Walking our trails is an experience unlike any other in the Omaha metro area. In a single afternoon, you’ll encounter a range of vastly different ecosystems, from deciduous forest to oak savanna, prairie, and wetlands.
A couple of kids running across a wooden bridge

Nature Center Trails

The trails surrounding the Nature Center include a one-mile accessible boardwalk and various difficulties of trails through the woods. The Nature Center is a 25,000 square foot building is home to classrooms, rotating exhibits and our main offices. Be sure to check out our newest exhibit, Nebraska’s Deep Roots, in the Baright Gallery or see some critters up close in Habitat Hollow (in lower level of the Nature Center) before you hit the trails! Below are some recommended trails:

  • Riverview Boardwalk: Recommended for all first time visitors, the wooden boardwalk’s three interconnected loops make for a pleasant, mud-free hike in any weather. This accessible, barrier-free trail is well suited to strollers and wheelchairs.
  • Ridge Trail: This trail is a great option when you want a short jaunt off the boardwalk, with views of the Missouri River.

Northern Floodplains

Mostly flat, sandy trails wind through the northern part of our floodplain, with the Missouri Trail featuring wonderful views of the river. Since this is a wetland, the area can often be muddy or have some standing water.

  • Camp Gifford: A young Henry Fonda spent time with other scouts at Camp Gifford. You can still see concrete bunkhouse foundations from the Stream Trail.
  • Stream Trail: Hike along the stream where you can see beavers, frogs, and other wildlife.
  • Cottonwood Trail: Explore giant cottonwood trees on this level trail that crosses the floodplain.

Northern Uplands

North of Camp Gifford Road, this section containing 2.5 miles of undulating trails through our upland forest is an exceptionally tranquil place to enjoy nature. These mostly have moderate slope, with a few steep slopes along the way.

  • Earth Lodges: Along the ridges of Oak Trail and Hawthorn Trail you can find depressions that mark 1,000 year-old sites of Native American earth lodges.
  • Scenic, ridge-top Oak Trail: A bit over one mile long with plenty of vertical travel, Oak Trail can give you a workout. It follows a ridge with scenic views and 250 year-old bur oak trees.
  • Child’s MIll: In the 1850s, Charles Childs owned a large section of Fontenelle Forest. His and other logging operations left trails throughout the forest, some of which eventually became the trails we hike today.

Southern Uplands

Full of cues from Bellevue, Nebraska’s storied history, these moderate-to-steep trails take you on an amazing journey.

  • Mormon Hollow: Follow a deep ravine along traces of a Mormon pioneer trail first blazed in the summer of 1846.
  • Springs and streams: Find plenty of serene springs and picturesque miniature waterfalls along the Mormon Hollow trail.
  • History Trail: Follow a self-guided tour of fifteen historic locations throughout Fontenelle Forest.

Southern Floodplain

Walk along our Great Marsh, or take the level boardwalk out to our bird blind. If you’re up for a longer hike, head out to Hidden Lake on the mostly level trail.

  • Wetlands Trails: With five trailheads nearby, the Wetlands is a great spot to park and while you discover a new trail.
  • Gifford Memorial Boardwalk: This level, barrier-free trail takes you on a half mile journey through wetland and cottonwoods to the observation blind.
  • Observation Blind: Looks out over the Great Marsh, which is a “river scar” marking a former channel of the Missouri.
  • Hidden Lake Trail: This hike is 2.8 mile each way. Park in the Wetlands parking lot and head down the Gifford Memorial Boardwalk to the bird blind over the Great Marsh. You will exit back onto Hidden Lake trail where you will skirt around Hidden Lake. Note: the area around the lake is prone to flooding.

Trail Guidelines

  • No dogs allowed. Pets and horses are not permitted.
  • No collecting or picking of any sort is allowed. Leave all plants and animals undisturbed for others to enjoy.
  • Respect all trail signage and temporary closures.
  • No smoking or fires are allowed.
  • Carry your trash out with you.
  • Stay on the trails.
  • Camping, jogging, and bicycling are not permitted. No motorized vehicles are permitted beyond the parking lots except for disabled persons’ access.
  • Use caution when crossing the railroad tracks, which remain in active use. Do not walk on the tracks.
  • Use caution when crossing the railroad tracks, which remain in active use. Do not walk on the tracks.
  • Picnic only in the areas designated for that purpose.
  • Hunting, fishing, and musical equipment are not allowed, except with prior permission.

Trail updates and temporary closures can occur at any time due to ongoing maintenance, inclement weather, or damage to trees and other structures. Please always request an updated map at our Visitor Services desk or download the most current map on our homepage. Most importantly, always respect all trail signage and closures.

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