A true gem in Omaha’s backyard, the Fontenelle Forest was the perfect field trip for Evelyn and I. We’d spent the past 2 weeks at home alone while Matt was away working in California and golfing in Arizona. To say that we were getting a little stir crazy by the end of the first week would be an understatement. So we decided to load up the car on a Saturday afternoon and drive down to Bellevue, a suburb just south of downtown Omaha.
The Fontenelle Forest covers over 2000 acres and features 26 miles of hiking trails through forests, swamps, grasslands and marshes along Nebraska’s Missouri River. While hiking with a baby might normally be a bit difficult, Fontenelle’s Riverview Boardwalk Trail in particular is stroller-friendly, so we had to check it out!
We stopped at the Nature Center first to purchase admission. Entry costs $9.50 for adults and $7.50 for children over 2 (entrance is free for kids 2 and under), and covers daily access to all of the park’s trails, the raptor refuge (home to several rehabilitating owls and hawks), as well as some kids programs like Mud Pies, a late-summer drop in play group for kids 5 and under. Next time, we’ll try to time our visit so we can take part in the nature activities, free play, and guided walk offered with Mud Pies (available Monday-Thursday from 9:30-11:30 am). You can find out more about Fontenelle’s kids programs on their website.
For our first visit, we focused on the boardwalk. The trail winds down from the Nature Center towards the Missouri River, following along the riverside cliffs for a bit, and then curves back up and around to the entrance. Even though we visited on an early Saturday afternoon in the middle of summer, the trails were relatively quiet. For most of our “hike”, we had the place all to ourselves.
Along the trail we passed a variety of wildflowers. A sign posted back at the Nature Center (or on their website here) tells you which types of birds and plants you can expect to see. After all, the Fontenelle Forest is home to over 600 unique species of plants and wildlife!
About halfway along the 1 mile boardwalk trail, we stopped so Evelyn could get out of the stroller and stretch her legs.
She was a little timid at first, but once she got her footing she was darting up and down the trails without a care.
Near the start (and end) of the boardwalk trail sits Acorn Acres, a 1 acre playscape made from 100% natural elements. Evelyn sure enjoyed playing the wood marimba, and I was surprised by how quickly she caught on to it! 🙂
The playscape at Acorn Acres contains 9 different “exploration centers”. Kids can climb in an elevated tree house, dip their feet in a flowing stream, or take a walk through the butterfly garden, among other activities. Evelyn, being a little young for all that, was happy just to make some music for awhile.
Back on the trail, there are plenty of places to stop and take a rest, enjoying the sights and sounds of the forest.
It took us a little over an hour to walk the whole trail and stop by Acorn Acres. The Nature Center and trails are open to non-members from 8 am-7 pm Monday-Friday and 8 am-5 pm Saturday and Sunday during the summer.
We barely dipped our toes into all Fontenelle has to offer, but the Riverview Boardwalk Trail made for a great introduction to the park. Next time we’ll pop Evelyn into the ErgoBaby and go off the beaten path! Until then, I’d encourage anyone in the Omaha area to stop by. The Fontenelle Forest is the perfect escape from the city, without having to travel too far at all!
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