Nebraska February 07, 2017
15 Incredible Trips In Nebraska That Will Change Your Life
It’s getting to that time of year again when we’re starting to plan out a summer vacation or two. Where do you want to go this year? These in-state trips are all totally unforgettable, and you’ll be so happy you made the journey.
1. Be a cowboy for a day...or a week.
Nebraska is home to several guest ranches (or "dude ranches") where you can work all day like a cowboy, then eat a hearty home-cooked meal and bed down for the night in a comfy room. It's not everyone's idea of a vacation, but for people who have always wanted to experience ranch life it's a one-of-a-kind experience.
See our top three guest ranch picks here.
2. Hike or bike the Cowboy Trail.
If you're not up for being an actual cowboy, how about riding the trail that shares the moniker? The Cowboy Trail is the longest rails-to-trails conversion in the country, and its 321-mile run will take you through some of the most scenic and peaceful parts of the state. If you're feeling very adventurous and have a whole lot of vacation time saved up, you could travel the entire trail...but most people just go for a while and then turn back.
Learn more about this unique trail here.
3. Explore the capital city.
One of our very favorite things to do in Lincoln is touring the elegant capitol building. But there's so much more to do there. In fact, Lincoln was named one of the best U.S. cities to visit in 2017 by Lonely Planet. That's a glowing endorsement if we've ever heard one. From live music to world-class food, there really is something for everyone in this vibrant, growing city.
Get some ideas for your Lincoln visit here.
4. Embark on what might be the most beautiful hike in the state.
It's pretty bold to say that one hike in Nebraska is the prettiest, right? Well, take an afternoon to hike through Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge near Valentine and you just might agree. The trail that starts off at Fort Falls is less than a mile long, but it's challenging - and it's full of impressive sights.
Read more about the Fort Niobrara hike here.
5. Gain a new appreciation for ancient history at Ashfall.
Ashfall Fossil Beds, near Royal, is an unforgettable attraction that a lot of people don't really expect to find in Nebraska. About 12 million years ago, a huge volcanic eruption in what is now Idaho killed massive amounts of prehistoric animals in Nebraska. Scientists think that this site was once a watering hole and the animals fossilized here died while taking a drink. You can
visit and watch
the active, ongoing dig from May 2 to October 9 this year.
See more about this ancient attraction here.
6. Cool off in Nebraska's one and only mine.
Happy Jack Peak and Chalk Mine is unlike anything else in Nebraska. The former mine once supplied soft rock known as diatomite that was used for everything from building material to an ingredient in chicken feed. The mine is no longer active, but you can take a tour and marvel at its prehistoric origins. There's also a campground and gorgeous scenic overlook onsite, so plan to make a day of it.
Find out more, including the mine's origin story, here.
7. Take one of the most scenic drives through southern Nebraska.
Although Heritage Highway/Highway 136 is arguably most beautiful in the fall, it's really a lovely drive any time of year. It begins in Brownville and ends in Edison - or the other way around - and winds through prairies and charming little towns. It also offers the potential for many interesting side trips, so although the Heritage Highway route only takes around four hours, you'll want to plan for an entire weekend so you can stop off to explore everything along the way.
Read more about this very scenic drive right here.
8. Experience true natural beauty in southeastern Nebraska.
At the start or end of your Heritage Highway trip, visit Indian Cave State Park, which is located just a short jaunt from Brownville. This ancient cave was once used as shelter by Native Americans, and in some places you can still see figures they carved in the soft stone. But there's much more to this park; a fantastic trail system, well-kept campsites, and tons of activities are big draws for summer adventurers, and the ghost town of St. Deroin is a fascinating part of the park.
Find out why Indian Cave State Park is worth a visit here.
9. Explore western Nebraska's natural wonders.
From waterfalls to rock formations to breathtaking wildlife, this road trip is epic. There are 10 stops on the trip and the driving time alone is more than 14 hours. We'd recommend going over a long weekend so you have time to enjoy all that there is to see in this exciting part of the state.
Get the full road trip and details here.
10. Explore even more natural wonders in central and eastern Nebraska.
Part 2 of our natural wonders road trip shows you wetlands, wildlife, woods, and even the sandhill crane migration if you time your visit just right. Drive time on this one is about 13.5 hours, so it's another long-weekend trip. Even if you have to take a couple of days off, it's totally worth it.
Get the whole trip, including a map and directions, here.
11. Find out what's so great about the Panhandle.
National Geographic rated Nebraska's panhandle #3 out of the 10 that exist in the US. That seems like a pretty big honor, and if you've never visited the western portion of the state it's time to see just how great it really is. Amazing scenery, tons of museums, and one of Nebraska's most recognizable man-made attractions all await you in the Panhandle.
If you need more convincing, check out
15 reasons you should visit right here
12. Don't forget to explore the exact opposite side of the state.
The Omaha metro area might be the most populous region in the state, but plenty of Nebraskans have never made the trek to the city. Plan to spend at least a few days - a week is even better - exploring all that Omaha has to offer, like the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium (pictured), the Old Market, world-class dining and shopping, beautiful parks, and the first pedestrian bridge to connect two states.
To get you started, here are
15 things you may not have known about Omaha's incredible zoo
13. See some massive planes up close in Ashland.
As long as you're making the trip to Omaha, stop in nearby Ashland to visit the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum. It's hard to put into words exactly how awesome this place is. It's filled with military aircraft, space vehicles, and tons of educational displays. Even people who aren't into military history have a great time here...it's hard not to feel like a kid when you can get this close to huge planes and then ride a flight simulator. Also, the gift shop has astronaut ice cream, which is probably worth the trip on its own.
Visit the museum's website for visiting information.
14. Take a leisurely two-day getaway in Nebraska's Heart City.
Valentine, in north central Nebraska, is sometimes overlooked in favor of the big cities in the east and big nature in the west. And honestly, it doesn't seem like they mind too much - central Nebraska is kind of a laid-back place. Take a weekend to visit this beautiful, fun-filled city and enjoy everything it has to offer.
Find our handy two-day itinerary here.
15. Watch one of nature's most glorious spectacles.
Taking a trip to watch the sandhill crane migration is truly life-changing, and that's not an overstatement. You will never forget the sound of hundreds of thousands of sandhill cranes calling to each other when they stop over in Nebraska on their annual spring migration. When hundreds of them take off all at once, the powerful
sound of their flapping wings just about knocks you backward. This is a must for anyone who loves nature - and luckily you can experience it every year. It's happening in the next few weeks, so get ready to head to south central Nebraska.
Read more about the migration
, and watch a video of last year's show
Whether this is your first time experiencing these trips or you’re a seasoned Nebraska traveler, you’ll no doubt be blown away by Nebraska’s beauty and diversity. What’s your favorite Nebraska trip? Add your favorite to the list in the comments!