17 Nebraska State Parks

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There’s no better place to see Nebraska’s natural beauty than at the state parks. There are eight official state parks in Nebraska, which is a lot fewer than in many other states, however they provide just as an enjoyable time for visitors.

Nebraska comprises two land areas: the Great Plains and the Dissected Till Plains. A mix of rolling hills and prairie land makes for an interesting and varied view as you travel around the state. Check out these Nebraska state parks and historic parks for your next road trip or visit to the state.

Nebraska State Parks

State Parks In Nebraska

1- Chadron State Park

You can find Chadron State Park nine miles south of Chadron in northwestern Nebraska.

This 972-acre (939 ha) park is in the Nebraska National Forest.

There are many things to do at the park including swimming at the pool, tennis and volleyball.

You can also rent paddleboards to paddle on the lagoon or go fishing. 

Other activities are hiking and mountain biking (there are rentals available).

If you plan on staying overnight then there are furnished cabins for something more luxurious.

There is also camping in the Pine Ridge area.

The campground is fitted with all the modern amenities like showers, laundry and electric hook-ups.

Chadron State Park is at 15951 Gold Rush Byway, Chadron, NE 69337.

2- Eugene T. Mahoney State Park

Eugene T. Mahoney State Park is in eastern Nebraska around 30 minutes’ drive from Lincoln.

There’s so much to do at this state park, especially if you are visiting with friends or family.

There’s an aquatic center, indoor playground, treetop ropes course, hiking trails, biking trails and you can also climb to the top of the observation tower for views of the area.

In addition to this there is indoor rock climbing, ice skating and sledding.

For the more creative among you, there’s also an arts and crafts center.

If you are searching for somewhere to stay you can choose the Peter Kiewit Lodge, 60 cabins, or camp at the Lakeside Campground.

Eugene T. Mahoney State Park is at 28500 W Park Hwy, Ashland, NE 68003.

3- Fort Robinson State Park

You will find Fort Robinson State Park in northwestern Nebraska close to Crawford.

Fort Robinson used to be a U.S. Army fort but today, visitors can head to the park for a combination of nature and history.

While at the park you should definitely check out the on-site museum, where you will be able to learn more about the area’s military history.

There is also a super-cool horse drawn narrative tour that is a truly unique way to explore the park and learn more.

Fort Robinson is much more than just the fort.

There is also the oppourtunity to enjoy horse riding, an indoor swimming pool and you can rent jeeps for rides around the park.

There are also a number of hiking trails too and if you plan on staying in the area the Fort Robinson State Park has a campsite.

The cool shade of the campsite is highly welcome in the hot summer months.

Fort Robinson State Park is at Soldier Creek Rd & US Hwy 20, Crawford, NE 69339.

4- Indian Cave State Park

indian cave state park nebraska
One of the loveliest state parks in Nebraska for fall colours is Indian Cave State Park.

Indian Cave State Park is close to the Missouri-Nebraska border and the Missouri River in southeastern Nebraska.

Indian Cave is the largest sandstone cave in the park, which is right next to the Missouri River and is around 3,052 acres (1235 ha).

As well as visiting the caves there are 22 miles of hiking and biking trails to enjoy.

One of the best things about the park is the winding Missouri River and the hardwood forest (which are particularly beautiful in autumn).

If you are into Halloween, they host a Haunted Hollow in October offering hayrides, a spooky campsite and plenty of games and activities. 

Indian Cave State Park is at 65296 720 Rd, Shubert, NE 68437.

5- Niobrara State Park

Niobrara State Park in Nebraska
Niobrara State Park is one of the state parks in Nebrasks you may not have heard of.

You will find the Niobrara State Park on Nebraska’s northeastern border at the confluence of the Niobrara and Missouri rivers.

If you love wildlife then you will definitely want to check out this park.

There is a large population of white-tailed deer in the park as well as other animals like muskrats, mink and beavers.

There are also a wide variety of birds to try and spot; there’s everything from eagles to chickadees.

If you plan on staying overnight at the park there are 12 two-bedroom cabins that you can book.

They are set on the bluff with views overlooking the Missouri River Valley.

There is also the tented campsite which has modern facilities and 30-amp electric hookups.

