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Six great winter getaways in Nebraska

It’s just that time of year – the winter doldrums are settling in, and your feet are itching to escape and go somewhere new. Your office mate across the hall might be headed to Aruba, but that’s not an option for all of us. Rest assured, though, if you’re in need of a mid-winter getaway, plenty of options are tucked right into your backyard.

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1. Ponca State Park Hiking Marathon Challenge

Winter and hiking – an unlikely combination, you say? Not in the least! Imagine with every breath, blooms of ice-fresh winter air entering your lungs. Picture frost-covered trees lit by the sunrise, and sightings of eagles and hardy songbirds. This and more awaits you on the cluster of hiking trails at Ponca State Park, situated along the scenic Missouri River Bluffs.

Now through March 5, Ponca is hosting their annual Hiking Marathon Challenge. Every Saturday features a different trail, each with its own unique scenery and level of hiking difficulty. The challenge can be done individually, as a group, or with a furry canine friend.

To read about each weekend’s plans, visit our calendar.

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2. Eugene T. Mahoney State Park

Curl up by the fireplace with a hot mug of cocoa at one of Mahoney’s 57 modern cabins. Guest lodging is also available at the Peter Kiewit Lodge, where families can enjoy dining together at the Lodge Restaurant. And two modern RV areas are located near Owen Marina. For some outdoor time, pull on some snow boots and head out for one of the park’s numerous winter activities, includingice fishing, cross-country skiing, sledding and toboggan runs

Additionally, the Activity Center provides year-round entertainment for young guests with an indoor playground and outdoor ice skating rink. Visit the Mahoney page on our website to learn more about this park or make a reservation.

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3. Platte River State Park

Ever wanted an eagle-eye view of an icy Platte River surrounded by trees decked in snow? It’s just a few flights up at the Platte River State Park’s two observation towers. Hikers, photographers and birdwatchers will appreciate the miles of beautiful trails.

Platte River State Park also offers 21 modern, cozy cabins. Lodging discounts are offered during the winter months.

Niobrara River.

4. Niobrara State Park

This expansive park boasts your pick of cabin lodgings and sightseeing along 14 miles of hiking trails.

Niobrara State Park has 20 modern cabins situated high in the bluffs overlooking the beautiful Missouri River Valley. Photo enthusiasts will enjoy having 1,260 scenic acres to explore, with the chance of spotting many native species, including wild turkeys, bald eagles and muskrats.

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5. Lewis and Clark State Recreation Area

Back in the day, Lewis and Clark camped at this recreation areas during their Expedition. This recreation area, now named for the famous explorers, remains a wonderful place to camp, and the accommodations have improved greatly since Lewis and Clark’s visit. The recreation area boasts 10 modern two-bedroom cabins for your winter getaway needs. Outdoor adventurers will love the opportunity to ice fish, skate and snowmobile here (given the right weather conditions). Cross-country skiing is also becoming popular.

Wildlife viewing is also great here. You can spot a variety of birds, including bald eagles. Wild turkeys, deer, coyotes and other small mammals are also frequent visitors.

Instructor Matt Brackhan watches Lila Donahoe of Lincoln shoot a bow in the indoor archery range at the Nebraska Outdoor Education Center (NOEC) in Lincoln. Lancaster County. Fowler, June 3, 2015. Copyright NEBRASKAland Magazine, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

6. Nebraska Game and Parks Outdoor Education Center

Ever wanted to try your hand at archery? Or would you consider yourself proficient? No matter your skill level are, the Outdoor Education Center was created for you. Located at 44th and Superior streets in Lincoln, the center offers indoor archery and firearm shooting ranges, as well as expert instruction from our teachers. Archery and firearm classes and workshops for both youth and adults are held regularly, as well as day camps, Hunter Education classes and special events. It’s a perfect opportunity to relax and focus your mind as you take aim.

About renae blum

Renae works for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and has written for NEBRASKAland Magazine and the Lincoln Journal Star.

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