Nebraska October 15, 2016
This Charming Nebraska Town Is Picture Perfect For An Autumn Day Trip
There’s no better time than autumn to take a day trip in Nebraska. There are so many sweet little towns that are just waiting to be explored, each with its own personality and atmosphere. Although western Nebraska has already seen a bit of snow this year, it’s not too late to get out there for one last weekend day trip before winter really kicks in.
Crawford, in Dawes County in northwest Nebraska, has a population of just under 1000.
The little town has retained its Wild West charm and mixed it with good old Nebraska friendliness.
It's greener here than you might expect, and because of the elevation (along with the lack of city pollution), the air is refreshingly clear.
There is some impressive historic architecture in the town, like the post office which was built in 1938.
The building that houses the Crawford Historical Museum dates back to 1887.
There are even several places to eat and drink here. Get your morning caffeine fix at Stitches Art - Espresso - Floral, the local coffeeshop/florist/fabric store.
After you've explored the museum, visited the shops, admired the architecture, and maybe had a bite to eat in one of the local eateries, it's time to set out on an adventure. Crawford is the perfect home base for what's sure to be a truly epic day trip.
The nearby Fort Robinson is probably the most popular attraction in the area.
If you prefer to walk to your destination, a trail runs from a park in Crawford to Fort Robinson a mere three miles away. There are many accommodations on site, including camping, a huge lodge, individual cabins, or even the historic enlisted or officers' quarters. Learn more about Fort Robinson (and there is a LOT more)
The area is known for its rich cache of fossils, including one exceptional example.
Some 10,000 years ago, two mammoths engaged in a fight to the death. There was no winner in this battle, however; during the fight, the tusks of the two animals became tangled. Unable to free themselves, both mammoths died here and were preserved just as they fell, their tusks eternally entwined. You can see this display and many other historical exhibits at the
Trailside Discovery Museum
on the grounds of Ft. Robinson State Park.
Another incredible spot to peer into the past is at the Hudson-Meng Bison Kill site.
This active archaeological excavation is an interesting place to visit for fossil enthusiasts and mystery lovers. Around 10,000 to 11,000 years ago, some 600 bison died on this site. Some scientists believe it was a hunting ground while others believe the bison died of natural causes like a prairie grass fire. The bones - and the mystery - are being actively researched more than 60 years after the site's discovery. Learn more about the site
If you're up for another walk (or a short drive), you can step onto another planet just three miles away from the Hudson-Meng site.
Toadstool Geologic Park is one of Nebraska's most incredible spots - and one of its best-kept secrets. The rock formations here are absolutely otherworldly. A one-mile loop will take you through the entire park. Learn more about this unique park
All of these spots are located in the beautiful Oglala National Grassland.
It's hard not to stare open-mouthed at this pristine scenery.
But hop back in your car and you'll be treated to equally impressive sights on your way to another historic site.
The Pine Ridge area is absolutely beautiful, brimming with buttes, peaks, canyons, and untamed lands. This aerial video gives you an idea of just how wonderful it is out here near Crawford.
Agate Fossil Beds National Monument is a bit further out than the other destinations.
But it's worth it. Not only will you see amazing terrain like this; you'll also learn all about the fossils, culture, and history found in this part of the state. Learn more about Agate Fossil Beds
While you're in the Harrison area, swing by to see the Warbonnet Battlefield Monument.
battlefield is alive with the memories of a short but intense fight in 1876. Find out more about the battle and the battlefield
If you loop around back toward Crawford, you can visit Nebraska's only railroad tunnel.
The Belmont Tunnel is the only railroad tunnel to be carved out of rock in the entire state. While trains no longer run through the tunnel, they do run right next to it. Be extremely careful when visiting. Read a wonderful account of a visit to the tunnel right
Head back near your starting point for a meal or an overnight stay at the High Plains Homestead.
This place will show you what real wild west living was like. The Drifter Cookshack serves up the historic Coffee Burger that is big enough to satisfy any rancher's appetite. This is an all-around delightful place to spend some time. (Note that, while it has a Crawford address, it is actually about half an hour's drive outside of the town.) Learn more about High Plains Homestead
History buffs will want to make extra time to drive up to Chadron for a visit to a completely unique museum.
The Museum of the Fur Trade is the only museum in the country devoted to this subject. Besides the museum itself, there is a dugout building which is a painstaking recreation of the original trading post that operated on the site in the mid-19th century. Find out more
Ok, you may think we’re pushing it by calling this a day trip. If you only have one day to spend in and near Crawford, pick and choose the places that are most interesting to you. Or how about you make it a long weekend and visit everything? There are even more incredible places in the area than those discussed here, especially if you widen your traveling radius. With several lodging options in the area, your day trip might even turn into a whole week of exploring this unique, historic, and vastly interesting part of Nebraska. Share some pictures with us when you make the trip!
Do you need more convincing?
Here’s why Nebraska’s panhandle region is such a great place to visit.