Nebraska has boundless natural beauty, and nowhere is that more apparent than in our state parks. Nebraska has eight official state parks, a number which doesn’t include the many, many state recreational areas and wildlife preserves which we’ll explore later. For now, here’s some information to entice you to visit the breathtaking beauty at these eight state parks.
Chadron State Park
Located just nine miles south of the town of Chadron, this state park is actually within the borders of the stunning Nebraska National Forest. It was Nebraska's very first national park and has space and facilities for camping, fishing, horseback riding, hiking, and tons of other activities.
Eugene T. Mahoney State Park
Mahoney State Park was first designated a state park in 1991 and today is Nebraska's second most visited attraction, right after Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo. Mahoney has just about everything you could hope for in a park: paddleboating, a water park, disc golf, tobogganing, a tall observation tower, an outstanding restaurant, camping, and soooo much more.
Fort Robinson State Park
Located near Crawford in northwestern Nebraska, Fort Robinson State Park was once a U.S. Army fort. Today, Fort Robinson is a great place to enjoy nature while learning about the area's history. The museum on site has a wealth of information about the fort itself and the surrounding region. A horse drawn narrative tour is a special highlight that will get you up to speed on the fort's fascinating story. Horseback riding, an indoor pool, Jeep rides, camping and hiking are just a few of the activities you'll enjoy at Fort Robinson.
Indian Cave State Park
Indian Cave State Park's mission revolves around preservation. The prehistoric cave referenced in the park's name contains petroglyphs believed to be thousands of years old. Also within the park's boundaries is the "ghost town" of St. Deroin. You'll find excellent hiking here as well as camping, fishing, and horseback riding.
Niobrara State Park
This is another great spot for hiking, but you'll also want to make time just to enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings and abundant wildlife. Guided horseback trail rides, an indoor pool, lots of historical monuments, and exploring the Niobrara River are some of the unforgettable experiences you can have here.
Platte River State Park
This gem in southeastern Nebraska is located near Louisville. Its 10 miles of hiking trails are a bit steep, making them perfect for hikers who want more of a challenge than walking on flat pavement. Cabins and teepees are available for rent, and the on-site outdoor amphitheater offers free family movies every Saturday in the summer.
Ponca State Park
In extreme northeastern Nebraska, Ponca State Park is home to a blufftop that lets you see Nebraska, South Dakota, and Iowa all at once. Fishing, camping, swimming, and wildlife watching are some of the can't-miss activities at Ponca.
Smith Falls State Park
Sitting in the Sand Hills region of Nebraska, Smith Falls State Park is home to the state's highest waterfall. A unique mini-ecosystem exists in the canyon where the water spills over and hits the rocks below. The park is mainly enjoyed by day trippers but also offers tent camping facilities. Canoeing down the Niobrara River is a favorite activity in this uniquely beautiful park.
Which state park is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below. And if you’ve got any photos from your own state park visits, feel free to share those also!