Best Easy Day Hikes Lincoln and Omaha  by Michael Ream

Best Easy Day Hikes: Lincoln and Omaha Guide Book

by Michael Ream (Falcon Guides)
Best Easy Day Hikes Lincoln and Omaha  by Michael Ream
Best Easy Day Hikes Lincoln and Omaha includes concise descriptions and detailed maps for twenty easy-to-follow hikes in and around Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Discover an abundance of natural beauty on pleasant urban strolls and countryside trails that wind through forested landscapes, including bluffs near the Missouri River with striking views of both farm fields and the Loess Hills.

© 2011 Michael Ream/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Best Easy Day Hikes: Lincoln and Omaha" Guide Book
Displaying trails 19 of 19.

Displaying trails 1 to 19 of 19.

Similar to the Keystone Trail, in that the path perches high above a creek, which it follows for the length of the hike, this trail is located even farther out in the vast suburban belt of west Omaha. Several miles past the end of this hike, the Big Papio Trail joins up with the Keystone Trail, running south to Bellevue and the Missouri River. A mecca for explorers and travelers since the days of Lewis and Clark and pioneer settlers heading west in covered wagons, eastern Nebraska offers a wide variety of hikes, from pleasant city strolls to rugged backcountry treks. Lincoln and Omaha, the state’s two largest cities, have well-developed networks of urban trails, while in the countryside numerous trails wind through woodsy, hilly landscapes, belying Nebraska’s reputation of being nothing but flat, open plains.
Boys Town, NE - Cross-Country Skiing,Hiking - Trail Length: 3.4
This is a good, fairly short hike, and especially convenient if visiting the Folsom Children’s Zoo, whose entrance is just steps from the trail. A small botanical garden is also located at the start of the hike. Following Antelope Creek for most of its length, the hike passes through the area south of downtown Lincoln, running both through parks and past main roads heavy with traffic.
Lincoln, NE - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.4
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You won’t see any bison on this hike, which follows a path that winds through what was once a vast expanse of prairie, home not only to bison but also meadowlarks, snakes, gophers, and other wildlife. Beginning at a junction of three trailheads, this hike is a pleasant stroll along the banks of Salt Creek and Haines Branch, which splits off shortly after the beginning of the hike.
Lincoln, NE - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.4
This hike can be a bit tricky: It follows several twists and turns as it runs along a creek, then moves to city streets and finally into a large city park. But it’s a great tour of the heart of midtown Omaha, passing stately old homes and running near the Omaha campus of the University of Nebraska. For the first stretch of the hike, along Little Papillion Creek, the path is shared with the Keystone Trail. The hike begins near the intersection of Mercy Road and Ak-Sar-Ben Drive, near the site of the former Ak-Sar-Ben complex, a horse racing track and arena run for over a century by the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben, a local civic organization (spell it backward). Built in 1928, the brick and concrete coliseum was for many years Omaha’s main concert arena.
Ralston, NE - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.4
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Named for a historic residential neighborhood along the north section of the trail, this hike begins not too far from the site of Omaha’s once-sprawling Union Stockyards. The path passes a golf course and heads into midtown, where many employees from neighborhood medical facilities, including Omaha’s county hospital, take brisk walks on their lunch breaks.
Omaha, NE - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.2
This hike is a combination of four short trails at the Fontenelle Forest Nature Center in the town of Bellevue, south of Omaha. While relatively short in distance, it is one of the more rugged hikes in this book, moving up and down steep hills in a densely wooded area. The grounds around the nature center are a fine place to spot a variety of plant and animal life.
Bellevue, NE - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.5
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This trail winds through an overgrown patch of floodplain forest, past some massive oak trees and a lush carpet of foliage. Fort Atkinson State Historical Park, on the bluff above the trail, includes a reconstructed barracks, powder magazine, and other buildings. Occasional living history demonstrations are held from late spring through early fall, giving visitors a look at historic military drills and the work of artisans at the fort, including a blacksmith, carpenter, and gunsmith.
Fort Calhoun, NE - Cross-Country Skiing,Hiking - Trail Length: 1
This hike is a challenge: It begins in the muck of the Missouri River bottoms and climbs a steep ascent through thick forest before plunging back down to earth. Those who take this hike will be rewarded with a look at ancient petroglyphs, as well as breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. The cave hike is just one possibility among the 22 miles of trails in remote Indian Cave State Park.
Barada, NE - Cross-Country Skiing,Hiking,Horseback Riding,Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 3.8
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With an opportunity to find wild nature just a stone’s throw from the heart of the city, this hike meanders along the edges of Wilderness Park, a sylvan idyll just outside the Lincoln city limits. The peace and quiet along the path is only occasionally broken by a train moving on the adjacent rail line.
Lincoln, NE - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.4
A sylvan break from bustling west Omaha, the Keystone Trail takes in views of ducks, which emerge from Little Papillion Creek alongside the trail, and robins, which sing in the trees lining the path. This hike runs from the northern trailhead to Roberts Park, just north of Dodge Street, the main east-west thoroughfare in Omaha. This was one of Omaha’s first “modern” trails, laid out in the late 1980s as part of an effort to expand outdoor recreational opportunities for area residents. Today, the trail is very popular with cyclists as well as walkers and joggers. As the path moves along the sloping banks of the creek, the sweet smell of honeysuckle hangs in the air. Pine trees line several stretches, and pine cones are scattered across the path. Near the end of the hike, the path crosses Cass Street. Nearby are two of Omaha’s main hospitals, but from the 1920s until the early 1990s, this was the site of Peony Park, a thirty-five-acre amusement park with a pool, beach, and waterslide. The park’s ballroom saw performances by Lawrence Welk and Duke Ellington, and in later years hosted concerts by Metallica, Pearl Jam, and other bands.
