Leave your city ties behind and venture into the natural wilderness of Nebraska state parks for the ultimate family camping experience. Almost 90 incorporated state park areas exist in the Nebraska system that offer outdoor adventures, an appreciation for nature, and educational opportunities in cultural heritage. Several of these state parks offer all three advantages for family campers.
The top three Nebraska state parks for family camping manage to offer not only some accommodations with modern conveniences, but in settings that appear untouched by human interference. For city folk, this blend of wilderness and modern amenities provides some buffer against totally roughing it while. For nature enthusiasts, the modern amenities are just extras that take a back seat to the unspoiled loveliness of the land.
Ponca State Park
Located in the northeast part of the state, Ponca State Park encompasses over 1,400 acres of land where you can experience Missouri City bottomlands as well as undulating hills covered in forest area. The volunteers and guides here are exceptionally well-versed in not only the history of the area, but also the geology, ecology, and biology as well. You can choose from several outdoor recreational programs that cover wilderness survival, cooking outdoors, fishing, backpacking, and more.
The trails are superb, offering over 20 miles for mountain bikers and hikers to explore. The horseback riding tours offered in the summer months offer a unique perspective with panoramic scenes from the river and bluff overlook areas. A golf course and swimming pool lends a few of the modern touches that can be enjoyed in this wooded setting. A boat ramp is easily accessible for boaters and fishermen who hope to catch their fill of fish like drum, catfish and walleye.
Camping facilities at Ponca State Park include two campgrounds that offer water and electrical hookups in addition to shared shower facilities, playgrounds, dump station and picnic areas. A number of modern cabins with air conditioning and other amenities are available for rent as well as the availability of primitive tent camping.
Eugene T. Mahoney State Park
One of the favorite southeast parks in the Nebraska state parks system, Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, is another blend of untamed wilderness meets contemporary civilized amenities. A family aquatic center on the premises offers water slides, a wave pool, and swimming pool in addition to nearby activities such as basketball, softball, miniature golf, tennis, and crafting opportunities.
The activities best enjoyed in the picturesque outdoor setting include riding on horseback along the nature trails, hiking, fishing, biking, and observing nature and wildlife from the state parks observation tower. During the winter season, there are cross country skiing opportunities as well as tobogganing, sledding, and ice fishing. Rounding out the plethora of activities this park has to offer families is the activity center, open year round that offers indoor playgrounds, ice skating in winter, games, rock climbing simulators, and more.
Camping facilities offer campsites with electrical hook-ups for RVs and campers along with over 50 cabins with modern amenities such as air conditioning and heating, housekeeping services, kitchen appliances, and even television. The campground for campers has clean shower facilities in addition to laundry areas and dump stations. A 40 room lodge is also available with modern conveniences and a cozy hotel-type atmosphere for those who like nature but would rather do without the rough side of camping.
Fort Robinson State Park
One of the most interesting historical learning experiences in the Nebraska state parks system, Fort Robinson State Park covers over 20,000 acres in the panhandle area of the state. Gorgeous views of Pine Ridge lands, visits to the longhorn and buffalo herds, the historical tours, and beautiful camping facilities make this place an exceptional place to visit for families.
You can visit the historical museum onsite and learn more about how this fort served as an outpost during several wars including Indian outbreaks as well as a POW camp, cavalry station, and police dog training unit. Another museum operated by the University of Nebraska outlines the natural history and geology of the area, complete with an interesting fossil collection.
Taking a tour of the park by horse drawn carriage presents a unique perspective and the nature tour offered is an intriguing way to learn more about the ecology of the area and the chance to see some spectacular views of the land. Horseback riding is offered and a great way to explore. There is an indoor pool for swimming in addition to a sun deck and a wading pool outside.
A restaurant on the premises serves meals during the busy summer season while the onsite store sells snacks and drinks. There is a playhouse within state park grounds that offers some culture and entertainment. Camping facilities range from camp sites with water and electric hook-ups for campers to site pads for tents only. These campsites have access to modern shower and bathroom facilities in addition to picnic areas, shelters and even equestrian facilities.
Cabins and rooms in the lodge offer rustic, yet modern touches for your state park lodging. The cabins have bathroom and kitchen amenities while the lodge rooms are perfect for larger families and group stays.
All in all, Nebraska state parks offer something for everyone and if your family is seeking an outdoor adventure, you will definitely find it. From primitive areas that appear untouched by humans to campgrounds with convenient amenities, your family has the tools to build a great state park experience.