By Renae Blum, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
Get outdoors this winter and enjoy the invigorating fresh air of a winter’s day on a state park trail. These five trails are great choices, offering wildlife viewing, shelter from the wind, and beautiful scenic views to appreciate. Bring a friend and take in the unique beauty that this time of year offers.
Turkey Run Trail, Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area
Shielded from the winter wind, this 1.2-mile trail at Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area near Gering, is a great choice for a walk on a winter’s day. Hikers will see a diversity of topography, including rocky buttes and interesting rock formations, as well as beautiful views of the ponderosa pines and the North Platte River valley. Make sure to check out the layers of sandstone and siltstone in the rock; the trail will let you get a close-up look. There’s a chance to see wildlife, as well: deer, turkey, songbirds, and even coyotes or bobcats.
Groomed cross-country skiing trails, Ponca State Park
If you enjoy cross-country skiing, Ponca State Park offers two groomed trails this year for visitors to enjoy. The first is 1.5 miles and winds through the park’s shooting complex and the G8 group tent area. This area is pristine and quiet, with a lot of beautiful scenery and the chance to see deer along the way.
The second trail is 2 miles and winds along the riverfront, offering gorgeous views of the water. It’s very flat, making it a good choice for beginners.
Not interested in cross-country skiing? The park has 22 miles of other trails to enjoy; learn more at OutdoorNebraska.gov/PoncaTrails.
South Shore trails, Lewis and Clark State Recreation Area
Roughly 4 miles of trails wind through the South Shore area at Lewis and Clark State Recreation Area. They’re an easy walk and give visitors the chance to see the park’s cedar and oak woodlands, as well as bluffs overlooking Lewis and Clark Lake and Gavins Point Dam. It’s a beautiful view.
Park superintendent Leslie Donner described the trails as a hidden gem. “A lot of people don’t realize we have trails there, so once you’ve tried them, you’re kind of hooked,” Donner said.
Riverview Trail, Schramm Park State Recreation Area
The Riverview Trail at Schramm Park State Recreation Area takes only about five minutes to walk, but there’s plenty to see. It runs down to the Platte River and offers the chance to see bald eagles, beaver-chewed logs, raccoon prints in the mud, and fish coming up to the shoreline. The trail’s short distance and flat surface also makes it ideal for families with young kids or those with limited mobility.
If you’d like to extend your trip and try other trails in the park, the Hackberry Trail and Red Cedar Trail, which wind through the park’s forest, are great choices. The trees offer shelter from the wind, and with fewer leaves on the trees, there’s better visibility to spot wildlife like raptors, turkey or deer.
Steamboat Trail, Chadron State Park
The 1.3-mile Steamboat Trail offers stunning scenery, especially when it snows. At 1.3 miles, it takes you through ponderosa pines and curves gently up into the buttes, making it moderately challenging but not a difficult hike. It also takes visitors up to Steamboat Butte, named for its resemblance to the steamboats that once sailed the Missouri River. With scenic views and convenient parking, Steamboat Trail is a great choice for winter hiking.
When you hike, remember to dress for the weather, bring water, walk with friends, and tell someone where you’re going. For more information about these trails, and to see an interactive trail map, visit OutdoorNebraska.gov/hikingtrails.
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