Nebraska has a number of trails with minimal obstacles. Some are very easy and others are wheelchair accessible. Here are just a few of them.
These links were found through Internet search. I would love to have some first-hand recommendations. With your help, we can share our knowledge with disabled people everywhere and also increase awareness of the need for more accessibility. Please e-mail me with your suggestions using the form in the sidebar.
Homestead National Monument
Homestead preserves 100 acres of restored tallgrass prairie. Although…”a restored prairie will never exactly repeat the original mix of plant and animal life…the species composition of the tallgrass prairie at Homestead successfully resembles that of presettlement times.” Cub Creek Woodland is a “…ribbon of lowland bur oak forest along Cub Creek and on the edge of the Great Plains…” Despite 140 years of cutting, grazing, and lack of fire “…this forest represents the best example of what settlers in Nebraska would have encountered. It is the edge of the world of tree to the east; a last creeping finger of shade.”
Thanks to Tara Burnette of the National Park Service for sending me the link for Accessibility at Homestead. She writes, “Although, it does not go into great detail about the natural prairie trails there, they exist. A great “nature fix” does exist there in the spring, summer and fall from experience. The staff there is very proactive in including people with disabilities.” Wheelchairs are available, call ahead.
Hiking Trails Phone 402-223-3514 Brochure
“The hiking trails consist of crushed rock and/or mowed grass, and have moderate inclines in places. There are hard-surfaced sidewalk paths from the Heritage Center to the Palmer-Epard cabin and from the Education Center across the Cub Creek walking bridge.”
Nebraska National Forest and Grassland
Pine Ridge National Recreation Area as described by SummitPost.org. And here in Oh! Ranger.com. This brochure describes the Pine Ridge trails in the National Forest. Parts of the Nebraska National Forest are in South Dakota.
For questions about trails in the Oglala National Grassland or Nebraska National Forest you can call Mike Watts at 308-432-0390 or the Chadron Office at 308-432-0300.
Here are some suggestions from Mike Watts. Use discretion – remember that one person’s Easy is another’s Challenging.
“……..a few sections of trail and areas to hike that are scenic and relatively easy.
1. Soldier Creek Campground, South Fork Trailhead. The Trooper Trail follows the drainage of the South Fork of Soldier Creek for about 3 miles before it heads up into the hills. This part of the trail is relatively level with rolling terrain. There are a few short steep sections and a few small creek crossings. This section of the trail is in the Soldier Creek Wilderness.
2. Soldier Creek Campground, Middle Fork Trailhead. A two track unmarked trail follows the Middle Fork of Soldier Creek drainage. The two track enters the Wilderness after 1 ½ miles and continues for about another 1 ½ miles before it heads up into the hills. This is level to gently rolling. A variation of this is to take a two track trail that forks in the sidebar up the North Fork of Soldier Creek about ¼ mile from the campground. This 2 track is relatively level for about 1 mile before it intersects the Boots and Saddle Trail.
3. From Chadron State Park take the paved loop road to the top of the loop. Take the gravel road to the Black Hills Overlook. After approximately 2 miles the road dead ends at a parking lot on Forest Service land. From the parking lot take the Black Hills Overlook Trail. The trail follows ridges through an old burn area and is level to gently rolling with a few short steep pitches. After about 1 mile the trail begins to get steeper as it drops in elevation just before the trail forks. The right hand fork will take you down to the Chadron State Park Campground. The other fork will take you to down to the Outrider Trailhead on Forest Service. Both of these forks are approximately 1 mile.
4. Approximately 5 miles south of Chadron on Highway 385 turn east on King Canyon Road. Continue east across a cattle guard onto Forest Service Road 733. After about ½ mile on Road 733 a high clearance or 4WD vehicle is recommended. Approximately 1 ½ miles from the start of Road 733 at the top of a hill you can access a section of the Pine Ridge Trail that follows a ridge through an old burn area. Parking is available next to the road. Follow the trail to the north for about 1 ½ miles. This section of trail is mostly level to gently rolling. There are a couple of short steep pitches. After about a mile when you reach a fork in the trail take the left fork out to an overlook.”
Oglala National Grassland as described in the Dawes County, NE, site. As described in Britannica. The Grassland is in both South Dakota and Nebraska. The headquarters is in Chadron, NE but the visitor center is in Wall, South Dakota. Two trails are mentioned but with no indication of difficulty.
? The Toadstool Geologic Area in the grassland has a one mile interpretive loop. However, according to NebraskaTravels.com, it might be too difficult to include on this site. Mike Watts of the Nebraska National Forests and Grasslands says that the first 1/3 mile of the trail used to be accessible, but it has suffered a lot of erosion.
