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Five challenges for Nebraska hikers

By Renae Blum

Hikers seeking a challenge will find what they’re looking for on these five Nebraska trails.

Along several, hundreds of feet of elevation changes will test your hiking stamina, but scenic views make it worth the climb to the top. Other trails take time to complete or offer minimal protection from the elements.

Whichever trail you choose, you’ll get to enjoy the beauty of scenic Nebraska – along with the satisfaction of tackling a challenge.

Trail 10, Indian Cave State Park

Prepare for some steep climbs, as well as beautiful views, at Indian Cave State Park’s Trail 10. As you ascend from the river bottoms to the top of the river bluffs, you’ll climb a couple of hundred feet in elevation. Stick it out, and you’ll be rewarded with gorgeous views of the Missouri River.

A hiker walks through a remnant tallgrass prairie on a ridgetop at Indian Cave State Park in Nemaha and Richardson counties. Eric Fowler, Nebraskaland Magazine, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Cowboy Trail

Beginning in Norfolk and spanning 321 miles west to Chadron, the Cowboy Trail is one of the largest rails-to-trails projects in the United States. The trail is developed between Norfolk and Valentine, consisting of 187 miles of crushed limestone surfacing.

The trail itself isn’t difficult, but with little wind or shade cover, hikers are exposed to the elements. Also, the distance between towns makes for gaps in shelter. Take this challenge to see a variety of Nebraska landscapes.

View of Long Pine Creek from the Cowboy Trail bridge near the city of Long Pine in the winter. Jenny Wheatley, Nebraskaland Magazine, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Black Hills Overlook, Chadron State Park

Scenic views, as well as a rocky climb, awaits hikers at Chadron State Park’s Black Hills Overlook. Face the steep elevation changes and you’ll get to see beautiful, wide-open views of the Black Hills and the Pine Ridge. Hikers also can view remnants of a 2012 fire in the pine forest.

The setting sun streams through pine trees near the Black Hills Overlook at Chadron State Park. Justin Haag, Nebraskland Magazine, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Mexican Canyon Trail through Spring Creek Loop Trail, Fort Robinson State Park

Want to see the views from the top of the buttes at Fort Robinson State Park? Then take this 12-mile hike along Mexican Canyon Trail through Spring Creek Loop Trail. You’ll face an elevation change of 500 feet, but also get to see views of the Red Cloud buttes, as well as Carter P. Johnson Lake and most of the Soldier Creek area.

Sunset along the Mexican Canyon at Fort Robinson State Park near Crawford. Dawes County. Amy Kucera, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Red Cloud Loop, Fort Robinson State Park

Fantastic views are in store for hikers at Fort Robinson’s Red Cloud Loop. The 500-foot change in elevation takes hikers to the top of buttes overlooking the fort complex and the town of Crawford. This route also offers your best chance to see the wildlife of Fort Robinson, along with some of the park’s best views.

Snow and fog hang above the Red Cloud Buttes at Fort Robinson State Park in Dawes and Sioux counties. The hike along the ridge can be breathtaking in winter. Justin Haag, Nebraskaland Magazine, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Remember to stay safe when using these trails: Dress for the weather, bring water, tell a friend where you’re going, and hike with a buddy.

For more information about these trails, or to see an interactive trail map, visit OutdoorNebraska.gov/hikingtrails.

About shawna richter-ryerson

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