Hopefully, by now, winter is giving way to spring. The snow is melting, and buds are starting to pop out on the trees. The buzz of children on spring break is in the air, and you need some things to do to keep your kiddos occupied. The Omaha area has MANY options for outdoor hiking adventures (year-round). I featured a few of our favorite spots, right here in the heart of Omaha, in my Adventure Outdoors in Omaha Mini Guide, and now I’ll take you just a bit further outside the city limits, all of which are great day-trip hiking options.
This year I set a personal goal to go on 25 hikes with my family.
I may need to adjust that number a little higher because I see myself going on all of these hikes this year. My family moved to Omaha in June 2019, and we visited all these places (and more) within our first six months here-so you can totally make time for these nearby adventures.
The Desoto National Wildlife Refuge is such a unique spot with an abundance of wildlife. We had an enjoyable time hiking the trails, but do be aware that some trails close during the migration season, but there is still quite a bit to see. We saw a large eagle nest, trumpeter swans, and many other birds on our visit. The kids also enjoyed following deer tracks in the snow. The Visitor Center had an impressive memorial to the Steamboat Bertrand wreck housing over 250,000 artifacts.
Neale Woods is part of the Fontenelle Forest Association but is located north of downtown Omaha. This forest is often less busy than Fontenelle and offers many different trails. You can pick up a trail map at the trailheads, but you can’t go wrong with any of the trails. They are marked by wooden signs. While some reviews mark these trails as “easy,” there are definitely some that will get your heart rate up. Our kids enjoyed a picnic on hilltop trails this summer, and we ventured after the controlled burns this fall for a different view of the forest.
The Hitchcock Nature Center is fabulous! Our family really enjoys hiking here. You can hike along a ridge-line or venture into forest valleys. There are several different trails for different ability levels. You can hike along a boardwalk trail, climb high in the watchtower to bird watch, or participate in their programming. This is definitely a family favorite of ours, and we’ve been back several times.
Lake Manawa State Park has some smaller trails or bike riding paths along the shoreline of Lake Manawa. There are several trails and bike paths that go around the lake and offer some really nice views. Lake Manawa also hosts camp/RV sites, fishing opportunities, and a fabulous park. My boys enjoyed playing at the park most of all during our visit!
The Schramm Park State Recreation Area has different trails throughout the park. You can go on a three-mile trek through the woodlands, or travel along the riverfront. There is a lot to explore along these trails. My boys enjoyed seeing wild turkeys, crossing the suspension bridge, and passing the archery range while hiking. You can also visit the fish hatchery or tour the Schramm Education Center, which is host to many aquatic animals. There is an abundance of hiking opportunities on these trails.
The Platte River State Park has some very fun trails. Our favorite and most commonly known in the park is the trail that leads to a small waterfall. This is a super kid-friendly hike. It’s not too far from the waterfall and is a flat trail. There is a restroom at the trailhead, a fun bridge to cross, and if you hike to the end of the trail past the waterfall, you can catch views of the Platte River and might even see a freight train. In the summer months, there is a splash pad you can play at, a pond you can canoe or paddleboat on, and in the winter, you can sled or walk along the icy streams in the forest.
Our family enjoyed an enjoyable day visiting Arbor Day Farms. It’s the birthplace of Arbor Day, a great spot a full day of activities. You can visit the Arbor Lodge State Historical Park and Mansion, it’s quite impressive. We took a Discovery Ride to learn about the farm and even got to try some apples and take home a tree to plant. You can shop, do wine tastings, each BBQ at Porter’s, and of course, hike! We hiked some really interactive trails. They have a 50-foot treehouse, a forest trail along the South Table Creek, and nature classrooms along the trail. Since we have been there, they opened the Treetop Village, which is a play area up among the trees.
The trails at Waubonsie reminded me a bit of the Hitchcock Nature Trails. There are over seven miles of foot trails and eight miles of equestrian trails. You can hike along ridges and then down into gorges and valleys. The scenery was breathtaking. The Sunset Ridge Trail offered some pretty views of a great picnic spot to rest. Our boys also enjoyed adventuring and playing on the bridge trail.
The Indian Cave State Park had a lot to offer when it came to exploring and hiking. The drive alone from Omaha is beautiful. You travel through Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri snaking along the Missouri River. We popped on a true crimes podcast and went! The stairs and area to the caves sustained some damage in the 2019 flooding, and it hadn’t been reopened, but there was still a lot to do. We hiked over 5 miles of trails with overlooks, views of the Missouri River, and the old ghost town of St. Deroin. We will definitely be back!