July 19, 2016

Trail Rides & Pony Rides At Mahoney State Park

There are surprisingly few places to go trail riding within 30 or so miles of Omaha. One option at Mahoney State Park horse riding. Mahoney is in Ashland, Neb., which is about midway between Omaha and Lincoln.

This post was written in 2016 and updated to include 2019 price increases.

Mahoney State Park Horse Riding - Mahoney is one of Nebraska's most popular state parks, and it's one of the closest places for horseback riding in Omaha. Find out about trail rules and prices in this post! #Nebraska #horseback #trails

I’ve gone horseback riding at Mahoney as a kid and recently, I decided that it was time to hop back on the saddle, and this time, bring my son along for his first horse ride. My daughter wasn’t old enough for a trail ride, so she’d have to settle for a pony ride.

Mahoney State Park is family-favorite place to explore in any season, including exciting updates in 2018. The first time we went just for horses, though, didn’t quite work out for us. All trail ride slots were filled. So, I learned a few things to share with you.

Mahoney State Park Trail Rides Information

Before you trot out to Mahoney to take the kiddos on a trail ride, there are a few things you should know how it works, from getting your tickets to timing your ride.

Horse trail rides at Mahoney State Park are $18 for ages 6 and older. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism
Horse trail rides at Mahoney State Park are $18 for ages 6 and older. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

1. You can only buy tickets in person at the administration office starting at 8 a.m. Call ahead of time to see if there are spots left, (402) 944-2523.

2. Trail rides are for ages 6 and older.

3. Trail rides last about 45 minutes to an hour. Hours in 2019 may change a bit, but to give you an idea of what to expect, here are the hours set for 2018: Monday through Friday (9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. & 4 p.m.); Saturday and Sunday (9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 4 p.m. & 5 p.m.).

4. Trail rides are $25.

5. Horse trail rides run from May to October.

6. Holiday weekends are the busiest times at Mahoney State Park. Which drives home point No. 1. Call ahead.

Mahoney State Park Pony Rides Information

My grand plan of taking my son out on his first trail ride didn’t pan out, but pony rides turned out to be a decent backup option. Here are a few things to know about pony rides at Mahoney State Park:

Farley on a not-so-little pony ride. Pony rides at Mahoney State Park are $6 seasonally.
Farley on a not-so-little pony ride. Pony rides at Mahoney State Park are $6 and are offered seasonally.

1. Kids ages 3-9 can ride the ponies.

2. Pony rides run from May to October. Rides are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, with reduced hours starting mid-August. From mid-August to Labor Day weekend, pony rides are only on Saturdays and Sundays and Labor Day. Pony rides are weather permitting.

3. Pony rides are $7 and you can pay at the stables or at the Administration Office.

I think $7 is a little steep for a five-minute pony ride in a circle. I made the rookie parent mistake of promising them a pony ride before knowing the price…and you know there’s no backing out of that kind of promise.

Guide to Mahoney State Park horseback riding and pony rides. Mahoney is one of Nebraska's most popular state parks, and the trail rides are one of the favorite activities for kids there. #horses #trailrides #familytravel

Want more horseback riding options near Omaha?

One of my family’s preferred parks for horseback is Platte River State Park in Louisville, Neb. I thought the route was more scenic since it went along a creek. Platte River State Park is about the same distance from Omaha as Mahoney, so about 20 to 30 minutes from Omaha.

We’ve come across pony rides at a festival at Bellevue Berry Farm in Bellevue, Neb. The most recent one we saw rides at was the Midlands Pirate Festival. Bellevue is just a few miles south of Omaha.

Further away, you can get pony rides at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo. I wouldn’t make a trip just for the pony rides, but the zoo is a great one.

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May 28, 2013

Mahoney State Park For Families

Eugene T. Mahoney State Park is a fun day-trip from Omaha or Lincoln. There are a lot of free things to do, and a lot of seasonal fun that costs extra, from horseback riding and swimming in the summer, to ice skating in the winter. There’s so much to do, I recommend planning at least staying overnight if not longer.

