Two-Day Getaway in Nebraska’s Panhandle | Midwest Living

Two-Day Getaway in Nebraska’s Panhandle

Stand where mammoths once stood, and follow the path of pioneers around Fort Robinson State Park.
Pine Ridge in Fort Robinson State Park. Photo courtesy of Nebraska Tourism
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Trailside Museum of Natural History. Photo courtesy of Nebraska Tourism
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Scotts Bluff National Monument. Photo courtesy of Nebraska Tourism
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Chimney Rock National Historic Site. Photo courtesy of Nebraska Tourism
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Lake McConaughy. Photo courtesy of Nebraska Tourism
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Day 1

West of Crawford, Fort Robinson State Park provides a wide range of family activities on more than 22,000 acres. Get an overview of the site’s history—from the time of Crazy Horse to World War II—on horse-drawn wagon tours.

The Trailside Museum of Natural History showcases a pair of mammoth skeletons found with their tusks eternally locked in battle. 

Fort Robinson Restaurant serves bison burgers.

Narrated jeep rides explore the buttes of Pine Ridge before a hike to Cheyenne Buttes, the site of a massacre of Cheyenne.

Kids love the Chuckwagon Buffalo Stew Cookout with campfire sing-alongs.

The Post Playhouse puts on live musicals, and weekly summertime rodeos show off the locals’ skills.

The fort’s old cavalry barracks have been converted into motel-style rooms, and officers’ quarters now pull duty as rental cabins (from $50). Campers can choose from tent or RV sites (from $20).

Day 2

At Agate Fossil Beds National Monument (about an hour southwest of the fort), explore exhibits of past and present wildlife and learn about the area’s Native American history.

Chadron State Park and the Nebraska National Forest appear on the horizon near Chadron like an expatriate mountain scene.

On the site of an 1837 trading post, the Museum of the Fur Trade’s outstanding collection of artifacts makes it worth a stop.

Carhenge in Alliance rises as a ghostly assemblage of gray steel, its 38 automobiles mimicking the rocks of Stonehenge.

Nestled in a badlands landscape, the Hudson-Meng Bison Kill Research and Visitor Center lets guests get an up-close view of a massive spread of bison fossils in the spot where they fell.

The campy, quirky Drifter Cookshack at High Plains Homestead near Crawford serves cowboy-style meals. Try the BBQ pork ribs with cowboy beans and a baked potato; it comes with a moist towel for wiping up barbecue-sauced fingers.

More information: (308) 665-2900;

Day trip

Drive or take a free shuttle to the top of Scotts Bluff National Monument, a landmark to prairie-weary wagon trains.

Grab a simple, tasty lunch at Emporium Coffeehouse and Cafe in Scottsbluff (90 minutes south of Fort Robinson).

Twenty-three miles down State-92, Nebraska’s most famous physical feature fills the sky at Chimney Rock National Historic Site, where visitors can read diary entries made by Oregon trail travelers.

More information: (800) 788-9475;

Bring the kids

Lake McConaughy Pack your swimsuit for a trip to Nebraska’s largest reservoir, located near Ogallala. Plenty of campgrounds, wildlife areas and an estimated 100 miles of beach make this a no-brainer for families. (800) 658-4390;

In town, Bittersweet Bakery sells huge chocolate chip cookies, rich brownies and chocolate mousse tortes. (308) 284-6800;

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