Admit it, you’ve been counting down the days until cooler weather and warmer drinks. But before you lock yourself indoors for the rest of the month to watch Hocus Pocus on repeat, it’s the perfect time to get outside and enjoy autumn in Omaha! There are many beautiful parks in Omaha, but sometimes it’s nice to escape the popular hot spots and venture outside of the city, even if it’s just for a day.
We’ve picked out five of our favorite fall getaway spots where you can enjoy scenic views of the beautiful fall foliage. So get your cameras and selfie sticks ready — here are the best places to enjoy fall near Omaha.
1. Lewis and Clark Scenic Byway
Named after the famous explorers who traveled through the Midwest, the Lewis and Clark Scenic Byway is an 82-mile route that begins just north of Omaha along U.S. Highway 75 and goes to South Sioux City. Spectacular views of the Missouri River and forests make this the perfect scenic drive in the fall. You’ll wind through wooded bluffs along the river and see wildlife in addition to fall foliage.
The Lewis and Clark Scenic Byway staff recommends stopping at the following scenic spots along the way: Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge, DeSoto National Wildife Refuge, Black Elk-Neihardt Park, Pelican Point State Recreation Area, Big Elk Park, Winnebago Bison Project, and the Scenic Park Campground.
2. Fontenelle Forest
Nearby Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue includes 17 miles of trails surrounded by beautiful flora and fauna. The colors start changing in late August or early September and usually peak in mid- to late October, so now is the perfect time to visit. In additional to the colorful trees, the forest is the perfect place to see wildlife, such as wild geese and ducks on their annual migration.
3. The Ponca Hills
Just north of Omaha, The Ponca Hills is another great area to spot fall colors along the Missouri River. Cottonwood trees and migrating ducks are a few of the sights you’ll see. The park also has a popular Halloween festival. If you’d rather pass the time golfing, the Highland Oak Golf Course also has tree-lined greens where you can see lots of fall colors on display.
4. Nebraska City Area
Nebraska City is South of Omaha and the home of Arbor Day. On the drive from Omaha to Nebraska City you’ll find numerous orchards, hiking trails, wine tastings, and more. If you travel a bit further, you can also make a stop in Brownville, one of the more progressive small towns in Nebraska. Brownville is one of only three “Booktowns” in the United States. The town has four bookstores, a winery, cafe, and antique stores where you could easily spend an entire day. Finally, visit nearby Indian Cave State Park, near Schubert, where you can hike and see beautiful fall colors. Across the river, go bird watching at the Squaw Creek Wildlife Refuge to complete this day trip.
5. Other Sites Worth Visiting
In addition to our favorite spots listed above, here are a few other popular sites to soak in the colors of fall around Omaha:
Western Iowa: Loess Hills State Forest, including Preparation Canyon State Park, Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawattamie County: Yellows and oranges, some reds in canopy; prairie ridges are golden brown.
South of the metro, Nebraska and Iowa: Leaf change is about a week or so away at Waubonsie State Park.
Omaha metro: Elmwood Park, Omaha Public Power District Arboretum, Metropolitan Community College, Fort Omaha campus, Forest Lawn Cemetery.
Regionally: Any older park or arboretum, especially any Nebraska Statewide Arboretum site, such as the Bessey District of the Nebraska National Forest, near Halsey.
What are your favorite scenic routes to drive in the fall? Share with us in the comments!