There are plenty of things to do in the park including heading out on the 14 miles of hiking trails.

There is also a swimming pool, fishing in the nearby rivers and three boat access areas that allow you to head out onto the Missouri River.

Niobrara State Park is at 89261 522 Ave, Niobrara, NE 68760.

6- Platte River State Park

The Platte River State Park is close to Louisville in south-eastern Nebraska.

If you are searching for a state park that allows you to enjoy some tough but rewarding hiking then this is the park for you.

There are 10 miles of hiking trails, many of which are quite steep allowing for a blood pumping challenge with rewarding views.

There’s an archery range, trails for biking, a maria and chances to rent canoes and kayak.

If you are visiting with the family then be sure to make use of the outdoor amphitheatre.

The park hosts free movie nights every Saturday over the summer.

There are cute cabins for rent as well as teepees and a tented campsite with 48 full hook-up pitches.

Platte River State Park is at 14421 346th St, Louisville, NE 68037.

7- Ponca State Park

Ponca State Park is on the Nebraska-South Dakota border along the banks of the Missouri River in northeastern Nebraska.

One of the best things about Ponca State Park is the blufftop, from which you can see Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa all at the same time.

This place is also unique as it’s one of only two stretches where you can enjoy unchannelised waters.

In spring you will find that the wetlands at the park are a popular place for migratory birds.

There are also seasonal guided bird tours which are perfect for nature lovers or those that want to learn more about the local nature.

For lodging there are 27 cabins and four rustic ones that can be used between April and mid-November.

There are also cottages and the Riverfront Campground too.

Ponca State Park is at 88090 Spur 26 E, Ponca, NE 68770

8- Smith Falls State Park

Smith Falls is all about the waterfall Smith Falls! You will find this state park in northern Nebraska just 25 minutes’ drive outside of Valentine.

This is one of Nebraska’s newest state parks and it’s home to the tallest waterfall in the state.

As you view the waterfall (which is worth a visit in summer or winter) you can already head out on canoes along the Niobrara River.

There are quite a number of rare plants in the area so when you hike you must stick to the designated paths.

The Smith Falls campground is along the Niobrara National Scenic River.

Here there are picnic sites, room for tent camping, rest rooms, showers and concession stands.

There are no RV facilities at the park.

Smith Falls State Park is at 90159 Smith Falls Rd, Valentine, NE 69201.

State Historic Parks In Nebraska

9- Arbor Lodge State Historic Park

Arbor Lodge State Historic Park is in Nebraska City in the southeast of the state.

This lodge dates back to 1872 and was the original home of the Morton family.

It was in this place that the idea for Arbor Day started.

The family wanted to encourage people to plant trees and on the first Arbor Day nearly 1 million trees were planted in Nebraska alone.

The best thing to do at this state park is take a tour of the historic mansion, which has 52 rooms and plenty of artifacts belonging to the Morton family.

As well as the mansion there is also the Arbor Day Farm where you can enjoy a tree adventure playground.

The Treetop Village is fun for all ages and includes 11 different tree houses.

This unique attraction is one of the first of its kinds in the U.S. Arbor Lodge State Historic Park is at 2600 Arbor Ave, Nebraska City, NE 68410.

10- Ash Hollow State Historical Park

This historical state park is in Lewellen, close to the North Platte River in Garden County.

Ash Hollow used to be a major stopping point along the California, Oregon and Mormon Trails, way back when there were no roads.

The area provided an abundance of water and plenty of places to graze.

Steep ruts were scraped into the hillside and are still visible today.

The park has a museum and interpretive centre where you can learn more about the area and its history.

There are also sometimes outdoor musical performances showcasing life along the trails.

Ash Hollow State Historical Park is at US-26, Lewellen, NE 69147.

11- Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park

Ashfall Fossil State Park Nebraska
One of the most unique state parks in Nebraska is Ashfall Fossil State Park.

This state park is in northern Nebraska.

As the name suggests this historical park is all about fossils, paleontology and dinosaurs.

This park is also a National Natural Landmark.

When visiting the park, you must head to the interpretive displays and the fossil preparation laboratory.

Here you can even ask paleontologists about their work.

The Hubbard Rhino Barn is home to even more discoveries.

