Nebraska’s beauty knows no bounds, and you could spend a lifetime exploring it all. You may already know about some of these must-visit destinations, but some may be totally new to you. Get out that bucket list and start planning to visit them all!
1. The Niobrara National Scenic River
The entire length of the river is surrounded by gorgeous scenery and a wide variety of tree and plant species. There are also hundreds of little waterfalls along the river that looks like little hidden treasures as you kayak or tube along.
2. Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge, near Valentine
This 19,000-acre nature preserve features some of the most impressive scenery and wildlife in the state. The Niobrara River runs through it and creates a variety of rich ecosystems.
3. The Sandhills Scenic Byway, Route 2
The Sandhills region is without a doubt one of Nebraska's most strikingly beautiful places. One of the best ways to explore it is from the car as you travel the Sandhills Scenic Byway.
4. Sunken Gardens, Lincoln
This gorgeous hand-planted garden is a community effort that just gets more and more beautiful every season.
5. Smith Falls State Park, Valentine
Nebraska's tallest waterfall is quite the sight to behold...but did you know there's even more to explore here? River access, a beautiful historic bridge, and incredible biological diversity make this a very special place to explore.
6. Ponca State Park, Ponca
One of northeastern Nebraska's greatest wonders, Ponca State Park sits in the beautiful Missouri River bluffs and offers exceptional views and a wide variety of activities year round.
7. Chadron State Park, near Chadron
Nebraska's oldest state park has been delighting visitors and showing off the Pine Ridge's incredible topography since 1921.
8. Chimney Rock, Bayard
Nebraska's most iconic image also happens to be a lovely place to visit. There isn't a lot to explore, but the experience of being in the shadow of this natural wonder is such a unique experience.
9. Indian Cave State Park, Near Shubert
I know, it's weird to include a picture of Indian Cave State Park that doesn't have the cave in it. But there is so much more to this exceptionally beautiful park than just the cave. You'll find extensive walking trails, beautiful campsites, and even a ghost town - and more - in this Missouri Valley gem.
10. Pine Ridge, northwestern Nebraska
Chadron State Park, listed above, is located within Pine Ridge, but the entire area is worth exploration. The wooded buttes and bluffs are unlike anything else in Nebraska, and the state's largest herd of bighorn sheep resides here.
11. Toadstool Geologic Park, near Harrison
Although it's one of the most beautiful places in the state, Toadstool is also one of the least known to those in the eastern half of the state. This lunar-like landscape is a one-of-a-kind experience in Nebraska.
12. Sandy Channel State Wildlife Management Area, near Elm Creek
This gorgeous little place is often overlooked, but it deserves so much more attention. In the summer it's lush and verdant, and it's one of the only natural places where you can scuba dive in Nebraska.
13. Scotts Bluff National Monument, Gering
Scotts Bluff is probably Nebraska's second best known rock formation after Chimney Rock. Visiting is like stepping back in time as you imagine how the pioneers must have felt as they saw the monument rise up on the horizon.
14. Lake McConaughy, Ogallala
It may be a man-made lake, but playing at Lake McConaughy feels so natural. It's one of Nebraska's most popular attractions, and if you spend even an afternoon here you'll understand why.
This isn’t an exhaustive list…it’s just a list of some of our favorite natural and outdoor places to visit to get the full Nebraska experience. What would you add to the list of must-explore places?
For more excellent places in Nebraska that you just have to see at least once, check out
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