By Renae Blum, Nebraska Game and Parks CommissionSome of the best views in the state can be found along a trail at Nebraska’s state parks. Whether you’re exploring a shady pine forest or trekking to a scenic overlook, these trails are worth seeking out for the adventure – and beauty – they hold.
Indian Cave State Park
Hike Trail 8 at the thickly forested Indian Cave State Park to reach a ridgetop overlooking the Missouri River. Stop to take in the scenery at one of the benches along the way or plan an overnight stay at the Adirondack shelter. Trail 10 also offers ridgetop views of the river, but be prepared for a steep climb at the start.
Ponca State Park
For outstanding river views, choose the Tri-state Overlook Trail loop, which starts near the east shelter and is a relatively easy hike. From the overlook, hikers can view Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota. Eastern portions of the 2-mile Buffalo Run Trail also offers spectacular river vistas.
Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area
The 1.5-mile Turkey Run Trail will show you most of the park, including fascinating rock formations and pine woodlands. It’s a popular trail with visitors and is moderately difficult. Staff also recommend the Monument View Trail, which is half a mile long and offers a view of the North Platte River Valley.
Niobrara State Park
Check out the Bottom River Trail, which runs just under 3 miles and shows the confluence of the Niobrara and Missouri rivers. You may see some wildlife too, including deer, foxes and eagles. For a beautiful view of a cedar forest, hike the Deer Creek Trail, which runs for about 2 miles through the heart of the park.
Chadron State Park
Most popular for its scenic views is the Black Hills Overlook Trail; you can see for miles from the butte formations. The rocky path also shows where a 2012 wildfire came through. This trail is 1.5 miles one-way. To enjoy the sight of an undisturbed ponderosa pine forest, hike the Norwesca Trail, which is a relatively easy walk and is three-quarters of a mile one-way.
Fort Robinson State Park
You can’t go wrong with any of the trails set in the buttes. Take the Red Cloud Butte Trail to see the fort complex from overhead; it’s a popular route and is often used by equestrians. Another option is the Mexican Canyon Trail, which also leads up into the buttes and pine trees. If you’re lucky, you might see bighorn sheep.
Platte River State Park
Hike the quarter-mile Stone Creek Falls Trail to see a small waterfall that is popular with visitors. Continue another quarter of a mile and you’ll end up at some bluffs alongside the Platte River, about 80 feet above the water. The Stone Creek Falls Trail is well-groomed and maintained and is an easy walk.
For more information about these parks and to buy a park entry permit, visit Outdoornebraska.gov. If you’re planning to hike during a hunting season, we also recommend a few safety reminders at OutdoorNebraska.gov/huntseasonsafety.