Nebraska’s Nine Scenic Byways and Highways
Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway. One of the 10 most scenic routes in the country, Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway offers a rugged, visual beauty that is captivating and soulful as the dramatic Sandhills give way to winding rivers and forest. From Grand Island to Alliance, Highway 2 winds through beautiful countryside, tiny villages and hamlets, and the Nebraska National Forest’s 20,000 acres of hand-planted ponderosa pines, eastern red cedars, and jack pines, the largest hand-planted forest in the country. From fields of corn and the rolling hills of cattle country to sandhills splendor and plentiful marshes and wetlands, the diverse topography is enchanting. On the byway’s eastern end, you experience the annual migration of 500,000 sandhill cranes that descended upon the Platte River Valley. Overlooks of the Dismal River will take your breath away. Beyond the scenery, Sandhills Journey offers Western history beautifully displayed in museums, such as the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer and the Custer County Museum. Experience sprawling ranches, endless sky, miles of rolling grass dunes, windmills and the most unspoiled landscapes in America!
Loup Rivers Scenic Byway. Named for the gently flowing North, Middle, and South Loup Rivers that cut through the breathtaking sandhills under brilliant skies, Loup Rivers Scenic Byway rambles through the heart of Nebraska. From the pristine, rolling farmland and hills to the immense and awe-inspiring sandhills, Loup Rivers Scenic Byway is a delight for the eyes, mind and soul. Small towns, scenic beauty, and local history await you as you travel through one of the most beautiful landscapes in America. Discover rolling farmland, a luxurious lake, windmills, the nation’s first rodeo event and countless wildlife, including rare and endangered species. At the southern end of the byway along the Platte River, you can see a half-million sandhill cranes and rare whooping cranes that migrate here. Each spring, bird enthusiasts stop at Crane Meadows Nature Center to view this spectacle. The Loup Rivers Scenic Byway is alive with events and attractions celebrating the area’s history and natural resources, including Comstock’s Second Wind Ranch, home to one of the largest collections of windmills in the world, Nebraska’s Big Rodeo, and the Nebraska National Forest. Discover excellent boating, fishing, canoeing, and swimming.
Heritage Highway. Wind your way along the lush tree-lined Missouri River and into the tall grass prairies and fertile farmland of America’s heartland. Enjoy small town charm highlighted by beautiful views and rich frontier history. Make your way along Heritage Highway and watch as riverbanks and rolling hills give way to miles of gently waving grass and fertile prairies–the landscape immortalized by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Willa Cather, who wrote about the plight of the American pioneer. Discover the effects of the early migration of settlers who journeyed westward, including the growth of agriculture and the scattering of the American Indian, by viewing renowned museums such as Homestead National Monument of America. Explore the earliest Nebraska settlements, where century-old buildings and historic downtowns are reminders of days gone by. Experience a variety of events, attractions and summertime festivals, or discover unique pottery, antiques, theatre and dining. Heritage Highway provides access to outdoor adventures found at Indian Cave State Park and the area’s rivers, lakes, and water parks.
Lewis & Clark Scenic Byway. In 1804, Lewis and Clark embarked on a journey that became America’s most fabled expedition. That adventure took them up the Missouri River and along the eastern and northern border of Nebraska. Retrace their footsteps via the Lewis & Clark Scenic Byway – a pathway on which history and beauty deliver an inspiring journey. Discover historic waterways intermingled with open bottomland, bountiful cropland, and wooded bluffs. Share the path where trappers, American Indians, and explorers once traveled. Witness the white clouds of snow geese as they make their graceful descent onto the oxbow lakes of DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge. Discover a large bison herd roaming the grassy plains of the Winnebago Reservation. View historic sites, such as Fort Atkinson or take part in one of the colorful powwows featuring tribal dances. All this plus boating, fishing, and hiking make the Lewis & Clark Scenic Byway a place of beauty, wonder and fun.
Outlaw Trail Scenic Byway. With a rich Old West history, the legendary Outlaw Trail was once a regular path for Jesse James and his gang. Follow the famous 200-year old footsteps of American Indian tribes and Lewis and Clark on a scenic journey through diverse landscape – forested bluffs, grasslands, wetlands, croplands, prairies and a national wildlife refuge. Wildflowers are abundant and animal life can be seen at Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge and the Missouri River. Follow the byway to the 70-foot-high Smith Falls, Nebraska’s tallest waterfall and put a canoe into the Niobrara River for a breathtaking paddling adventure through deep, forested gorges. Explore unique museums, military forts, refurbished buildings, and sites reminiscent of exciting times. Hike and bike the trails at Ponca State Park and discover boating, fishing, and swimming at Lewis & Clark Lake. From heartwarming moments laced with scenery and history to heart-pounding adventures, you’ll find them on the beautiful Outlaw Trail.
