At times, it may seem the biggest cities in Nebraska get all of the media attention when it comes to exciting things to do. Not always. Turn your head westward to Gering where you’ll find Nebraska’s top outdoor attraction: Scott’s Bluff National Monument.
Ranking far ahead of the other three national parks found in Nebraska, the recreational visitor attendance at Scotts Bluff National Monument in 2015 nearly doubled the number of visitors to the second most popular national park in the state.
It's no wonder why. Folks have been traveling to Scotts Bluff since before it was even developed as a national park.
The park and its three tunnels were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. The CCC was part of the New Deal and put unemployed men to work from 1933-1942.
The road to the summit was completed in 1937 and was so well-traveled that traffic jams on the summit became a real issue. Thankfully, the parking areas were eventually enlarged and the traffic jams like those seen in the 1930s and 40s are a thing of the past.
Summit Road and the tunnels are an extraordinary experience, all leading up to the summit with the million dollar view.
The tunnels and the road to the summit in general cannot accommodate large vehicles, so the park runs a shuttle service to the summit. It's free for park visitors and is a short seven or eight-minute ride to the top.
The park has an ample network of trails, from moderately easy to downright strenuous. Saddle Rock Trail, shown here, is a paved, 1.6-mile trail with a climb of over 400 feet. The first part of the trail is relatively flat, with a steep climb at the end that's sure to make you break a sweat. That vertical climb at the end has earned this trail the reputation of being difficult, but beautiful.
Constructed in 1938, the North Observation Point offers long-range views of the park and beyond. Pick up this half-mile trail from the parking lot of the summit. The payoff is a panoramic view of the North Platte River Valley.
In the early settlement days, the Oregon Trail passed through here, carrying countless emigrants to new horizons in the West.
Emigrants to the Old West used the peaks and bluffs here as waymarkers along the trail.
Visible ruts from the Oregon Trail are still part of the landscape of Scotts Bluff National Monument.
Native Americans had a name for Scotts Bluff that translated to "the hill that is hard to go around." Luckily, Mitchell's Pass (shown here) was a natural break between two buttes.
It wasn't just the Oregon Trail that cut a swath through what's now a famous park. The Pony Express also passed by here in the 1860s. You'll find this Pony Express marker near the Museum and Visitor Center.
This park stands as a reminder of the importance of this 19th century landmark in Nebraska. It's come a long way in development since this photo was taken of Eagle Rock and the Visitor Center in 1939.
Scottsbluff and Gering both benefit from the multitude of visitors to this national landmark each year. Have you visited Scotts Bluff National Monument lately? We’d love to know in our comments.
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