Get Lost. Find Yourself.
How do you make “Are we there yet?” worth it? Simple. Go on an adventure. Get out of your bubble. That’s the spirit driving everything from the moon landing to the great American road trip.
The destination has to be worth the journey. Fossils and bluffs? Check. A national forest and a park full of history? Check. A lunar landscape that doesn’t require a spacesuit? Check. A destination that turns “Are we there yet?” into “Wow?” Check.
This is a place for people to explore and discover new things like ancient fossils and hidden landscapes, a place for people who want to get off the beaten path, off the interstate and away from the crowds. A place for people who want to find themselves by getting lost.
This is Northwest Nebraska and there’s No Better Direction.
Park & Forest Areas
- Chadron State Park
- Fort Robinson State Park
- Nebraska National Forest
- Oglala National Grassland
- Pine Ridge National Recreation Area
- Toadstool Geological Park
Designated in 1921, Chadron State Park is Nebraska’s oldest state park and one of its most beautiful. The 972-acre park is located in the heart of the Nebraska National Forest, surrounded by stately ponderosa pines with distant views of the Pine Ridge escarpment.
Chadron State Park has 22 semi-furnished cabins, a modern campground with RV hookups, and a primitive campground for tent camping. The Park has a regulation-size swimming pool, volleyball and tennis courts, paddleboats, fishing, archery, horseback trail rides, a craft center and snack bar, mountain bike rentals, and five large picnic shelters. Miles of hiking trails branch across the Park and several extend to the National Forest, all offering breath-taking scenery and fun for all ages.
Cabins are available from mid-April to mid-November; primitive camping is allowed year-round. A valid Nebraska State Park entry permit is required for all vehicles entering the park.
The park celebrates its creation every June with an anniversary bash. Activities typically include the Kiwanis Regatta canoe race on the park’s pond, the Run for the Hills trail races, a classic car show and a wide variety of displays, including the Game and Parks taxidermy trailer featuring mounts confiscated due to game violations. Live music, discounted horseback rides, free paddle boat rides, archery and pellet gun shooting also fill the day.
Location: 15951 Hwy 385, Chadron, NE 69337 | Phone: (308) 432-6167
At 22,000 acres, this is the largest state park in Nebraska. Formerly an active military post, Fort Robinson is now a popular destination for outdoor, recreational enthusiasts and history buffs. The park offers some of the most beautiful scenery in the West and visitors can enjoy learning about Old West history, hiking and biking, camping, great lodging, and sights of buffalo and longhorn cattle herds.
Get acquainted with the park by taking a ride in a horse-drawn wagon, or enjoy the open air on horseback. If you’re feeling more adventurous, tour the buttes in an open-top Jeep. On the popular Fort Robinson Express, visitors can experience the way pioneers and settlers traveled a century ago—by stagecoach. In the afternoon, guests can enjoy a cool swim indoors in the Lindeken Pool, which also has an outdoor wading pool and sundeck. Fishing is available at Soldier Creek or in any of the open ponds. Nebraska history is well-preserved in the many historic buildings at the Fort—the 1887 Adobe Officers’ Quarters, 1906 Blacksmith Shop, POW Camp and Cheyenne Outbreak Barracks. Evening activities include rodeo games, special shows at the Post Playhouse, and the Chuckwagon Buffalo Stew Cookout with campfire sing-alongs.
The Fort Robinson Inn serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily during the summer season.
Location: Crawford, NE | Phone: (308) 665-2900
The Pine Ridge district of the Nebraska National Forest is comprised of 52,000 acres in the northwest corner of the state. This section of native Ponderosa forest was added to the National Forest system in the 1950s and includes Soldier Creek Wilderness, a federally-designated wilderness area. Eons of upthrusts of the earth’s crust, sedimentary deposits, and wind and water erosion have created the unique topography of the Pine Ridge region of this forest—sharp ridges, steep canyons, sandstone buttes, and sloping grassland.
The Nebraska National Forest is ideal for hiking, biking, fishing, camping, and sight-seeing. Visitors should be sure to explore the nearby Toadstool Geologic Park and Hudson-Meng Bison Bonebed while in the area.
Location: South of Chadron on Hwy 385 | Phone: 308-432-0300
The wide open spaces of the 94,000-acre Oglala National Grassland offer visitors peace and quiet along with unobstructed views of the Nebraska horizon. Major points of interest in the Oglala National Grassland include the Hudson-Meng Bison Bonebed and the Toadstool Geologic Park. An interpretive trail will guide visitors through the unusual rock formations and fossil locations in Toadstool Park. The Hudson-Meng Education and Research Center provides visitors the opportunity to see an actual excavation in progress. Interpretive exhibits and tour guides encourage visitors to develop their own theories on what may have caused the mass extinction. The Grassland is also one of the best places to see Pronghorn antelope and exquisite wildflowers.
