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The 12 Best State Parks in Nebraska

Here's what you need to know...
  • You should have the proper amount of comprehensive insurance coverage in the event of a natural disaster or dangerous animal encounter
  • In order to drive safely, you should be on the lookout for all people, wildlife, debris, or unsafe driving terrains
  • You should prepare for unexpected events by having an emergency kit handy with the necessary items
Nebraska is currently home to over 80 state parks and recreation areas. If you’re looking to find one, they’re scattered all over the state with a large amount in the south and southeast regions.

Many people use their RVs to visit state parks because they’re inexpensive getaways that allow you to experience the beauty of nature and learn about local wildlife. Make sure you compare rates with our free quote tool above! 

The Best State Parks in Nebraska

#12 – Fort Robinson State Park

Area: Over 34 square miles
Established: 1962
Highlight: Enchanting Pine Ridge scenery and Old West history

Attractions and activities include horse-drawn tours, stagecoach rides, equestrian trails, a post playhouse, and an Olympic-size swimming pool.

Fort Robinson State Park spans over 22,000 acres and once operated as a fort during World War II. Vehicles that are licensed in Nebraska cost $6 for daily permits and $8 for out of state licenses. The Fort Robinson State Park office is open 24 hours a day year round.

#11 – Hole in the Rock Recreational Area

Area: 21 square miles
Established: N/A
Highlight: Big Elk Park

Attractions and activities include hunting, ATV, horseback riding, and fishing. Hole in the Rock Recreation Area and Big Elk Park provide camping areas and offer 21 miles of trails that can be used for horseback riding and ATVs.

This location has a buffalo herd and is a local favorite for its view of the Missouri river.

#10 – Fort Atkinson

Area: 157 acres
Established: 1819
Highlight: Live reenactments

Attractions and activities include reconstructed features, living history demonstrations, the Harold W. Anderson Visitor Center, and candlelight tours.

The Fort Atkinson State Historical Park spans over 127 acres and allows its guests to interact with the reenactors during its living history demonstrations throughout the year.

Its park grounds are open from 8 am to 5 pm year-round. Admission to the visitor center is $2 for adults, $1 for children over three years old.

#9 – Nebraska National Forest

AdobeStock_87779969-1600x1600Area: 221 square miles
Established: 1908
Highlight: Largest human-planted forest in the US

Attractions and activities include hiking, fishing, and watersports. The Nebraska National Forest is currently the largest man-made forest in the United States.

Because it’s so large, the Nebraska National Forest contains several campgrounds. They’re all open year-round and they’re all ranging from $5 to $8 admission per day.

#8 – Arbor Lodge State Park

Area: 260 acres
Established: 1855
Highlight: Historic Morton Mansion

Attractions and activities include the Arboretum, an Italian terraced garden, a log cabin, the discovery ride, walking trails, and a tree-themed playground.

The Arbor Lodge State Historical Park and Arboretum sits on 260 acres and is the birthplace of Arbor Day.

Park grounds are open daily between the months of March and November but are only open during the weekends through the winter. Admission prices vary depending on which attractions are visited.

#7 – Schramm Park State Recreation Area

Area: 331 acres
Established: 1882
Highlight: Nebraska’s oldest fish hatchery

Attractions and activities include the Aksarben aquarium, river access, a historic fish hatchery, and a geologic display.

The Schramm Park State Recreation Area is a hidden gem that has 3 miles of scenic nature trails in the Platte River valley.

It is currently closed for renovations but will reopen in 2018. For $5 per day, it is only available for day use, so camping is not an option.

#6 – Ponca State Park

Area: 2,400 acres
Established: 1934
Highlight: Named after the Ponca tribe

Attractions and activities include horseback rides, wildlife viewing, a golf course, and seasonal activities.

The Ponca State Park was named after the Native American tribe whose chief was famous for winning the historic court battle to have himself declared as a “person” under US law.

The park is known for its beautiful landscape and river access. It’s open year-round with $6 daily admission for Nebraska licenses and $8 for out of state licenses.

#5 – Buffalo Bill Ranch State Park

Area: 25 acres
Established: 1878
Highlight: Also known as Scout’s Rest Ranch

Attractions and activities include Buffalo Bill’s mansion, the barn, and camping.

The Buffalo Bill Ranch State Park was named after William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody who built “The Mansion on the Prairie” with the earnings he made from his Wild West Show.

The recreation area is open between March 24th and October 24th. Daily admission is $5 but camping costs $14.

#4 – Toadstool Geologic Park

Area: N/A
Established: N/A
Highlight: Many fossils along its trails

Attractions and activities include hiking, rock formations, and camping. The Toadstool Geologic Park is named after its unique rock formations and is considered to be the desert of the Pine Ridge.

Many large fossils have been found here including those of prehistoric animals. It’s open year-round and daily admission is $3 per vehicle for day use plus an additional $2 for night use.

#3 – Indian Cave State Park

Area: 3,052 acres
Established: 1962
Highlight: Hosts the Haunted Hollow every October

Attractions and activities include an archery range, equestrian trails, boating, and hunting. Indian Cave State Park has a breathtaking view of the Missouri River and about 22 miles of scenic hiking trails.

One of its large sandstone caves is the inspirations behind its name. Daily admission is $6 with a Nebraska license and $8 for out of state licenses. This park is also open year-round.

#2 – Ash Hollow State Park

Area: 1,001 acres
Established: 1962
Highlight: Annual Ash Hollow Pageant

Attractions and activities include Ash Hollow Cave, Windlass Hill, hiking, and hunting. The Ash Hollow State Historic Park was a major component of the California, Oregon, and Mormon trails thanks to its freshwater spring.

Every Father’s Day, they present the Ash Hollow Pageant which is a performance based on what life was like on the Oregon-California Trail.

The grounds are open year-round from 8am to sunset with an admission price of only $5 per vehicle for each day.

#1 – Fort Hartsuff State Park

Area: 18 acres
Established: 1961
Highlight: Historical fort from the Indian Plain Wars

Attractions and activities include the Visitors Center, tours, picnicking, and both original and reconstructed buildings.

The Fort Hartsuff State Historical Park was originally a fort during the Indian Plain Wars that offered protection to settlers. The park is open year-round during the day for visitors but camping is not permitted.

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Driving Safely in State Parks

In nature, many unexpected things can happen, so it’s necessary to prepare with the proper insurance.

You must be sure that you have a decent amount of comprehensive coverage in the event of any type of natural disaster or encounter with animals.

You should review your policy every six months by comparing at least three to four policies before making your decision.

– What to Watch Out For

AdobeStock_92667966 (1)-1600x1600You should always be on the lookout for people that are on the go like cyclists, runners, and hikers. It’s easy for distractions to occur in nature, so you must look out for the safety of people that may not be aware of you.

Wild animals can also be extremely unpredictable so you must be extremely alert.

You must also pay close attention to fallen debris and unsafe roads can because they could easily damage your car and possibly your passengers.

– Keeping an Emergency Kit in Your Car

Being cautious isn’t always enough, so you must prepare for unexpected events just in case. Many state parks in Nebraska span over a very large area which could make it difficult to locate help in the event of an emergency.

The Nebraska National Forest, for example, spans over 221 square miles which is a lot of land for the workers to patrol.

If you were to become immobile in the middle of the forest, you should have an emergency kit handy so that you can survive until help arrives.

Your emergency kit should include:

  • Non-perishable food
  • Water
  • Blankets
  • First-aid kit
  • A simple toolkit
  • An emergency phone
  • Any other items necessary for the environment

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