Bridges to Buttes Byway. From the high bridges of Valentine to the Wyoming border, Bridges to Buttes Byway travels through Nebraska’s most diverse and distinctive landscapes. Relive the solitude and freedom felt by pioneers 200 years ago. This byway escorts you through rolling sandhills, open prairie land, and pine-studded bluffs and buttes. Experience the vast beauty of the sandhills, the Western Hemisphere’s largest grass-covered sand dune formation, as they rise and fall like silent waves in a green ocean of grass. To the west, high-plains give way to open valleys and steep, pine-studded bluffs and buttes in the Nebraska National Forest, where hikers and mountain bikers discover endless outdoor adventure. From American Indian artifacts to early frontier ranching to trapping and fur trading, Nebraska’s Panhandle is alive with exciting history. From the past to the present, the Bridges to Buttes Byway features a variety of attractions, including sections of the Cowboy Trail–one of the longest hiking/biking trails in the United States – and Agate Fossil Beds National Monument. Cool off, grab a paddle and head to one of the byway’s scenic waterways, including the Niobrara River, one of the top 10 canoeing rivers in the nation.
385 – Gold Rush Byway. For an amazing adventure, discover the sparkling beauty and rich history of the Gold Rush Byway. In the late 1800s, gold traveled along this route from the mining town of Deadwood, SD, to the railroad at Sidney, NE. Today, the Gold Rush Byway is part of one of the most scenic and historic pathways in the nation–the CANAM Highway, spanning from Mexico to Canada. On this byway, expansive wheat fields, river valleys, open plateaus, and sandhills complement boundless skies featuring golden sunsets. The natural rugged beauty is highlighted by historic land formations. Wind through the Nebraska Panhandle into the most storied history of the plains. From military forts and the High Plains Indian wars to Oregon Trail icons, this byway delivers frontier history against a stunning backdrop of natural beauty. Spy rugged river valleys, rolling hills, open plateaus, pine-covered buttes, and expansive wheat fields. Follow the path to museums with native art and artifacts, such as the Museum of the Fur Trade and Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center. Venture to Chadron State Park and the Nebraska National Forest for the state’s best hiking and mountain biking.
Lincoln Highway Scenic Byway. Historic trails and pathways converge amid vibrant scenery along Lincoln Highway Scenic Byway. Winds through a patchwork of incredible color as endless fields grow along the Platte River Valley. Discover a rolling landscape along the Platte River, 200-year-old wagon ruts, the first transcontinental railroad, and the Lincoln Highway encompassed in a colorful and brilliant display of nature. See reminders of famous trails and visit way stations of the Pony Express and Bailey Railroad Yard–the largest reclassification yard in the world. With the invention of the automobile, this pathway became the country’s first transcontinental auto route–Lincoln Highway. In addition to trails, rails, and roadways, this byway follows the path of colorful characters including Buffalo Bill Cody, who built his Scout’s Rest Ranch near North Platte. Tour his elaborate Victorian home and the big red barn filled with memorabilia at the Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park and Recreation Area. Beautiful parks, lakes, and golf courses dot the landscape and deliver an array of outdoor fun.
Western Trails Historic & Scenic Byway. Western Trails Historic & Scenic Byway traces the fabled stretch of the Oregon and Mormon Trails. Throughout your journey, gently rolling hills, acres of farmland, and grass-covered sand dunes inspire a deep connection with serenity, beauty and history. Towering geological formations and the state’s largest lake mark the route. Never straying from the North Platte River and tall groves of cottonwoods lining its banks, the byway takes you past famous landmarks, such as Courthouse and Jail Rocks and Chimney Rock, which rises like a needle above the plains. Some 20 miles north near Nebraska’s western edge looms Scotts Bluff, another popular landmark along the Oregon Trail. For frontier history, stroll through Ogallala’s Old West shops on Front Street, view historic gravesites at Boot Hill or take a covered wagon trip in the shadow of Chimney Rock. Wildlife, including bald eagles and bison, abounds at prairie preserves, state parks, and wildlife centers. On the eastern end, the massive Lake McConaughy, Nebraska’s largest reservoir, is a perfect spot for water sports, camping, boating, and fishing. Along the Western Trails Historic & Scenic Byway, superb scenery, quaint towns, and celebrated history unfold along every mile!