Lincoln Trails Network: Lincoln, Nebraska


Connecting 131 miles of trails, Lincoln Trails Network offers year-round recreational opportunities for pedestrians, cyclists, and equestrians. The backbone of Lincoln's trails was built along two major rail corridors, passing through greenways and along passages away from major arterials. The trails network connects many of Lincoln's parks, gardens, schools, commercial areas, colleges and universities, swimming pools, and major ball parks. The trails connect to other notable destinations such as Lincoln's Children's Zoo, the Pinnacle Bank Arena, and Pioneers Park Nature Center.

Designated Area

Located within Lincoln's city limits, the trail network connects all quadrants of the community with the heart of Lincoln.

Antelope Valley Bridge and trail. Photo courtesy City of Lincoln.

Planning Excellence

In 1978, Lincoln constructed its first trail, the Billy Wolff Trail, followed by the John Dietrich Trail in 1985. The city realized the need for trail linkages in downtown Lincoln, and the Great Plains Trails Network was formed in 1988. Citizen groups were instrumental in forming the organization and raised over $3 million for trail projects. The Mayor's Pedestrian/Bicycle Advisory Committee also formed in the mid-1980s to make recommendations on a comprehensive plan for a bicycle and pedestrian network for transportation, recreation, and physical fitness and to monitor the implementation of such plan. In 1989, the "Lincoln Area Trails Plan" was adopted by the city council, and trail acquisition was funded both publicly and privately over the decades.

Thanks to the Lincoln Trails Network, Lincoln is considered one of the top 10 biking cities in the Midwest — ranking fourth in bike commuting compared with cities of comparable populations. Over 2 million people use the trails annually, and 94 percent of Lincoln residents have access to a trail within one mile of their home. The trails continue to attract visitors from out of town — especially for the annual Lincoln Marathon, a qualifying run for the Boston and New York Marathons. A section of the trail was recently widened to accommodate more runners, as attendance increased from 10,000 to 12,000 this year. 

In 2005, the Lincoln Comprehensive Plan and Long Range Transportation Plan were both updated to connect the trail network to the downtown street grid via protected bike lanes. Expansion of the trail network continues as community groups raise money for new construction, renovations, and maintenance.

The Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Department has played a key role, identifying opportunities to improve and expand the trail network. It took the lead in developing the Bicycle and Pedestrian Capital Plan, which was adopted in 2013 to improve the trails network. The recently approved LPlan 2040 provides general trail guidance and supports network expansion so every residence has access within one mile.

Biker on the trail. Photo courtesy City of Lincoln.

Defining Characteristics, Features

Planning History

  • Construction of Lincoln's first trail began with the 8.5-mile Billy Wolff Trail from Antelope Park to Holmes Park (1978)
  • The John Dietrich Trail constructed (1985); now connects the Billy Wolff Trail, Murdock Trail, University of Nebraska campuses, and various parks
  • Strategic planning process called "Star Venture" began and recognized the need for trail linkages in downtown Lincoln (1987)
  • The "Lincoln Area Trails Plan" adopted by the city council (1989)
  • The Tierra/Williamsburg Trail completed (2001)
  • Phase I of the Jamaica North Trail completed (2004); remaining portion slated for completion in 2014
  • Lincoln's Downtown Master Plan Update (2005) connects trails network to downtown street grid via protected bike lanes
  • The Husker Link and Elaine Hammer Bridge projects completed the connection between downtown University of Nebraska with east campus (2009) along the MoPac Trail
  • City and county LPlan 2040 proposes a countywide expansion of trail network (2011)
  • Bicycle and Pedestrian Capital Plan (2013) adopted to improve the trails network and introduce short- and long-range proposals for capital improvements to the trails network

Community Support and Activities

  • A group of citizens formed Great Plains Trails Network to advocate and support a network of trails in and around Lancaster County for jogging, biking, walking, and horseback riding (1988)
  • Members of the network mortgaged their homes to purchase a land parcel 25 miles long and 100 feet wide, which would later become MoPac East Trail (1990)
  • David Murdock, a citizen of Lincoln, donated land between 49th and 112th Streets for the Murdock Trail (1994)
  • Annual Lincoln Marathon draws over 12,000 citizens and visitors to the trails every spring
  • The Journal Star and the Great Plains Trails Network co-host the annual "Trail Trek" (2004) attracting over 1,000 cyclists of all ages; provides the opportunity to explore and celebrate Lincoln's trails system

Trail Improvements

  • Lincoln Parks and Recreation Department and the network split the cost of trail acquisition and development; over $3 million dollars raised since 1988
  • The Parks and Recreation Department has worked with Stormwater Management developing rain gardens and water storage areas throughout the trails network to improve water quality and reduce stormwater runoff
  • The "Bike and Bus" program was developed in 2011; the city added bike racks to city buses to help supplement transportation choices and encourage bicycle commuting
  • To promote sustainability, city built Jayne Snyder Trails Center, adjacent to Billy Wolff Trail and Antelope Valley Trail, using energy efficient lighting, heating and cooling systems, and recycled materials
  • Recently constructed Union Plaza area of the Jayne Snyder Trails Center was built as part of a stormwater management project that reduces flooding in downtown Lincoln
  • The network has pledged and is currently raising $250,000 for the construction of the "N" Street Protected Bikeway, $50,000 for the renovation of Murdock Trail, $30,000 for the Wilderness South Bridge, and $60,000 for the Pioneers Park Trail Phase III

For a more detailed map of the Lincoln Trails Network visit:

Bikers in Union Plaza near 'The Colossus' sculpture by James Tyler. Photo courtesy City of Lincoln.