Top 11 Sights to See in Northwest Nebraska
There is a lot more to Nebraska than cornfields and cows, especially in the Northwest corner of the state, where pine forests and steep canyons meet to make a magical outdoor landscape like no other.
Northwest Nebraska offers up some of the most beautiful scenery, with over 180,000 acres of public land that serves as the 'premier location for those who love the outdoors'. You can explore over 200 miles of trails, spend time birdwatching, fish native trout, and camp at any of the many different campsites throughout the area. You can spend time exploring pine forest, badlands, and grasslands, see antelope and elk, and even learn important local history involving Native Americans, early pioneers, and soldiers.
This is the place to 'discover rural America', and the following 11 attractions are what we consider to be the top sights to see within Northwest Nebraska.
Nebraska National Forest
Boasting over 141,000 acres of gorgeous native Nebraska wilderness, the Nebraska National Forest is a must-visit destination when in the area. Explore the Pine Ridge District within the forest, an area with 52,000 acres of 'steep canyons, sharp ridges, sandstone buttes, and sloping grasslands'. You can spend your time biking, hiking, fishing, camping, or simply enjoying the sights!
Chadron Art Alley
Created in 2019 as a part of the 'Paint the Town Project', Chadron Art Alley features several public art murals completed by members of the local community. The alley is located on the west side of Main Street and is a popular spot for getting unique selfies and creating new artwork, as any visitor to the alley can grab a paintbrush and help out!
Chadron Downtown Historic District
The Chadron Downtown Historic District is a great place to go to immerse yourself in local history, the area featuring over 40 different sites that display the city's history architecturally. By thoroughly exploring the sites you will learn the history of the railroad and the pioneer days here in Chadron, among other things. Pick up a map of the community at the Chadron Chamber of Commerce to embark on a self-guided tour of the district.
Agate Fossil Beds
When visiting Northwest Nebraska the Agate Fossil Beds are a must-see, this site the very spot where Captain James H. Cook and his son discovered so many important fossils back in 1878. They set up their headquarters here while unearthing ancient mammals like the Moropus and legendary 7-foot Tusked Pig, creating important relationships with local members of the Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe all the while. When visiting today you can see fossils, of course, as well as gifts given to Cook by the tribe members over time (shirts, pipe bags, whetstones, etc.).
Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center
Located on the campus of Chadron State College, the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center is always a great place for any visitor of the area to explore, the center dedicated to the life and literature of 'one of Nebraska's most important female authors and historians'. Sandoz was an authority on Native American Culture, especially concerning the Oglala, and you can learn all about her and her findings during your visit. See her writings, memorabilia from her life, fossil displays, a botanical collection, and more here.
Fort Robinson State Park
Fort Robinson State Park is considered to be the largest state park in the state, this site a former active military post turned state-protected land. Here you can learn all about Old West history while hiking, biking, camping, and sightseeing all that the park has to offer. Watch herds of buffalo and longhorn cattle as you enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride, fish the many ponds and creeks onsite, or visit the old Officer's Quarters while here.
Toadstool Geologic Park
Part of the Oglala National Grasslands, Toadstool Geological Park is another 'must-see' destination in Northwest Nebraska. This park is known for its unusual geological formations, the most notable ones formed of clay and sandstone in the shape of toadstools, hence the park's name. You can hike around the park and observe the formations, look for fossils, and visit a reconstructed sod home meant to give visitors a glimpse into the life of an early Nebraska homesteader. The Hudson-Meng Education and Research Center (see information below) can be found within the park as well.
Located within the aforementioned Fort Robinson State Park, the Post Playhouse is a Northwest Nebraska attraction we think any visitor would enjoy, this playhouse showcasing local and national talent on its stage during the summer months. It is considered to be one of the top venues for live theater in the west, featuring such shows as Patsy Cline, Oklahoma!, and The Wizard of Oz in the past. The stage hosts summer concerts, musicals, and plays each year.
High Plains Homestead
One of our favorite things to see/do in Northwest Nebraska can be found at the High Plains Homestead, a lodging option that serves as 'a living tribute to the Old West'. During your stay here you will see typical Old West buildings such as a saloon, mercantile, schoolhouse, and the like. See wagons and roaming buffalo as you enjoy the quiet, open prairie with views of the Badlands in the background. There are several different bunkhouses with modern amenities onsite, as well as a cookhouse.
Hudson-Meng Education and Research Center
History, geology, and paleontology lovers alike will want to plan plenty of time to explore the Hudson-Meng Education and Research Center in Northwest Nebraska, this center focused on the pile of bones unearthed here in 1954. This massive bonebed held 600 Bison antiquus from 10,000 years ago, the discovery considered to be 'one of the most important archaeologically important discoveries in North America'. The education and research center studies the mass kill site and the role that the Paleo-Indian people that lived here may have played.
Chadron State Park
Last but certainly not least on our Top 11 Sights to See list is the Chadron State Park, Nebraska's oldest state park. Located in the heart of the Nebraska National Forest, Chadron State Park boasts 972 acres of picturesque Ponderosa Pines. The park gives way to distant views of the Pine Ridge Escarpment and offers plenty of opportunities to camp, picnic, hike, and sightsee. There is a very popular annual anniversary bash held within the park that features live music, boat rides, trail races, and much more.
If you liked this blog then you'll love these too!
Top 11 Sights to See in Colorado Springs
Top 11 Sights to See in South Dakota
Top 11 Sights to See in Alaska
Top 11 Sights to See in Jacksonville
Top 11 Sights to See in Omaha