Inside the barn are the site’s latest discoveries; in 2017 two skeletons of three-toed horses were found.

Other notable finds included a camel skeleton and bone-crushing dogs that were looking for carcasses in a volcanic ash storm.

Historians, paleontology and nature lovers will thoroughly enjoy this state park.

Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park is at 86930 517th Ave, Royal, NE 68773.

12- Bowring Ranch State Historical Park

Bowring Ranch State Historical Park is in the northern part of the state outside of Merriman and close to the Nebraska-South Dakota border.

This park is all about the history of the ranch. which was managed by former U.S. Senator Eve Bowring until she died in 1985.

The senator wanted the ranch to be preserved and turned into a living history museum.

So, today at the park you can see the working life of a cattle ranch.

There’s a lot open to the public, including the barns, bunkhouses and sod houses.

At the visitor centre you can learn more about the lies of Arthur and Eve Bowring, the cattle ranching market in Nebraska, and the local history and geology.

Bowring Ranch State Historical Park is at N Highway 61, Merriman, NE 69218, United States

13- Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park

Buffalo Bill Ranch State Park Nebraska
Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historic Park in Nebraska is intriguing to visit.

Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park is on the outskirts of North Platte in Lincoln County.

This park is 16 acres (6.45 ha) of Buffalo Bill’s home and the old ranch out buildings.

The house was built in 1886 and is filled with a lot of Buffalo Bill memorabilia.

You can’t visit the mansion in winter but the grounds are open year round.

Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park is at 2921 Scouts Rest Ranch Rd, North Platte, NE 69101.

14- Fort Atkinson State Historical Park

This state historical park is in eastern Nebraska around a 25-minute drive outside of Omaha.

At this park you can discover more than 200 years of history.

The fort was originally built because there was a flood in 1820.

The fort was built to stop the waters of the Missouri river.

Years before this site was the location of the Council Bluff for the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

It was William Clark who suggested that the bluff above the Missouri River was a good place to build a fort.

You can prearrange a tour of the park between mid-April and MID November to help you learn more about the area.

Fort Atkinson State Historical Park is at 201 S 7th St, Fort Calhoun, NE 68023.

15- Fort Hartsuff State Historical Park

Fort Hartsuff State Historical Park is in central Nebraska.

The fort was a frontier military post between 1874 and 1881.

The fort was built to protect the local settlers and the Pawnee Tribe from the “perceived” threat of Native Americans.

In the entire seven-year history of the fort there was only one small conflict to be dealt with.

Unlike some of the other forts on this list of state parks, many of the original features of Fort Hartsuff are still standing.

Fort Hartsuff State Historical Park is at 82034 Fort Ave, Burwell, NE 68823.

16- Fort Kearny State Historical Park

Fort Kearny State Historical Park is just outside of Kearney in southern Nebraska, around 1 hour 30 minutes’ drive from North Platte.

This was actually the first western military post built to protect emigrants on the trails that headed westwards.

After that it was the headquarters of some of the smaller outposts along the trail.

At the park there is an interpretive center which features some artifacts from the time the fort was first built.

There are also 40 acres (16 ha) of ground with a variety of paths to wander along.

Fort Kearny State Historical Park is at 82034 Fort Ave, Burwell, NE 68823.

17- Rock Creek Station State Historical Park

Rock Creek Station State Historical Park is in southern Nebraska close to the Kansas border.

The park used to be a road ranch which served pioneers who were heading out on the Oregon Trail and along the Pony Express.

The ranches on either side of Rock Creek were occupied between 1857 and 1867.

The park has a good interpretive centre, nature trails, picnic areas and a modern campground.

The first weekend of June sees the Rock Creek Trail Days host a number of living history demonstrations and other fun for the family.

Rock Creek Station State Historical Park is at 57426 710th Rd, Fairbury, NE 68352. 

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harriet comley
Harriet Comley is a travel enthusiast, freelance travel writer and a lover of safaris. Since 2017 she has been travelling the globe living in the UK, Canada, Vietnam, China and now Zambia, where she is completing her PhD in Sustainable Tourism. For 3 1/2 years she taught English in Vietnam and China. Now she has turned her attention to writing, having contributed to a number of travel blogs and websites always focusing on what she loves most…exploring!