Irvington, NE - Cross-Country Skiing,Hiking - Trail Length: 7.2
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A perfect country stroll, the MoPac East Trail extends for some 20-plus miles into the countryside east of Lincoln. This hike, an easy walk along a well laid out trail, covers the first few miles, from the Lincoln trailhead to the town of Walton. The trail, like many in Lincoln, is very popular with cyclists, and moves through wide open spaces with very few main road crossings, although some new housing has begun to creep in among the cornfields.
Lincoln, NE - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 5.4
The MoPac Trail is a classic “urban trail.” Curious dogs come to backyard fences while cyclists and local families make good use of the paved path through the heart of Lincoln. (It can get downright crowded with bikes at times.) This is a somewhat lengthier hike, but like most of the city trails in this book, it’s easy to turn around before the end of the hike and return to the trailhead. Heading west from 84th Street, this hike has a true neighborhood feel, passing homes whose flower boxes and other effects of domestic life are, in some places, just feet from the path. A small ridge looms on the right shortly after the starting point of the hike. Soon after, you cross a bridge—note the spillway waterfall on the left. An open field leads to a canopy of trees, next to a modern office building, before the trail crosses “O” Street, Lincoln’s main east-west throughway.
Lincoln, NE - Hiking - Trail Length: 7.6
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A combination urban/rural trail, with long straight stretches passing through residential neighborhoods in an outer part of Lincoln before heading into open countryside, the Murdock Trail has a wide easement, thus keeping backyards and gardens farther away from the trail. As with many other Lincoln trails, this trail is popular with cyclists.
Lincoln, NE - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.6
If you’re looking for a break from the more urban hikes in this book, this remote, rural trail is it. Less than an hour’s drive from Lincoln and just slightly over an hour from Omaha, the crushed limestone trail passes farm fields that bring to mind “amber waves of grain.” A horse trail weaves in and out of the walking trail and is popular with area riders. The hike is mostly a straight shot along a former corridor of the Union Pacific Railroad, running through a spare landscape of farm fields broken up by several thick, wooded areas rich with oak trees. Despite the sometimes lonely surroundings, birds sing in the trees all along the trail. Gnarled branches and fallen trunks fill in the tree cover on both sides of the path. About a mile into the hike, a gap in the trees reveals a small stretch of tallgrass, obscuring the steep dropoff toward the creek on your right. Keep your eyes peeled for signs of animal life, from birds’ nests in the trees to tracks (deer and other animals) on the trail and burrows dug alongside it, as well as caterpillar cocoons spun in the bushes. You may also spot blue heron along the creek.
Valparaiso, NE - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 4.9
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This hike begins from the same starting spot as the hike along the Billy Wolff Trail, by the city zoo, but runs through much more bucolic scenery. (Hike both it and the Billy Wolff hike if you want a workout.) Most of this hike follows a strip of parkland lined with trees, particularly ash and oak. Like the Billy Wolff Trail, this hike begins right by the zoo. However, it soon moves into a more woodsy atmosphere, buffeted from city streets by thick stands of trees and stretches of grass. After walking past the zoo and crossing the street, you walk past an old factory converted into residential living spaces. The trail then opens up into parkland. As the trail passes over Garfield Street, look to the left to see Lincoln’s Veterans Memorial Garden, with memorials to several wars, which stands in Antelope Park.
Lincoln, NE - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.2
Also known as the Salt Valley Levee Trail, this trail begins on the western edge of Lincoln, right by the trailheads for the Bison Trail and Jamaica North Trail. This hike never strays far from Lincoln’s urban bustle—in fact, it is a very busy hike, including a navigation around a wide complex of train tracks leading into the city’s main rail yard.
Lincoln, NE - Hiking - Trail Length: 6.1
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Located in a modest state recreation area on the site of a former fish hatchery, this is a spot where Nebraskans have been coming for country outings for more than one hundred years. The hike climbs steep hills and offers a quick peek of the Platte River near the end of the hike. Trees and plants along the trail are extensively cataloged in a brochure available at the aquarium next to the recreation area.
South Bend, NE - Cross-Country Skiing,Hiking - Trail Length: 1.5
The Steamboat Trace roughly follows an old railroad corridor through the bottomlands just west of the Missouri River. This hike starts at the north end of the trail, near the old river town of Nebraska City. It begins in the shadow of a large power station, and the hike proceeds through a rural landscape that features a wide variety of birds, from songbirds to waterfowl.
Nebraska City, NE - Hiking - Trail Length: 7
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Located just across the Missouri River from Omaha in Council Bluffs, Iowa, the Wabash Trace follows the old Council Bluffs–St. Louis rail line. This longer and more challenging hike gives some good views across the seemingly endless farm fields. The trail is popular with cyclists and horseback riders as well as hikers.
Council Bluffs, NE - Cross-Country Skiing,Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 8.2
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