Location: Harrison, NE | Phone: 308-432-0300
Pine Ridge National Recreation Area
As a National Recreation Area (NRA), this section of Pine Ridge is protected and managed by the Pine Ridge Ranger District of the Nebraska National Forest. 6,600 acres of land were specifically designated for activities like hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding, picnicking, and wildlife viewing. Trails are for non-motorized use only. Camping is available at the Roberts Tract Trailhead, as well as a fully-accessible rider ramp, vault toilet, water and picnic tables. Fees are collected only for camping at the trailhead from Memorial Day to Labor Day; off-season camping is pack-in/pack-out but no water is provided. The Roberts Tract Trailhead and campground is located eight miles west of Chadron on Highway 20. Travel seven miles south on Eleson Road and then east on Bethel Road until you reach the trailhead.
Location: Chadron, NE | Phone: 308-432-0300
The Toadstool Geological Park is located north of Crawford in the Oglala National Grassland. The Park is named for its unique rock formations—giant, narrow clay pedestals topped with slabs of sandstone that resemble toadstool mushrooms. Many of the rocks preserve fossils and footprints of extinct species like tortoises, rhinos, saber-toothed cats, early three-toed horses, camels and lizards. Hikers frequently comment that the colorful, odd-shaped formations have a “moonscape” appearance.
A one mile loop trail guides visitors along many of the incredible formations. Interpretive brochures detailing the fascinating geology and paleontology are available at the trailhead, t00. Nearby, a reconstructed sod house offers visitors a glimpse into the life of an early homesteader on the prairie. The Bison Trail runs three miles to the Hudson-Meng Research and Education Center where guests can see a 10,000-year-old bison bonebed being excavated. Toadstool Geologic Park has a small campground and picnic area but no water.
Location: North of Crawford, NE
Wildlife Management Areas
- Box Butte Reservoir SRA
- Chadron Creek Ranch Wildlife Area
- Gilbert Baker WMA
- Ponderosa Wildlife Area
- Soldier Creek Wilderness
- Bighorn WMA
- Bordeaux Creek WMA
Box Butte Reservoir is located in southern Dawes County about six miles west of Hwy 385. The reservoir and SRA offer 16,000 acres of water and 612 acres of park land. The SRA has picnic shelters, boat ramps and vault toilets. Hunting is allowed in season and fishing is allowed year-round and the reservoir has northern pike, walleye, largemouth bass, yellow perch and channel catfish. The SRA is also a great spot for camping, picnicking and birding.
Chadron Creek Ranch Wildlife Management Area
Located just two miles south of Chadron State park, this area encompasses 2,500 acres of wilderness. The area was purchased in 2003 with the help of the Platte River Basin Environments, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the Nebraska Environmental Trust. Their focus is primarily for wildlife and the public. Several species including elk, deer, turkey and more can be found in the area. Several recreational activities are also offered in the area including hiking, horseback riding, biking and hunting.
Gilbert Baker WMA is an area of ridges covered with ponderosa pines, with scattered areas of grassland at the forest fringes. Monroe Creek traverses the area and is a trout stream. Pinyon Jays nest here (the only documented location in the state), as do White-throated Swifts, and possibly even Swainson’s Thrushes and Lewis’ Woodpeckers. Monroe Canyon also supports some distinctly western species, such as Townsend’s Solitaires, Cordilleran Flycatchers, Plumbeous Vireos and Violet-green Swallows. Other western species to be found here include the least chipmunk, mountain birch and mountain maple. Nearby Sowbelly Canyon supports many of the same western species as Monroe Canyon (Cordilleran Flycatcher, Plumbeous Vireo, White-throated Swift, Violet-green Swallow), as noted below. Unmarked trails penetrate the Gilbert-Baker area.
Ponderosa Wildlife Area
Located southeast of Crawford, this area comprises over 3,600 acres of wilderness land covered in ponderosa pine forests, grasslands and deciduous trees along Squaw Creek. Hiking trails provide excellent panoramic views and wildlife viewing.
Soldier Creek Wilderness
With the Nebraska Wilderness Act of 1986, Congress added the Soldier Creek Wilderness area to the National Wilderness Preservation System. Covering 7,794 acres, the land is managed and protected by the U.S. Forest Service as part of the Nebraska National Forest. Originally part of the Fort Robinson Military Reservation, the land was once used to pasture horses and mules, as well as a recreational area for military personnel. A massive wildfire destroyed major portions of Soldier Creek just weeks after it was dedicated in 1989.
