The Keystone Trail is a popular urban-to-rural corridor for commuters and recreationists of all stripes: college students, businesspeople, families and the ranks of the retired who can easily access Omaha's many universities, parks and business districts.
The trail meanders along the banks of Papillion Creek, which itself ripples in the sun on its way to the Missouri River. Start your trip from the northern trailhead in Democracy Park and head south into town. For the majority of the trip you are atop the flood control levees of Little Papillion Creek, occasionally crossing back and forth over the water on bridges along the way. The concrete-surfaced corridor runs wide and, especially in the more park-like northern section and agricultural expanses of the south, grasshoppers will leap along beside you at their own peril.
While the trail only runs on an actual rail bed for 2.3 miles, the railroad's influence can't be missed. Just before Mile 1 is a high railroad bridge that the trail passes under through a sheltered awning. If train cars are stopped on the tracks, the effect is a powerful reminder of the area's industrial past. Before Mile 6 at Heritage Park, a wooden trestle rests across the riverbank to the east. Pilings can also be spotted along the trail, usually near creek-crossings.
At Karen Park, connect to the South Omaha Trail
, a rail-trail that will eventually connect to the Field Club Trail
(yet another rail-trail).
A portion of the Keystone Trail runs through an industrial park area; however, the automobile traffic isn't a problem for trail users. The only time the trail isn't a flat gentle ride is when it dips beneath the roads on underpasses. You can either access the road or avoid traffic altogether. Signs ask cyclists to be alert for on-coming trail traffic.
As you leave the commercial district, the trail enters several neighborhoods and parks where Little Papillion Creek flows into Big Papillion Creek. Here, the landscape opens up to reveal the vast, square tracts of farmland for which the Cornhusker State is known.
At Seymour Smith Park, the Keystone Trail meets the Big Papio Trail
, which takes off along a different route. Near Mile 13, you can access the spur for the West Papio Trail
to the west or continue south on the Bellevue Loop Trail
, which is generally considered an extension of the Keystone Trail. Together, the Keystone and Bellevue provide 30 miles of uninterrupted trail.
To reach the trailhead at Democracy Park, take Interstate 80 to Interstate 680 North. Exit onto Fort Street and head east. Democracy Park is on the right at the corner of Templeton Drive and Fort Street.
To reach the southern trailhead at Haworth Park, travel south on Highway 75, then turn east on Highway 370. Take a left onto Payne Drive to reach Haworth Park.