10 Best State Parks in Nebraska

The beauty of state parks makes them great places for family reunions, get-togethers, family days, or road trips. Most state parks offer lodging areas for campers to stay the night as well as designated areas for picnicking, hiking, and swimming. Enjoy the natural beauty of Nebraska’s landscape. Here are the best state parks. 

Chadron State Park, Chadron, NE

It’s right to start with Chadron State Park, for its Nebraska’s first state park, founded in 1921. Located near Nebraska’s Pine Ridge, this park has more than 100 miles of trails for bikers and hikers alike. It also offers a plethora of other activities such as paddle boating, archery, tennis, sand volleyball, horseshoes, and more.

Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, Ashland, NE

Home of an aquatic center and indoor playground, Eugene T. Mahoney State Park also hosts the Peter Kiewit Lodge, which offers 40 guest rooms. It’s located midway between Omaha and Lincoln, so it’s a nice getaway from city life without traveling thousands of miles.

Fort Robinson State Park, Crawford, NE

Fort Robinson State Park may just take the cake. There’s more than 22,000 acres of scenic landscape at this state park. Before becoming a state park, Fort Robinson was a fort in the early days of the Old West until after World War II. History buffs—this may be the state park for you.

Indian Cave State Park, Shubert, NE

Bordering the Missouri River, Indian Cave State Park offers just that, a large sandstone cave. Visit the cave to view what are thought to be prehistoric Native American petroglyphs found on the cave’s walls. There’s also a restored schoolhouse and general store from St. Deroin, an old river town. 

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Niobrara State Park, Niobrara, NE

Go RV camping, tent camping, or rent out a cabin at Niobrara State Park. If you’re into buffalo cookouts—definitely visit during the summer. As an attraction the park hosts a buffalo cookout with cowboy poets and storytellers for entertainment on Saturdays throughout the summer months. 

Platte River State Park, Louisville, NE

Go vintage or stay modern at Platte River State Park. The lodging there is comprised of charming vintage cabins that have housed campers throughout the years, and also of new glamping cabins that offer a nature-immersive experience. If camping isn’t your thing, visit for the day and explore the miles of nature trails the park has to offer.

Ponca State Park, Ponca, NE

Says the park’s website, Ponca State Park is one of the most-visited state parks in Nebraska. Perhaps it’s because of all of the seasonal activities the park hosts throughout the year. They include haunted haystack rides, guided bird tours in the spring, a “Fruitcake Fling” each winter, and naturalist events during the summer. 

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Smith Falls State Park, Valentine, NE

Smith Falls State Park lives up to its moniker. Home to Smith Falls, Nebraska’s highest waterfall, this park is named after Frederic Smith. He filed the first homestead patent on the land where the falls reside. Naturally, popular activities at this state park are canoeing, kayaking, and floating on the waters.

Arbor Lodge State Historical Park, Nebraska City, NE

Switching gears a bit, Nebraska also offers state historical parks. This one began as a four-room frame house in 1855, and now it’s host to 52 rooms -- after extensive remodeling. J. Sterling Morton, founder of Arbor Day, lived in this estate. The estate is open year-round and doesn’t require a park permit to enter.

Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park, North Platte, NE

I bet you can guess who’s ranch lies at this historical park—showman scout William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. The house and barn on the property have been restored and filled with memorabilia and souvenirs of Buffalo Bill. There’s an adjoining area—Buffalo Bill Ranch State Recreation Area—where visitors can camp out, fish, rent kayaks and canoes, and do a host of other activities.

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7425 S US Hwy 281, Doniphan, NE
North Loup State Recreation Area is a 13-acre area adjacent to the Loup River. It has two ponds with a total of seven water acres. The area offers ... Read More
2103 Stolley Park Road West, Grand Island, NE
Playground Equipment: The park offers numerous playground areas with equipment for all children.Fitness Trail: There is a hard surfaced drive throu... Read More
7425 U.S. 281, Doniphan, NE
Just off Interstate 80 by Grand Island, Mormon Island State Recreation Area is a convenient place for outdoor fun. Mormon Island has handicap-acces... Read More
I-80 Exit 300, Wood River, NE
Cheyenne is a small state recreation area with a 15-acre pond near the community of Wood River. The area offers fishing, camping and picnicking. Th... Read More
7425 S US Hwy 281, Doniphan, NE
DLD is a former wayside area encompassing 7 acres of land. The area offers picnicking and 4 non-designated campsites. DLD is located 5 miles east o... Read More
I-80 Exit 291, Shelton, NE
War Axe State Recreation Area comprises nine acres of land and a 16 acre lake just off Interstate 80. The area offers boating, fishing and picnicki... Read More
79025 Sherman Dam Rd, Ste 1, Loup City, NE
Known for its great fishing opportunities, Sherman Reservoir State Recreation Area boasts a 2,845-acre lake and 4,721 land acres. Primitive camping... Read More
2625 Lowell Rd, Gibbon, NE
Windmill State Recreation area is one of the jewels of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission in the state’s unique chain of lakes along Inte... Read More
7425 S US Hwy 281, Doniphan, NE
Crystal Lake Recreation Area, located 2 miles north and 1/2 mile west of Ayr, NE, is a 33 acre park adjacent to the Little Blue River and features ... Read More
Bowman Lake is a 23-acre area lying adjacent to the Loup River and features a 20-acre man made lake. It is located one mile west of Loup City&... Read More
2404 15th Street, Columbus, NE
The Loup River Public Power District (The District) is a public power electric utility serving a four county area in the state of Nebraska. We have... Read More
822 15th Street, Columbus, NE
History:The Society was formed on June 2, 1941 when about 50 Platte County farmers and businessmen met. Gifts of both land and money had been offer... Read More
2620 Airport Drive, Ord, NE
Pibel Lake Recreation Area is a 72-acre facility, including the 24-acre lake. The lake has recently been renovated and is stocked with bluegills, l... Read More
1020 V Rd, Kearney, NE
Originally a safe haven for Overland Trail travelers, Pony Express riders, and gold prospectors, Fort Kearny established in 1848, is now a state hi... Read More
1020 V Road, Kearney, NE
Fort Kearny State Recreation Area offers 186 acres dotted with sandpit lakes. In the spring, the world’s largest concentration of sandhill cr... Read More
82038 Fort Avenue, Burwell, NE
Located near Elyria, Fort Hartsuff is typical of Plains infantry outposts. It stood as a buffer between settlers and Indians in the North Loup Rive... Read More
2201 South 13th Street, Norfolk, NE
This park consists of 180.3 acres along the Elkhorn River. There is a successful incorporation of the old and the new at this location. Included in... Read More
NE-76B (Washington Ave), Milford, NE
Blue River State Recreation area is a day-use only area that provides walk-in pedestrian river access for anglers. Common carp, channel catfish and... Read More
42285 York Point Rd, Burwell, NE
Located in Nebraska’s beautiful sandhills, Calamus State Recreation Area is among the most popular places for camping, fishing, boating, picn... Read More
54876 - 852 Road, Pierce, NE
Located 1 ½ miles southwest of Pierce, scenic Willow Creek State Recreation Area draws its name from the meandering stream that feeds the El... Read More
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