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Top nine state parks for horseback riding

A horseback rider enjoys a ride at Fort Robinson State Park, which has 20 miles of equestrian trails. (Nebraskaland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission)

Horseback riding is a great way to get outdoors and see the diverse beauty of Nebraska — via miles of extensive equestrian trails in your state parks.

With beautiful scenery, amenities for horse and rider, and considerable acres to roam, here are nine Nebraska Game and Parks locations every equestrian should put on their list for this year.

Fort Robinson State Park: Located in Nebraska’s scenic Pine Ridge, Fort Robinson is truly a horse rider’s paradise. The park offers 20 miles of equestrian trails and great accommodations for both horse and rider. Put your horse up in one of the many stalls available in the large barns, while you kick back at a campsite, lodge room or spacious cabin. Many more miles of trails can be found in Nebraska National Forest land adjacent to the fort.

Branched Oak State Recreation Area: Featuring the largest lake in eastern Nebraska, Branched Oak is a popular recreation spot – and can accommodate equestrians, with 6 miles of interlocking multipurpose trails and a horse camp. Trails wind through trees, open grasslands and scenic overlooks, and the horse camp offers 15 electrical rock pad campsites, water, restrooms, grills, picnic facilities, an accessible mounting ramp, hitching posts and corrals.

Summit Lake State Recreation Area: Named in honor of Nebraska Game and Parks’ 100th anniversary, the Centennial Trail at Summit Lake provides new opportunities for riders in northwest Nebraska. The trail covers more than 10 miles and follows the perimeter of the park. It also features a rock crossing through the lake, a unique feature. Game and Parks plans to add equestrian campgrounds to the park in 2023 or 2024.

Danish Alps State Recreation Area: Take a leisurely ride around the 219-acre Kramper Lake at Danish Alps, named for the early Danish settlers in the area. Besides the scenic horse trail, the park also offers an equestrian campground with 14 horse corrals, hitching posts and water. Stay for fishing, camping and picnicking opportunities at this park in Dakota County.

Lewis and Clark State Recreation Area: Riders at this park can enjoy more than 6 miles of heavily wooded and scenic lake overlook trails, which make for the perfect outdoor adventure. You can also take advantage of a campground with corrals for horses, water, restrooms and picnic areas.

Willow Creek State Recreation Area: Located 1.5 miles southwest of Pierce, scenic Willow Creek State Recreation Area offers a 10-mile horse trail encircling Willow Creek Reservoir and an equestrian campground. All 10 camping sites have paved pads, 20-, 30-, and 50-amp electrical hookups, picnic table and fire ring. This lakeside campground also includes 10 barbless wire fence corrals, hitching posts and a water hydrant.

Pawnee State Recreation Area: Enjoy a scenic ride around the lake with Pawnee’s 6 miles of multipurpose trails. For those who wish to camp with their horses, Pawnee offers a primitive camp that includes picnic tables, drinking water, fire rings and pit toilets. The area has mature trees that provide plenty of shade.

Rock Creek Station State Historical Park: Known as the site where James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok began his bloody gunfighting career, Rock Creek Station has a rich history. Take a trip back in time and ride at this former stage and Pony Express station, which offers 5 miles of trails and a horse camp with 20 corrals, water for horse and rider, picnic tables and grills. Additional riding is available at the adjacent Rock Glen Wildlife Management Area, though riders must observe special regulations.

Two Rivers State Recreation Area: One of the most popular recreation areas in the state, Two Rivers can accommodate equestrians as well. It offers about 12 miles of wooded trails both in the recreation area and the adjoining Two Rivers Wildlife Management Area, though trails in this area are closed during hunting season. The park also offers an equestrian campground with firepits, picnic tables, water and restrooms.

To learn more about these parks, visit OutdoorNebraska.org. A Nebraska state park entry permit is required for each vehicle entering a park.

About Jerry Kane

Jerry Kane is the news manager with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. He can be contacted at jerry.kane@nebraska.gov or 402-471-5008.

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