The Cornhusker state surprised us with some incredible views...
Toadstool Geologic Park
Scotts Bluff National Monument
Starting in the very southwest corner of NE, Scotts Bluff National Monument stands 800 feet above the North Platte River. Spread out over 3,000 acres, this monument served as a landmark for several people groups as they migrated across the United States.
The views from the top of Scotts Bluff are breathtaking, especially when timed right at sunset. While you can drive the summit road to reach the top, we opted to hike the Saddle Rock Trail, which is 1.6 miles one-way. With 435 ft of elevation gain, it was very doable for all 5 of us to do!
Check out the sights --->
Toadstool Geologic Park
Heading northeast from Scotts Bluff, Toadstool Geologic Park is a short 30-minute drive from Crawford, NE. This park is known for its unusual and otherworldly geological formations. I'm almost certain an episode or two of Star Trek was filmed at this location!
The trailhead at the campground gives access to three different trail options. The first being a one-mile loop highlight trail, the second being the Bison Trail which leaves the loop at the half-way point and continues up the canyon to Hudson-Meng Education and Research Center (3 miles back to Toadstool Campground) and the third trail being a 5-mile loop, known as the Great Plains Trail.
This family of 5 took the one-mile loop highlight trail, as it was the perfect amount of time spent under the hot sun with no options for shade. Visit this park closer to sunset for beautiful lighting and cooler temps!
Smith Falls State Park
And last but certainly not least, our favorite sight in Nebraska - Smith Falls! Directly east of Toadstool Park, Smith Falls is located near both Valentine and Sparks, NE. The state park is home to the tallest waterfall in all of Nebraska, at 63 feet. There is plenty to do here and is a popular destination for campers, kayakers, canoers, tubers and anyone looking to enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors.
From the north side of the park, a well-maintained and paved trail will lead you to a footbridge that spans the width of the Niobrara River. From there, travel the boardwalk right to the base of the falls. With plenty of space to splash around, it's a great spot to dip your toes and cool off.
There is certainly more than meets the eye in the cornhusker state of Nebraska. So many hidden gems and yet, we only covered the north & southwest corner. While it might not be a bucket-list state, it's definitely worth exploring if ever given the opportunity. Any questions about our time in Nebraska? Shoot us an email --> email@example.com