve heard of a Thursday night bike ride called The Taco Ride. It’s the exact same route I took with the kids, from Council Bluffs to Mineola.

Margaritaville during the day is just a quiet picnic area to rest on the Wabash Trace Trail. During the Taco Ride, it's packed with people.

This popular weekly event draws hundreds and sometimes thousands of cyclists, and it’s a lot of fun. While you may just breeze by Margaritaville on a day trip, it’s a must-stop during the Taco Ride.

It’s been going for decades now, and the Taco Ride got its name because the original restaurant you’d stop at offered discount tacos and beers on Thursday nights. The name stuck even when it turned into a steakhouse.

There is no set-in-stone start and end time, but most people head to the trail shortly after work ends on Thursday. Consider it the bike rider’s happy hour.

An Iowa microbrew beer served at Tobey Jack's Mineola Steak House

Is it kid-friendly, you might wonder? Well, I’ve been on the ride a few times in my younger days with friends and rarely saw a kid riding with a parent. I’d say kids wouldn’t be shunned, it’s just not the scene I’d want to bring a kid to.

But if you do want to bring kids, go early in the evening and head back before dusk.

The first view of Mineola heading south on the Wabash Trace Trail

There are some risks to the Taco Ride, if you aren’t prepared. Here are a few tips:

  • – The trail is not lit with street lights, so the bike ride back from Mineola is super dark. Bike lights are a must. Be on the lookout for those without bike lights. While you’re at it, don’t wear dark-colored clothes at night.
  • – Wear a helmet.
  • – It is pretty common for people to bring beers for the ride and/or partake in a few drinks in Mineola. Expect a few people to not be riding the straightest line.
  • – Warn others behind you of fallen tree limbs and cross streets.
  • – The Taco Ride in the summer can be pretty hot, but other times in the year, the temperatures will drop after the sunset. Bring layers.
  • – Bring water for yourself. And for others.
  • – Bring a repair kit for your tires and others who may encounter bike troubles along the way.
Link to more stories about Iowa

Find more things to do in Iowa by reading a few of my favorite posts:

14 Unique Trails In Iowa

101 Things To Do In Iowa

10 Things You Must Do In Council Bluffs In The Fall

Tips for biking the Wabash Trace Trail in southwest Iowa, a dirt path running more than 60 miles. What to expect if you bring kids, where's a good place to stop for lunch, and what's the big deal about the Thursday night Taco Ride. #Iowa #outdoors #Midwest #bikeride
Explore rural southwest Iowa with a bike ride along the Wabash Trace Trail. It's a kid-friendly trail, but this post includes tips for what to expect if you take kids. And if you haven't heard about the popular Taco Ride, this post explains what that is, too. #Iowa #bikes #familytime #trails #Midwest #ThisIsIowa

20+ Awesome Road Trips From Omaha

Who doesn’t love a good road trip? You don’t have to go too far from Omaha to have a fun getaway. I’ve collected some of my favorite Midwest destinations for this post to give you a variety of options near and far. All road trips from Omaha on this list are within a day’s drive, and most are much closer than that. Happy travels!

COVID-19 update: Current CDC guidelines advise against all non-essential travel. But if you do decide to travel, please keep in mind things have changed. Double-check your destination to make sure 1) you’re not traveling to a hot spot; 2) it’s even open and what the new hours may be; and 3) the activities you want to do are still running.

Road Trips From Omaha

These getaways are just a car ride away. Read on for destinations to consider for your next overnight or weekend trip.

Find more inspiration for road trips

Sky’s the limit on these bucket list for Midwest destinations:

Nebraska Bucket List

Iowa Bucket List

Missouri Bucket List

South Dakota Bucket List

Kansas Bucket List

I pin a lot of road trip ideas so if you don’t already, please follow me on Pinterest! I have boards for each Midwestern state, plus a special board just for family trip tips.

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Inspiration for weekend getaways in Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, Missouri, Minnesota and Kansas! All  trips are less than a day's drive from Omaha. Summer vacation is just a car ride away. #Midwest #FamilyTravel #RoadTrip

Everything You Need To Know About Hitchcock Nature Center

Hitchcock Nature Center is a beautiful destination in the Loess Hills of southwest Iowa. For more than a decade, it’s been my family’s go-to spot for hiking near Omaha. No matter the season, you’ll find a lot to love about Hitchcock!

COVID-19 Update: All indoor spaces, including all public restrooms and the Loess Hills Lodge Exhibit Gallery, cabins, and playground facilities at Hitchcock Nature Center are closed to the public. All camping, including tent and RV and backcountry, is closed. Closures will remain in place until April 30 at which time they will be reevaluated & possibly extended. Outdoor spaces in the parks currently remain open for public use.

Experience all four seasons of the Iowa outdoors at Hitchcock Nature  Center near Council Bluffs, Iowa. Get  tips on when to visit, what to do, and which trails to try at Hitchcock. This is a great place to explore the famous Loess Hills! #guide #hiking #Midwest  #Midwestisbest #outdoors

Where is Hitchcock Nature Center?

Hitchcock is located in Honey Creek, Iowa, a small town just to the north of Crescent and Council Bluffs, Iowa. Its exact address is 27792 Ski Hill Loop, Honey Creek, Iowa, and it’s about a 20-mile drive from Omaha.

The Loess Hills Lodge at Hitchcock Nature Center in the winter with the observation tower in the background

Honey Creek is home to Mt. Crescent, the area’s only ski resort. For food options, you best bet is Stanley’s Snack Shack, a seasonal burger and ice cream joint you’ll pass on your way to the nature center. It’s ran by the folks who operate Honey Creek Creamery, so things like the ice cream are actually made with goat’s milk from the goats raised at the creamery.