In this post, I share all the things families can do any season while visiting Mahoney State Park. I include tips on things I’ve learned first-hand while visiting with my kids. I also include suggestions for staying overnight at Mahoney, including prices to help you decide whether you should camp or stay in a cabin or lodge.

This post was first published in 2013 and updated in 2019 with information of new activities at the park. If I’ve missed any new additions, please let me know!

Lodging options at Mahoney State Park for families

The park offers camping/RV parking, a hotel and cabins. Depending on your budget, your accommodations can be inexpensive or cost as much as a hotel would (or more!).

On our way to brunch at the lodge. (I'm not too impressed with the food there, but I hear the rooms are nice)
On our way to brunch at the lodge. (I’m not too impressed with the food there, but I hear the rooms are nice)

We have yet to camp with the kids, but there are are nice campgrounds near the main lake (the paddle boat lake, as I’ll call it for simplicity’s sake). Some sites are reservable in advance, while others are first come, first served. Camps sites are $25 to $35 a night.

If you stay at the Peter Kiewit Lodge, expect your rooms to be about $90 to $95 a night. All rooms come with a mini-fridge, microwave, coffee pot, AC and heat, wireless Internet, telephone, TV and a private bath. More than half the rooms have a balcony.

Yeah, you might not want to lean to hard on that screen window, dear.
Yeah, you might not want to lean to hard on that screen window, dear.

For cabins, your options include two-, four- and six-bedroom cabins. We opted to stay at a two-bedroom cabin and a tree top cabin. I’d recommend. the tree top cabin.

There are also ultra-modern cabins that can fit up to people.

How much are cabins at Mahoney State Park?

Prices vary greatly for cabins at Mahoney State Park. For the most basic accommodations, you’ll pay between $170 and $190. If you stay off-season, there is a discount.

Mahoney State Park cabin - Exterior of one of the older cabins at Mahoney State Park in Nebraska
Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

The larger, six-bedroom cabins can fit up to 20 people can run more than $450 a night.

Mahoney State Park cabins have AC, appliances and dishware, bathtubs, grills, and for those who like going to a state park but not going outside, they have satellite TV. They also all have housekeeping.

If you’re ready to go camping or to reserve a cabin, click here to check availability.

Tip: Cabins become available to reserve one full year in advance. If you plan on booking a cabin during the summer, try to reserve it as early as possible.

Mahoney State Park’s Activity Center

My kids’ favorite place to visit at Mahoney State Park is the Activity Center. It doesn’t matter what season it is, the Activity Center should be a stop during your visit. It’s especially great to visit in the winter.

Things to do at Mahoney State Park for families - The indoor Activity Center is a good rainy day place to play.

The Activity Center has an indoor play space that’s good for kids ages 10 and younger. There are several slides, tubes, and ball pits. Cost to enter is $3 for kids ages 3-12 and $2 for anyone over 12 years old. Kids under 3 years old are FREE.

Connected to the Activity Center is a rock climbing center called Venture Center. It has a 42-foot wall. While it looks high, my kids climbed to the top when they were ages 6 and 8.

The rock climbing center allows for free climbing, as well, though there is a minimum age requirement.

The costs for climbing is $11 for adults and $10 for children age 12 and younger. There is no time limit. 

Indoor things to do at Mahoney State Park - The Venture Climb is an indoor climbing center that offers all-day climbing for one fee.

There is an outdoor ice skating rink open seasonally. Admission to the Activity Center includes admission to the ice skating rink; however, skate rentals are not included. Skates are $3.

Swimming at Mahoney State Park

The Mahoney State Park aquatic center has two water slides, wave pool and an area for small children.

Summer activities at Mahoney State Park -  The aquatic center has water slides as well as a wave pool and a standard pool.
Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

It’s a very popular summer spot, open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The hours are noon to 5 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. daily from late May to mid-August. Hours are reduced from mid-August to Labor Day (including being closed on Tuesdays and Thursdays).

Tip: They will kick you out of the pool for that evening break.

The cost to enter the pool is $10 per adult, $8 per child (ages 3-12), and FREE for children 2 and younger. They offer season passes if you think you’ll be going frequently.

