Lincoln, NE

10 wonderful nature walks around Lincoln, Nebraska

Peter Watson

From urban walks through vibrant neighborhoods to riverside rambles in peaceful parks, here are 10 hand-picked nature walks around Lincoln, Nebraska.

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Lincoln in Nebraska is great for walkingMihai_Andritoiu/Shutterstock

Nebraska isn't all cornfields and prairies and that's where Lincoln comes in.

Lincoln was recently ranked among America’s 100 best small cities and it's easy to see why.

With its energetic nightlife thanks to the sprawling central campus of the University of Nebraska, it makes a great overnight stop.

But it's the friendly Midwest attitude that might just encourage you to stick around a little longer. Hovering over it all is the political undercurrent spreading across the state from the state capitol.

With its vibrant art and nightlife scenes, Lincoln is the Midwest’s next hot college city. – Resonance Consultancy

But forget all that. With a fine collection of state and city parks, nature reserves and recreation areas, Lincoln is a wonderful city to wander.

As such, I've put together a list of my favorite nature walks around Lincoln, Nebraska, drawing on personal experience and some recommendations from the thousands of hikers over at AllTrails.

How the walks are chosen

I've completed some of the below walks during a brief visit in 2019 but I know I didn't see everything Lincoln has to offer. As such, I've complimented my list with some crowdsourced options.

Home to over 100,000 trails, AllTrails is one of the world’s premier hiking apps. It has over 20 million global users and is extensively downloaded in the United States.

Use this trail map to plan your Lincoln walks (Map: AllTrails)

AllTrails user reviews are calculated using a five-star rating system with one star being terrible, two stars poor, three stars average, four stars very good and five stars excellent.

10 nature walks around Lincoln, Nebraska

I've selected my favorite nature walks around Lincoln, Nebraska. I've whittled the long list of trails down using the hundreds of reviews on AllTrails to the 10 best-rated walks according to their average score on the app.

1. Wilderness Park Trails

Location: Wilderness Park

Difficulty: Easy-moderate

Distance: 28.2 km

Duration: 7-8 hours

Wilderness Park is the largest park in our community with more than 1,400 acres in southwest Lincoln, seven trailheads and more than 17 miles of dirt hiker/biker/equestrian trails through dense forest, meadows and creek beds.

These trails can be broken up into little sections or completed as a full day hike taking in every corner of the park.

The whole route is a moderately trafficked loop trail that features a river and is good for all skill levels.

The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on a leash.

2. Antelope Creek Trail

Location: Holmes Lake Park

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 3.7 km

Duration: 1 hour

Holmes Lake Park is a 110-acre reservoir built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for flood control purposes and recreation in 1962.

The Antelope Creek Trail is a popular loop trail featuring a delightful lake. The trail is suitable for all skill levels and primarily used for hiking and walking.

Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on a leash.

3. MoPac East Trail

Location: Southeastern Nebraska

Difficulty: Moderate-hard

Distance: 34.9 km

Duration: 8-10 hours

The MoPac East Recreational Trail is a 25-mile crushed limestone recreational trail for hikers, joggers, bicyclists, horseback riders, cross-country skiers and wildlife watchers.

The full-day hike is a lightly trafficked point-to-point trail that features beautiful wild flowers and woodland throughout.

The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on a leash.

The former Missouri Pacific rail line is an extension of the City of Lincoln's Mopac Trail and begins at 84th Street, just south of "O" Street.

4. Pioneers Park Trails

Location: Pioneers Park

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 4.3 km

Duration: 1-2 hours

The oldest park in Lincoln, Pioneers Park, is home to the Pinewood Bowl facility, multi-use trails, playfields, playground areas, and the Pioneers Park Nature Center.

There are a number of trails to choose including the delightful riding experience which enjoys a variety of wide views of park space to shaded forest riding.

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Pioneers Park in LincolnCity of Lincoln

The trail is approximately 2.6 miles and traverses Pioneers Park. Horses are not allowed past the arches at the Pioneers Park Nature Center on the far west of the park.

The trail is best used from March until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on a leash.

5. Rock Island Trail – North Section

Location: Lincoln, Nebraska

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 6.6 km

Duration: 1-2 hours

The Rock Island Trail is an inner-city paved trail that is fairly smooth and gentle. It begins next to some botanical gardens and passes by a small zoo.

Although this is an inner-city trail, there is a good amount of tree cover. Be sure to look out for Lincoln's Veterans Memorial Garden along the way.

6. Pawnee State Recreation Area Loop

Location: Pawnee State Recreation Area

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 12.1 km

Duration: 3-4 hours

One of 20 Salt Valley lakes located within 25-mile radius of Lincoln. Seven are highly developed state recreation areas and five are more primitive state wildlife areas. All offer a variety of recreational opportunities.

The loop trail is a multi-use trail circulating Pawnee Lake. From the Southern end of the dam, the trail follows the shoreline through the maintained lawn, or along the access road.

If you plan to stay overnight then a park permit is required and there is a camping fee.

7. Bison Trail

Location: Bison Park (and around)

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 6.3 km

Duration: 1-2 hours

The Bison Trail runs from the east entrance of Pioneers Park to the Salt Creek Levy Trail near West Van Dorn and South 1st Streets.

It is a moderately trafficked out and back trail that features a river and is suitable for all skill levels.

The trail also has a beautiful new bridge addition that now makes the connection to Pioneers Park safe and enjoyable for all. The new bridge was dedicated in June 2013.

The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, running, and road biking and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on a leash.

8. Jamaica North Trail

Location: Lincoln, Nebraska

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 26.9 km

Duration: 6-7 hours

The Jamaica North Trail is made up of and completed in two phases.

The phase one section runs between 4th and Calvert Streets to a 1/2 mile south of Saltillo Road. This crushed limestone section turns into the Homestead Trail on the southern end.

Phase two is a paved trail paralleling 4th Street between 'J' and 'A' Streets.

The route is a moderately trafficked out and back trail that features a river and is suitable for all skill levels. The trail is mainly used for hiking, walking, running, and road biking and is accessible year-round.

Dogs are welcome to use this trail but must be kept on a leash.

9. Billy Wolff Trail

Location: Lincoln, Nebraska

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 33.3 km

Duration: 8-9 hour

A major east-west thoroughfare, the Billy Wolff Trail boasts 15 below-grade street crossings and includes the new Antelope Valley trails near east downtown Lincoln.

The route is a moderately trafficked out and back trail that features a river and is suitable for all skill levels.

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Billy Wolff Trail in Lincoln, NebraskaFang Wang/AllTrails

The trail is primarily used for walking, running, and road biking and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on a leash.

The northwest terminus is near the Bob Devaney Sports Center at Innovation Campus.

The trail mostly follows the Antelope Creek channel south and east from there going by several major attractions and connecting to numerous other trails.

10. Murdock Trail

Location: Lincoln, Nebraska

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 15.3 km

Duration: 3-4 hours

The Murdock Trail is a moderately busy out and back trail that's suitable for all ability levels.

The Murdock Trail connects to the east end of the Dietrich trail at 48th and Fremont Streets and continues on along the north edge of Mahoney park out to 112th Street.

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Murdock Trail in Lincoln, NebraskaT M/AllTrails

The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on a leash.

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Peter Watson is a writer, photographer and adventurer. A keen trekker and climber he can usually be found on the trails of the Greater Ranges. He’s visited over 80 countries and is currently focused on climbing the seven summits – the highest mountain on every continent. Four down, three to go... He has also travelled extensively around the US developing a penchant for American backcountry, abandoned buildings and natural wonders en route.

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