Someone asked the other day “Have you ever taken a road trip across Nebraska?”. My answer was “Which one?”. When growing up as a kid, my parents would load all of us into a car hooked onto the camper and head to some destination in Nebraska for the weekend or summer vacation trip. We still say they did it to spare the neighbors on the weekends from nine kids running rampant through their yards, gardens, houses . . . you get the idea.
My family truly knows it was the sheer enjoyment our parents got from being out in the wide open spaces, fishing in a boat or from the bank, the smell of toast and bacon in the morning on the coleman stove, or an occasional beer under the stars after a long day out in the sunshine. Enough on that. There are many great road trips we’ve discovered over the years. I’ll list just a few favorites , and then more in articles to come.
- Drive west from Norfolk along the Elkhorn River up to Valentine, where the Niobrara River offers Smith Falls, gorgeous scenery and a lot of activity, then continue on to Chadron, home of Chadron State Park and the Museum of the Fur Trade. Just to the west is Fort Robinson, an old Cavalry outpost not to be missed and Toadstool Geologic Park, a surreal landscape. From there north to the Blackhills.
- Drive west from Kearney on I-80 to Ogallala, seeing the Platte River to your side, which during early spring you will see thousands of Sandhills Cranes. There are many viewing sites along the river. Johnson Lake south of Lexington offers many fishing and swimming stories as kid. Once on the interstate again you have to stop in Paxton at Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse, serving great food for more than 6 decades. North Platte offers the Scout’s Rest Ranch home of Buffalo Bill Cody and once in Ogallala, go to Front Street, an Old West Town. Lake McConaughy, the state’s largest lake is just to the north of town.
- Drive north and west from Grand Island to Alliance on Highway 2. Once you are past Broken Bow this highway leads you into the scenic Sandhills of Nebraska. View the beauty of the Dismal and North Loup Rivers near Dunning and take in the breathtaking view from the tower at Halsey National Forest. A fully man made forest. From Whitman to Alliance, notice the spring fed lakes supplied by the Ogallala Aquifer, and once in Alliance head north to Carhenge.
These are three brief overviews of great Nebraska road trips worth the effort. Bear in mind everything to see or do could not be included. With that said here are a couple important reminders about drives through Nebraska.
- There are so many small towns full of history, great historical places, and things to do along these routes. Many of these small towns have beautiful architecture in their downtowns, churches and homes. Most towns with a county courthouse have many large, beautiful homes you just don’t see anymore. Drive around the downtown areas, look and imagine what it was like 100 years ago. Nebraska City is one worth mention for both.
- Sometimes just a little ways off the beaten path offers State Historical Sites, State Parks, Recreation areas, Archeological Sites and just wonderful places to see. Ask a local, they know where places to see, do, eat and stay are. Most of the time, locals are very friendly and will talk your ear off! See ya down the road.