Today, visitors are allowed to hike, hunt, fish, ride horses, camp and cross-country ski in the area. However, bicycles and motorized vehicles are not permitted. Recreationists are asked to follow the “Leave No Trace” program, supporting outdoor ethics that leave back country areas with as little evidence as possible of their stay. Water sources in the wilderness, including springs and streams, are not necessarily potable; it is important to safely purify or filter the water if you choose to drink it, or be sure to pack enough water with you for your visit.
Trail heads are located just outside the eastern boundary and include primitive campsites, a hand-pump well, vault toilets, and a large 15-paddock corral system (livestock feed and water must be hauled in).
Bighorn Wildlife Management Area
The 1,231-acre Bighorn is one of two WMAs that were completely covered by the wildfires’ flames during the 2012 West Ash fire—the other was the Metcalf WMA north of Hay Springs. The flames burned hot in the Bighorn, reaching the crown of most of the ponderosa pines in the area and leaving nothing but charred sticks in their wake.
While they’re not pretty, wildfires have long been an important and healthy part of the Pine Ridge ecology. Since the fire, wildlife has moved back into the area and Bighorn Sheep have been seen throughout the area. Elk can also be found in the Bighorn WMA. Even with the effects of the fire, the Bighorn WMA is still a sight to behold. Every time you make your way to the top of a Pine Ridge butte or cliff, you’ll find a new view and the topography alone, with or without pine trees, is magnificent and pictures rarely do it justice.
Bordeaux Creek Wildlife Management Area
Bordeaux Creek is one of the newest Wildlife Management Areas in Nebraska. It covers roughly 1,800 acres and is located just east of Chadron on Hwy 20. This WMA is completely undeveloped with the exceptions of parking areas on Hwy 20 and Bordeaux road.
- Wilson Park
- Memorial Park
- Finnegan Park
- Crawford City Park
- Harrison City Park
- Coffee Park
- Peabody Hale Park
Wilson Park in Chadron is a perfect place to spend the day with family and friends. The park offers several features including an arboretum, gazebo, cooking grills, handicap accessible picnic tables, horseshoe pits, picnic shelters, playground equipment, restrooms, and a sledding hill for the winter months.
Location: 9th & Morehead Street, Chadron, NE 69337
Located right next to Chadron State College, Chadron High School, Chadron Middle School, and Chadron Primary School, War Memorial Park is a great place for students, friends, and families of all ages to spend quality time together. There is a variety of activities offered at War Memorial Park to meet everyone’s needs including a disc golf course, a basketball court, tennis courts, a sand volleyball court, and playground equipment. If you’re hungry, there are also tables and cooking grills at the park that are perfect for a picnic!
Location: 10th & Shelton Street, Chadron, NE 69337
Finnegan Park is a nice, small park located in Chadron. The park has playground equipment for the kids (and for the kids in all of us), cooking grills and picnic tables for a relaxing picnic, restrooms, and a large grass area to run around and play games on.
Location: 4th & Cedar Street, Chadron, NE 69337
Located at the west end of Main Street
Crawford, NE 69339
Crawford City Park is full of fun activities for people of all ages including a disc golf course, an airsoft field, playground equipment, tennis, volleyball, and basketball courts, a Moto X Track, and horseshoe pits. Other features of the city park include a camping area, picnic tables, restrooms, and water hydrants. There is also a walking trail and a horseback riding trail that both lead to Fort Robinson State Park.
The park is open every day from 7 a.m.-10 p.m.
Over-night camping is available for up to 14 nights maximum. Limited number of electrical hook-ups. Water is available from hydrants and there is access to a waste dump. RVs: $20 per night. Tents: $10 per night. Picnic area, playground, baseball diamond, and swimming pool all nearby.
The Harrison City Park is a beautiful city block located just two blocks west of Main Street and one block south of US HWY 20. Let the kids run or picnic under the shade of the old trees. The Harrison Municipal pool is right there, too, and a basketball/tennis court is also available for the athletes in your family! There are two camping pads with electrical hookups at the Harrison City Park.
As you journey down Sowbelly Canyon road, from Harrison, you’ll find Coffee Park nestled along the banks of Sowbelly Creek. Stop and picnic or simply enjoy the sounds of the nature as the creek babbles by.
Peabody Hale Park
This park on the edge of Crawford is situated near the baseball diamonds, the Crawford Community Building and the swimming pool.