When you need to escape into nature for a little while, Nebraska is full of places to go. There are the more popular state parks and the recreation areas that everyone knows about, but we’d like to point out some of the less well-known natural escapes. You aren’t likely to find big crowds here – just peace, quiet, and lots of space to spread out and relax.
1. Gallagher Canyon State Recreation Area, near Eustis
Located not far from the more popular Johnson Lake, Gallagher Canyon is a beautiful and secluded spot. This is a dynamite place to go fishing; it also offers no-wake boating and 18 picnic tables for a well-rounded day out.
2. Victoria Springs, near Anselmo
While it is arguably one of the more popular places on this list, Victoria Springs is still vastly underappreciated. Visitors to this peaceful area will find seriously pretty scenery, great fishing, wooded picnic areas, and lots of trails for walking around and enjoying nature.
3. Medicine Creek State Recreation Area, near Cambridge
This lovely recreation area has been called one of the most scenic in the state, and it's just about everything you could ask for in an outdoor getaway. Fantastic fishing and hunting, lots of picnicking and hiking spots, and a public swimming beach all make Medicine Creek a perfectly lovely place to spend an afternoon.
4. Cheyenne State Recreation Area, near Wood River
Located just across I-80 from Wood River, this little recreation area features a 15-acre pond where you can spend the day fishing, boating (no-wake only), or just soaking up the sun in a picturesque setting.
5. Pibel Lake State Recreation Area, near Spalding
Tucked away in a little valley, this secluded recreation area is probably just what you think of when you picture an oasis. It's quiet, lovely, and, in warmer months, very green and inviting. It encompasses 72 acres including the 24-acre lake. The entire area was recently renovated and the lake was stocked with tons of fish. PIcnic tables and a playground are available as well.
6. Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge, near Ogallala
This large but out-of-the-way refuge contains some of the loveliest scenery in the state, but most people don't even know it's here. There are 21 lakes and tons of ponds that offer great fishing, and the wildlife spotting opportunities here are top notch.
7. Wildwood Lake State Wildlife Management Area, near Valparaiso
Consisting of 491 acres, 103 acres of which are lake, Wildwood is an eastern Nebraska gem. Fishing, no-wake boating, hiking, hunting, and picnicking will keep you busy here for as long as you care to stay. The lake is especially scenic and, while there is no swimming beach, this is the perfect place to stretch out with a book and listen to the water.
8. Gilman Park Arboretum, Pierce
This stunning park is situated around Bill Cox Memorial Lake and contains five distinct gardens with hundreds of species of plants. The arboretum covers 14 acres and contains just over a mile of wheelchair-accessible trails. Benches provide the opportunity to sit and enjoy the flowers and other plants as you relax.
9. Crystal Lake State Recreation Area, near Ayr
This 33-acre park features a five-acre lake just off of the Little Blue River. The fishing is always good, and there are tennis courts, a playground, picnic areas with grills, and a swimming area to keep everyone happy.
10. Smith Lake State Wildlife Management Area, near Rushville
This beautiful western Nebraska spot is composed of a 222-acre lake surrounded by a variety of habitats. It's a bird-watcher's paradise where more than 140 species of birds have been spotted and cataloged.
11. Alexandria State Recreation Area, near Alexandria
This beautiful recreation area features 55 acres of land and 46 acres of lake. It's a peaceful little place with a swimming area, ample fishing, no-wake boating, and picnic areas.
Any of these spots would be perfect for a little getaway. Most offer at least primitive camping so you can stay longer than an afternoon if you’re in need of som serious recharging. Don’t see your favorite park or recreation area on the list? Add it in the comments!