Nebraskans (or visitors) who are looking for endless outdoor adventures need look no further than this small town in Cherry County. Although all of these adventures aren’t actually within the town’s official borders, it’s the perfect home base for those who would rather spend more time enjoying nature than lounging around indoors.
Valentine is located in the far northern part of Nebraska in Cherry County. With just over 2,700 people, Valentine has that wonderful small-town feel that we Nebraskans tend to love.
This charming place is known as "America’s Heart City," a moniker that residents take seriously. Valentine is a friendly, welcoming place with hearts adorning just about every public spot. Every year around Valentine’s Day, the city participates in a re-mailing program so everyone in the country can send their valentine a card with a postmark from Valentine.
Valentine is located in the picturesque Sandhills region. It's ecologically unique in that it's at the crossroads of six different ecological systems. You'll find a variety of flora and fauna here that you won't see all together anywhere else in the state.
Some people arrive here on the Cowboy Trail, the rails-to-trails conversion project that runs across northern Nebraska, taking hikers and bikers along an impressive 321-mile journey through some of the most picturesque places in the state.
Just outside of city limits is Valentine City Park, a 40-acre natural space featuring the Minnechaduza Creek and big oak trees. You can camp, hike, fish, and boat here - it's a truly impressive city park!
The Niobrara River is a huge draw for outdoor enthusiasts. Valentine is in a prime spot for tubers and canoeists in the warmer months. The river's official name is the Niobrara National Scenic River, and you'll understand why when you see the magnificent beauty of this unique river that passes right by Valentine.
Take a short jaunt to Valentine National Wildlife Refuge to see some incredibly beautiful plant and animal life. The wide-open spaces with their unbridled natural splendor will make you want to stay all day - or even longer.
Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge is also nearby. You can also expect to see some exceptional examples of wildlife and plants here, including a bison herd - if you're lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.
While you're visiting the refuge, be sure to stop by Fort Falls, Nebraska's largest waterfall (by volume). You'll reach it via a short one-mile loop trail that will take you right back to the parking area when you're done.
Smith Falls State Park is a terrific day trip. This is where you'll find the tallest waterfall in the state. It's said to be one of the most romantic spots in Nebraska, which makes sense since it's so close to the Heart City.
And while we're talking about waterfalls, don't miss Snake River Falls, which is also in the area. You'll have to pay a small admission fee and take a little hike to get to it, but it's worth it to see this exceptionally scenic spot.
Outdoors enthusiasts will love wandering Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest. Okay, it's not the densest or largest forest in the country, but it's ours - and it's also quite lovely.
Merritt Reservoir, one of Nebraska's favorite outdoor recreation areas, is just a quick jaunt away. You'll be surrounded by the unspoiled beauty that makes this area of the state so impressive while you enjoy some of the best fishing in the state. Take part in all of your favorite outdoor activities all day and then make camp there at night.
If you want to spend your time outdoors but don't necessarily want to wander the wilderness or float the river, go for a day of golfing at the Prairie Club. Its unique Sandhills location makes it one of the most scenic courses in the state, and the club has all of the amenities to make this the golfing trip of a lifetime.
This list doesn’t even cover all of the amazing outdoor opportunities near Valentine. What’s your favorite thing to do outdoors when you’re in Valentine? Tell us about it in the comments!
If you’re looking for more exceptionally lovely places to visit (including some in the Valentine area), take a look at
this article from our archives.