And it’s delicious. (PS: It’s also of Iowa’s must-visit restaurants)

What’s so special about the Loess Hills

Loess soil (pronounced “luss”) is a pretty unique landform found only in the Loess Hills in the Midwest along the eastern edge of the Missouri River Valley and China. The hills were formed by winds carrying silt and glacial material and depositing them into massive drives.

Kids walking along one of the ridges at Hitchcock Nature Center

Today, those drifts are sculpted into steep ridges and rolling hills. Due to its unique nature, the Loess Hills supports rare plants, animals, and biological communities.

Things to know about visiting Hitchcock

Hitchcock is part of the Pottawattamie County Parks, so to visit, you will need to purchase daily admission or annual membership. It’s $3 per vehicle (pay by exact change or check) or $20 for the membership.

The park is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

How many trails are there?

Hitchcock is 1,268 acres and has about 10 miles of trails. I didn’t really count, but they’re connecting trails with varying degrees of difficulty. We can easily spend a few hours here on a hike.

Summer at Hitchcock Nature Center

If you’d like to experience the trails with a guide, plan on attending one (or more) of the evening Hitch Hikes. Held several times a year, it’s an educational series that’s included with park admission. Reservations are not needed and they are weather-permitting.

The 2020 Hitch Hikes are:
May 19, 7 p.m.
June 16, 7 p.m.
July 21, 7 p.m.
Aug. 18, 7 p.m.
Sept. 15, 6 p.m.

How difficult are the trails?

There are three levels of trail ratings at the Hitchcock: Easy, Moderate, and Difficult.

Hitchcock Nature Center trail in the early spring

Easy trails: Boardwalk on Hawk Ridge (a wheelchair- and stroller-accessible boardwalk); Fox Run Ridge; Bluestem Meander; Heritage Trail; Hidden Valley; Wildwoods; Hawk Ridge; and Dozer Cut.

I’m skipping Moderate because, to be honest, they aren’t too much more difficult than Easy trails.

Difficult trails: The Chute; Shea Way; Legacy Loop; Westridge; Cookie Crumbs.

“Difficult” in this part of the country is not to say prohibitive from taking kiddos. It’s almost inevitable that my family winds up walking up The Chute.

If you want more difficult trails in the Loess Hills, read this post about some other nearby hikes in Iowa.

When’s the best time to visit?

Each season has its perks.

Winter: If you want to feel like you have the place to yourself, visit in the winter. Bring your own snowshoes or rent them from the visitor’s center (they even rent kid-sized snowshoes). Rentals are $6 per day.

Kids, and kids at heart, can bring sleds and tackle The Chute. It’s a bit too fast for me, but my kids love it.

Wearing rented snowshoes at Hitchcock Nature Center in the winter

Spring: On the first few warm weekends of the year, my family always has to make a trip to Hitchcock. Granted, in March, things are still quite dead-looking, but it’s refreshing and not too crowded.

Then, when you get a little further into spring, the wildflowers start popping up and the leaves sprout on trees.

Summer: If you go early in the morning, before humidity and high temps strike, it’s a lovely time to hike. Trails like Hidden Valley are nicely shaded and feel slightly cooler than up on the ridges.

Bring insect repellent.

Fall: Hitchcock really shines in the fall. With cooler temperatures, changing leaves, and migrating birds, it’s a prime season to visit.

Wildlife you may spot there

Maybe it’s just because I’m typically hiking with two (or more) very loud children, but we don’t see a ton of wildlife at eye-level. We do encounter snails and other small creepy crawly things.

However, the bulk of the wildlife we spy tends to be birds of prey. Hitchcock is an excellent location for migrating birds. In fact, each year from September to December, they hold Hawk Watch where the public is invited to help count how many passing birds can be recorded. Find out which raptors and birds to watch for and when during Hawk Watch.

One of the best places to look for birds is the 45-foot-tall observation tower.

The tower at Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek, Iowa.

Camping and cabins at Hitchcock

One things I have yet to do at Hitchcock Nature Center is stay overnight. They have a couple rustic cabins with A/C and heating, and a few other nice conveniences like a refrigerator, microwave oven, and tables and chairs. However, they do not have running water or bathrooms (those are nearby).

The prices are pretty reasonable.

There are also camping and RV options here. For camping, they have both modern and backcountry camping.

For rules or to reserve a cabins, visit the Hitchcock site.

Tips for bringing kids

Hitchcock is the perfect place to inspire curiosity in nature. Here are a few things to know about bringing youngsters to the trails:

Young boy looking through the Adventure Pack at Hitchcock Nature Center
  • – Plan on visiting the visitor’s center. There are several play areas to explore and learn about the wildlife and flora & fauna of the Loess Hills. It’s pretty well done!
  • – While at the visitor’s center, go to the reception desk to check-out an Adventure Pack for your kid. The packs include animal ID cards, track cards, cloud ID chart, binoculars, kaleidoscope, bug box, compass, thermometer, and nature books. They’re FREE, but you do need to fill out a form and leave behind your car keys as collateral.
  • – You can geocache at Hitchcock Nature Center. If you don’t have your own GPS unit, you can borrow one at the reception desk.
  • – If your kiddo is not so steady on uneven trails, start first with the Boardwalk Trail.
  • – There are often special weekend events at Hitchcock with activities geared toward children. Check the calendar to see if you can time a visit for one.
The boardwalk at Hitchcock makes nature accessible for a lot of people.

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Hitchcock Nature Center is part of the Iowa’s 99 awesome county parks. I written extensively about the parks you an explore in Western Iowa, particularly Lake Icaria.

Guide to Hitchcock Nature Center in the Loess Hills of Iowa - Learn about the trails, special events, and wildlife found in this southwestern Iowa preserve. It's a beautiful place to hike and explore in Iowa!