Ready to embark on an unforgettable adventure? If so, you’re in the right place! We’ve mapped out a trip that will take you on a circular route through some of the best natural wonders in NE. We’ve even worked in some scenic byways between the stops! And though our map begins and ends at Smith Falls, you can hop onto (or off of) the route at any point. So, read on and prepare for one of the best outdoor adventures in Nebraska!

This trip is a long one. The drive itself is 14 hours, and obviously stopping to experience the sights will take even longer. And remember, you’ll need a parks pass to access most of the sites. We recommend going on a long weekend, so you have time to enjoy all of these incredible natural wonders in Nebraska. Pack a weekend bag, grab a cooler full of snacks, and jump in the car – you’re about to experience some of the most beautiful natural wonders in Nebraska.

You can find the map, along with step-by-step directions, on Google Maps.

A short trip from Valentine NWR to Smith Falls brings you right back to where you started. This road trip was all about natural wonders in NE, but if you have extra time, we would definitely suggest taking side trips as you see interesting places pop up along the way. Every small town has a story to tell, and every park and recreation area has its own special characteristics. We couldn’t fit every possible stop into one map, so be spontaneous if you can, and let the road take you where it will. If you decide to do our Nebraska road trip, be sure to leave a comment telling us all about it!

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Natural Wonders In NE

What are the best things to do outside in Nebraska?

Here in Nebraska, there’s an outdoor adventure for every season. In the winter, head to Schramm Park State Recreation Area for some skiing along the frozen Platte River. When spring rolls around, grab your binoculars and indulge in some of the best bird-watching in the nation at Harlan County Reservoir near Alma. It’s the perfect place to take in the annual sandhill crane migration. The warm weather of summer proposes the perfect opportunity for some water-related fun. Head to Johnson Lake State Recreation Area in Elwood for some of the state’s best fishing. If kayaking and swimming are more your speed, you won’t be disappointed with a visit to Two Rivers State Recreation Area in Waterloo. Fall is the most colorful season in Nebraska, and the Fontenelle Forest is a prime spot for some leaf-peeping.

What’s one of the most unique outdoor adventures in Nebraska?

There are rails-to-trails conversions all across the nation, but only one takes the title of the longest – and it’s Cowboy Trail. Offering 192 miles of fun and great views, the trail runs from Norfolk to Valentine, stretching over the American outback. Tracing the abandoned Chicago and North Western Railway corridor, the trek is perfect for bikers, hikers, and other adventurers. And regardless of your mode of transportation, you’ll want to slow down long enough to take in the stunning views of rivers, valleys, prairies, and woods, which you’ll find along the trail’s 221 bridges.

What are the best hiking trails in Nebraska?

When it comes to great hiking trails, Nebraska is definitely not lacking. One trek that shouldn’t be missed is the Scott Tower National Recreation Trail. The 3-mile trek winds through the Bessey Ranger District in Halsey, which is home to the largest hand-planted forest in the world! The views along the way are stunning; however, the real treat comes at the end of the trail, which is where you’ll find Scott Lookout Tower. From atop the tower, you’ll be afforded the best views of the forest. The Cedar Point Biological Station is also a must-visit when craving a unique hike. All in all, the site contains 13 miles of trails. Even more impressive are the surroundings, which include rocky terrain, deep canyons, numerous geological finds, and exposed fossil and clay formations.