Skip to main content

Omaha Magazine

Outdoor Omaha: Play, Stay, Get Outside

Apr 20, 2020 05:14PM ● By Erin Walter

Omaha may not have mountains or coastlines, but it is far from lacking in outdoor adventures. There are endless opportunities to encounter the wild and experience nature. Locals and visitors can explore the state parks, swim in the lakes, and hike on the trails. They can appreciate the wonder and beauty of the area’s unique wildlife, plants, and landforms. People will also, hopefully, leave these spaces better than they found them, as everyone plays an active role in protecting and conserving the area’s vibrant nature scenes for generations to come. 

Here are a few of the places where people can experience the great outdoors in and around Omaha.

Fontenelle Forest


1111 Bellevue Blvd. N

Each visit to Fontenelle Forest has a different adventure in store. Located in Bellevue, this nature hub has a variety of hiking trails that feature a range of ecosystems, from lush forest to oak savanna, prairie, and wetlands. The new TreeRush Adventures park lets visitors experience the area from the treetops on a ropes course that combines zip lines, suspended bridges, and rope ladders.

Hitchcock Nature Center

27792 Ski Hill Loop

Located in the heart of the Loess Hills, Hitchcock Nature Center exists primarily to build and foster understanding and appreciation of the landform’s significance. Visitors can hike through the hills to see remnants of prairie as well as  plants and animals found nowhere else in Nebraska. Open year-round, visitors can set up a peaceful picnic, bird-watch, star-gaze, snow sled, bike, and more. Campers can escape for a weekend of tent, RV, backcountry, or cabin camping with a variety of terrains and views available.

Driftwood Paddle Adventures

Standing Bear Lake: 6404 N. 132nd St.
Lake Zorinsky: 3808 S. 156th St.

Stand-up paddleboarding is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world. People can see what all the rave is about with Driftwood Paddle Adventures. With services offered at Standing Bear Lake and Lake Zorinsky, each session includes all the gear needed, a brief lesson and guide to help on the water and show participants around. Customers can book at sunrise or sunset to enjoy breathtaking scenes from the sky while out on the water.

Eugene T. Mahoney State Park


28500 W. Park Highway

Visitors can climb the 70-foot tall observation tower at Mahoney State Park to gaze upon the most spectacular view of the Platte River around. Other activities at this modern, year-round nature escape include scenic hiking, horseback riding, and Go Ape ropes course, a three-hour journey through the lush forest canopy. When the weather turns cold, the park opens to cross-country skiing, tobogganing, and ice fishing.

Chalco Hills Recreation Area


8901 S. 154th St.

Wehrspann Lake, which covers a great expanse of 246 acres, is the main attraction of Chalco Hills. The lake is stocked with a variety of fish and features a universally accessible fishing pier and a boat launch. With seven miles of trails encircling the lake, this is a beautiful place to walk, run, and bike. Several picnic areas with covered pavilions are perfect for cookouts, relaxing after a long hike, or spending time in nature with family and friends.

Platte River State Park


14421 346th St.

This little park is a hidden gem in the Omaha nature scene. For those looking for more of a challenge in their hikes, the varied terrain at Platte River State Park is sure to satisfy. Visitors can experience the gentle, soothing trickle of one of the state’s most well-known waterfalls while walking in the creek above and below it. The camping options at this park suit a variety of needs: there are campgrounds for tents and RVs; charming, vintage cabins with homey accommodations; and brand-new “glamping” cabins provide a luxurious yet nature-immersive experience.


This article was printed in the May 2020 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.