Scotts Bluff National Monument in Nebraska is an out of the way place for hiking but I think it is worth the extra effort to seek it out. Driving I-80 through Nebraska can be a bit of a stretch and as often as I travel from Iowa to see my son in Colorado, I look for different things to do and see. I have actually been here four times. As a kid in the mid 1970’s, with my kids in the 1996, by myself in 2015 and with Steve in 2017. Even though it’s over an hour out of my way, I enjoy the area.
Finding Scotts Bluff is easy, just turn off of I-80 at Ogallala, Nebraska and drive NW. Scotts Bluff National Monument is more elevation than I expected in Nebraska. It has been a landmark for people for ages as it towers 800 feet above the plains and the North Platte River.
For those of you that are history buffs or played Oregon Trail as a kid, you may remember it as a landmark for pioneers traveling the Oregon, Mormon, and California Trails. The wagons traveled around Scotts Bluff via Mitchel Pass. If you want to read up on the life of a person on a Wagon Train you can click here. I thought it was a fun read, and there are other links from there about the area and history as well.
Hiking Up Scotts Bluff
Hiking up Scotts Bluff is no easy feat, but it’s there, so why not? Just to let you know, you can drive up the other side to get to the top, but I prefer the hike. The path is easy to follow and walk on. The elevation is steep but gradual. Keep in mind, you are in the sun and it feels very hot beating down directly on you. It is a challenge! Take water, wear sunscreen and sturdy shoes. Close to the top, the path does have some loose rock, but just follow the path and you will be ok. Plus there is some shade on the top!!!!
There is even a fun tunnel to walk through a little more than half way up!! The views the entire time on this hike are outstanding and you can see for miles.
You may also remember the Chimney Rock Landmark near Bayard, Nebraska from history class. If you take the Ogallala exit you will pass this on the way to Scotts Bluff. Chimney Rock is a large spire shaped rock that pioneers felt was shaped like a chimney. This spire shaped rock stands out on the prairie and when pioneers saw it they knew they were following the right path and could see it ahead for miles. I have heard it was taller but the tip was hit off by lightening.
Windlass Hill Pioneer Homestead Marker
Windless Hill is an important place on the Oregon Trail as it has the best preserved wagon ruts (tracks) in the area. Pioneers slowly assisted the wagons down this steep hill. At the bottom of the hill is a marker that marks the site of an 1899 homestead. The rocks around the marker are from the original homestead. Check out the replica houses made of sod, or “soddie” as they are sometimes called.
The Memories, Mid 1970’s & 1996
I didn’t realize I had almost identical pictures 20 years apart until I was looking for photos for this post! First one is of me and my folks. Second is of my brother and dad. The last two are me and my kids and then my son. This area is near the Visitors Center and you can walk along the Oregon Trail if you wish.
Since I have repeatedly ventured back here, I really do like Scotts Bluff National Monument. Not sure what draws me here, the history, the geography, or the long drive through Nebraska! Regardless, I enjoy the area and it is worth the out of the way drive.