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.

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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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