Midwest Living Review
This ranch town (population: 3,000) serves as the base for an off-the-beaten-path nexus of outdoor activities and spectacular landscape--the unspoiled Niobrara river, its forested valley and the surrounding pine-studded Sandhills. A cruise on the reliably floatable Niobrara, a National Scenic River, is the centerpiece of most treks here. But lots of outdoorsy types come for fishing, cycling and camping, too. Hikers with binoculars stroll the trails of Valentine National Wildlife Refuge, a haven for some 260 bird species. Valentine also is a primary stop on the new Cowboy Trail. When finished, the converted railbed/bike path will stretch more than 320 miles, the longest in the nation. For now, cyclists can explore more than 160 miles of the broad level gravel path. Not far from Valentine, the trail crosses the Niobrara gorge on a century-old, 148-foot-high steel trestle bridge offering a panorama--unless you're concentrating on pedaling. No need to watch out for other riders, though; you can pedal for miles without encountering any. Nearby Merritt Reservoir is also home to the annual star-gazing fest, the Nebraska Star Party.