Mahoney State Park Ropes Course

The Go Ape! Treetop Adventure opened April 28, 2018. This course includes Treetop Adventure and Treetop Junior, so it’s an outing suitable for kids and adults. There is a height requirement of a minimum 4 feet 7 inches, and there is a maximum weight limit of 285 pounds. The course includes zip lines, obstacles and a ropes course, and expect it to last two to three hours.

Cost is $49 for ages 16 and older and $39 for children 15 and younger. There must be a supervising adult age 19 or older to accompany children. Reservations are suggested.

More great family activities At Mahoney State Park

Mahoney State Park activities - Trail rides on horses are offered seasonally.
Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Basically, everything at the Mahoney State Park is family-friendly; what will be the most fun depends on the age of your children. Mine are happy running across a bridge or collecting rocks. Your older kids might require a little more to thrill them.

Playgrounds: There are several, including a huge indoor play area (it has an admission fee but it’s awesome). The biggest one is near the swimming pool – it has a separate jungle gym for smaller kids.

Gardens: My kids love walking around the gardens, especially the conservatory at the state park. It’s not very large, but stop by and see the water feature there.

Things to do inside at Mahoney State Park - Visit the small conservatory which has native plants and a water feature.

Pony rides: Ages 3-9. Cost is $7 per kid. Pony rides are weather permitting and run daily through Aug. 13, and then they’re only on Saturdays and Sundays.


Ball Field


Bird watching

Paddleboats – Paddleboat rentals are down by the Owen Marina. They are $10 per boat for a half-hour rental.

Fishing – Several fishing clinics are planned during the summer.

Explore the marina – For me, includes exploring the ice cream shop there. This is also where all the arts & craft stuff are. Projects vary by size and medium.

Hiking: If you’re lucky, you see a nearby passing train.

Farley on a hike with Grampy at Mahoney.
Farley on a hike with Grampy at Mahoney.

Putt-putt golf – Mini golf is $3.50 per person. There’s also a driving range, and it’s $3 for a bucket of balls. The putt putt golf course is open daily.

Soccer/Rugby Field

Lookout tower: It’s a tall one with a great view, and climbing it is a useful tool for tiring out little ones.

Best view at Mahoney State Park - Climb the lookout tower to see the Platte River, trains and Nebraska farmland

Kountze Memorial Theater – Melodramas are often performed here. Usually there are two or three show options.

Tickets are $7 per adult and $5 per child (ages 12 and younger. The family package, which is two adult tickets and two child tickets, is $20.

Stargazing: Climb the lookout tower for a spectacular view. There are a few clinics this summer sponsored by the Omaha Astronomical Society & Prairie Astronomy Club, who will bring telescopes. Check here for dates.

Horseback riding – You must be 6 or older to ride a horse. Read more about trail rides at Mahoney here. The cost is $18 per person.

Horseshoe pits

Mountain/trail bicycling


Nature programs – The park offers about several free programs, including ones focusing on horses, native reptiles, insects, prairie and hummingbird workshops, archery, nature hikes and fishing clinics.

For hours and fees on activities, visit this link. Park’s phone number is 402-944-2523.

All the family-friendly activities and things to see at Mahoney State Park - Get tips on cabins and camping, and find out what to do in the summer and winter. #guide #Nebraska #USA #stateparks

Things to do near Mahoney State Park

Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum: Planes and space exploration stuff. The new Children’s Learning Center opened in August 2016, and I wrote all about it here.

Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park & Wildlife Safari: Drive-through safari featuring native species. Read What to Expect if you Visit the Wildlife Safari with Kid

Ashland: Nearest town, and it has two ice cream shops, pizza option and winery (for mommy)

Louisville State Recreation Area: There are plans to upgrade the park, including adding a water obstacle course! Read this post for details.

Schramm Park State Recreation Area: Trails for hiking and an aquarium with cheap admission. There are plans to upgrade the park! Read this post for details.

Platte River State Park: Great hiking trails, including one to a waterfall. Here are 7 Reasons To Visit Platte River State Park. There are plans to upgrade the park! Read this post for details.

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Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, giveaways, family travel ideas, and more! Subscribe here.