Nine Nebraska parks for fall camping
By Renae Blum
Fall has returned with cool breezes, turning leaves and plentiful opportunities to get outdoors. Here are nine Nebraska state park or recreation areas that are prime spots to book a stay and enjoy a fall getaway.
Niobrara State Park
Niobrara State Park is a hidden gem in north-central Nebraska overlooking the confluence of the Missouri and Niobrara rivers; it’s perfect for relaxing and recharging in a peaceful, natural setting. This park of rolling hills and trees is also a mecca for wildlife viewing in the fall. Enjoy tent or equestrian camping with scenic river views, RV camping in the modern campground or stay in one of the park’s 20 cabins. Each cabin is fully furnished with a kitchen, bathroom with shower and two or three bedrooms. The screened-in porch is perfect for watching the sunrise or sunset while enjoying your cup of joe or a nightcap.
No matter which overnight stay you choose, remember to bring camp games and enjoy a barbecue with the grill and picnic table provided at your spot. Be sure to make time to enjoy the many miles of trails, wildlife viewing and fishing on the river.
Platte River State Park
Quaint Platte River State Park is nestled halfway between Nebraska’s two largest cities: Lincoln and Omaha. The park offers a quiet getaway at a modern cabin, glamping cabin or the new state-of-the-art RV campground. Visitors can enjoy the fall colors and wildlife viewing opportunities on more than 14 miles of hiking and biking trails. Children will also enjoy the new playground and zipline swing.
Other activities at the park include picnicking, fishing, recreational sports activities or climbing the observation tower. The Roger G. Sykes Heritage Education Complex offers both novice and experienced shooters the opportunity to practice archery and firearm shooting as well.
Lewis and Clark State Recreation Area
The south side of Lewis and Clark State Recreation Area offers 10 lakeshore cabins with beautiful views of the lake, as well as shoreline fishing. Each cabin features a kitchen, living room, bathroom with shower and two bedrooms. These fully-furnished cabins have a covered front porch, fire ring — and beautiful sunsets. The rock fishing jetties are close to the cabins, providing anglers the opportunity to fish from shore. The park also offers electric and basic camping in several campgrounds along the lake. For boat owners, fall fishing is a perfect time to enjoy the state’s second largest lake. During your stay, hike the trails, watch for wildlife and visit Gavins Point Dam.
Ponca State Park
Ponca State Park in northeastern Nebraska is a fall getaway must — a peaceful locale to enjoy great lodging accommodations, forested hills, scenic vistas, wildlife and Missouri River access. The park is among wooded bluffs along the river and offers breathtaking views and fall foliage.
Ponca has a variety of camping options, from tents and cabins to RV camping, as well as 10 Tentrr sites, a ready-to-go camping option you’ll want to try. The cabins are fully equipped and have all the furnishings of home, and the park’s 1.5-acre pond is stocked with trout each fall. Hike the 22 miles of wooded trails throughout the park, fish the pond for your trout dinner, or practice archery with 3D targets at the Eric Wiebe Memorial Shooting Complex. On Saturday mornings, stop by the shooting complex to learn a new outdoor skill or take part in educational activities in the afternoon.
Places of interest nearby include shopping, restaurants and wineries. Golfers, bring your clubs and enjoy the nine-hole Highland Oaks golf course adjacent to the park.
Medicine Creek State Recreation Area
Medicine Creek State Recreation Area is full of opportunities for fall fun, whether fishing, hunting or both. The shoreline cabins and campground give you a great base camp for both activities. The four cabins are fully furnished and have two bedrooms each, set along the shoreline of the 1,768-acre lake. The campground at Medicine Creek offers both electric campsites and basic tent camping. Take this opportunity to escape the crowds and recharge in a peaceful setting.
Eugene T. Mahoney State Park
Mahoney State Park is a perfect destination for a fall getaway, with plenty of activities to delight all ages. The park has 57 cabins, and the Peter Kiewit Lodge’s 40 guest rooms offer stunning views and immersion in the Platte River Valley. For those who like to camp, Mahoney offers 148 campsites and modern facilities.
During your stay, hike or bike the paved trail winding through the park or get off-road and traverse the wooded hills of the park. Also, make sure to climb the 75-foot observation tower to enjoy the view of the Platte River Valley. With fewer visitors in the fall, there’s a great opportunity for wildlife viewing and bird watching, and you can fish 10-acre CenturyLink Lake or Baright Lake, which is 4 acres. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, come inside the Owen Marina Craft Center or the park’s Activity Center where there is an indoor playground and rock climbing.
Fort Robinson State Park
Fall provides a serene time of year at Fort Rob when you can discover historical sites, museums and more than 22,000 acres of beautiful Pine Ridge land for hiking, biking and horseback riding. Fort Robinson also offers fishing at several renovated ponds, Soldier Creek and the White River. There’s wildlife viewing, too — everything from pronghorn, deer, and turkey to some great birdwatching.
Guests can stay in historic lodging once used by soldiers and officers stationed at the fort. Comanche Hall can sleep as many as 60 people under one roof, making this park a great choice for family reunions. If you’re seeking a camping experience, Fort Robinson’s campgrounds offer everything from full-service RV to basic tent camping. An equestrian campground allows riders to haul in their own horses or mules.
Chadron State Park
Nebraska’s first state park, Chadron State Park is nestled among the scenic buttes and canyons of Nebraska’s Pine Ridge. Since its founding more than a century ago, it’s remained a popular spot for camping, family reunions and old-fashioned vacations. Activities include fishing in Chadron Creek and the park pond, hiking, biking, playing tennis and target shooting.
The park offers 22 fully-furnished cabins, each with two bedrooms, a bathroom with shower, kitchenette and outdoor charcoal grill and picnic table. Chadron State Park also offers electric campsites and basic tent sites. Smell the pine trees or view the stars when you sit outside your cabin or campsite.
Victoria Springs State Recreation Area
Described as an oasis in the Sandhills, this 60-acre park is a great place to get away from it all — and would make a great writer’s retreat. It is filled with history: Two original log cabins built by a homesteader are still standing, and the area is named after the mineral springs that once supplied bottled water across the country.
In addition to these historic buildings and the scenic setting, Victoria Springs also offers fishing, boating, picnicking and paddleboating. Two cabins are available, as well as RV and tent camping.
For more information about these parks, or to make a reservation, visit OutdoorNebraska.gov.