For questions about trails in the Oglala National Grassland or Nebraska National Forest you could call Mike Watts at 308-432-0390 or the Chadron Office at 308-432-0300.
Nebraska State Parks and Recreation Areas Map of Parks and Map of Trails
These are two tabs of the same site. It is a searchable map which lets you choose what surface you are looking for such as asphalt, concrete, compacted aggregate etc. Links will take you to each park’s website. There are many paved trails in Nebraska. Unfortunately, I am not finding any references to whether the trails are wheelchair accessible or not.
“To receive a 52-page, full-color Nebraska State Park booklet and any other information, please call toll-free 1- 800-826-PARK (7275). Just leave a message with your name and complete address and request for information.”
Fort Kearney State Recreation Area
As described on Nebraska Birding Trails, there is a “… Hike/Bike Trail … a mile east of the Fort and is a well maintained, handicapped-accessible trail across the Platte River on a former railroad bridge. It provides an excellent view of the river and the woods along its banks and islands.” No length given.
Indian Cave State Park Brochure The superintendent at the Park, Kevin Holliday, writes that although the park’s location on the Missouri river bluffs makes most of the trails very strenuous, they “do have easier and more flat trails within the park. Our scenic wetland trail is mostly flat and also a couple woodland trails are less strenuous than most others. The park has maintained concrete roads that you can travel throughout the park and experience what the park has to offer.” Call 402-883-2575 for information.
Pawnee State Recreation Area has 2544 acres of which 740 are the lake.
There are six miles of trails. Kristi replied to my inquiry that, “The trails at Pawnee SRA for the most part are good for guests of all ages. The trails are not wheel chair accessible.” Call 402-796-2362 to learn more.
Ponca State Park Reviewed on AllTrails.com Described on StateParks.com
There is a “paved hike/bike trail at the park that is easy and wheelchair accessible. It is a 1 mile trail that starts at the Missouri National Recreational River Resource and Education Center within the park.” Thank you, Jessica, Outdoor Educator at Ponca SP.
Nebraska State Park Trails This is a list of all the trails in the state parks with lengths, but not difficulty ratings.
Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area NE Game & Parks 308-436-3777
From “Oh Ranger”: “More than three miles of nature trails wind through the canyons and rocky bluffs, with four main trailheads and foot bridges on three trails. The primary trail is located below the large shelterhouse and is accessible to hikers of all ages and abilities.”
Pioneers Park Nature Center has “eight miles of hiking trails [that] wind through various habitats and take visitors past non-releasable raptor exhibits, as well as bison, elk, and white-tailed deer herds.” Trail map The website does not give accessibility information, so call them at 402-441-7895.
Omaha has trail system of more than 85 miles of paved, interconnected trails. The system is also accessible to people with disabilities.
Keystone Trail is 24 miles long and “….passes through parks, farmland, residential and industrial areas.”
West Papio Trail is 16 miles of concrete path that “winds along the West Papio Creek, through a number of neighborhoods, parks and recreation areas such as Zorinskly Lake.”
The Riverfront Trail is in three sections totalling 20.1 miles
Crane Trust Nature Center on the south side of the Alda interchange on I80, near Grand Island, has prairie, river-edge and riparian forest trails. A trail from building over the pedestrian bridges to the edge of the prairie is handicapped accessible. Call 308-382-1820 for information.
Fontenelle Forest 1,400 acres near Bellevue. Trail Map
Giford Memorial Boardwalk is a 3/8 mile path leading to an observation tower overlooking the Great Marsh.
Riverview Boardwalk is a one mile loop from the Nature Center.
Rowe Sanctuary is “dedicated to the conservation of sandhill cranes, whooping cranes and other migratory birds, and their habitat along the Platte River in southcentral Nebraska.”
According to Office Manager Kent Skaggs, “We do have one trail that is approximately 1/2 mile in length that would be easy for elderly walkers. However, it does not have a surface of any type (just a mowed path) and probably wouldn’t be appropriate for most wheelchairs. We do have one wheelchair accessible viewing blind along this trail, but we typically transport individuals via a golf cart to the blind during the time period we conduct viewings to see the sandhill cranes (March – early April).”
Cowboy Recreation and Nature Trail is a 195 mile trail/trail between Valentine and Norfolk. Plans are to continue it west another 126 miles to Chadron. I’ve been told that the part to Valentine is wheelchair accessible. However there is some flood damage near Clearwater. More information about the trail Kirk Nelson of Nebraska Game and Parks Commission writes that, “The best locations for wheelchair use of the trail is in the towns and villages along the way which include Norfolk, Neligh, O’Neil, Bassett, Ainsworth and Valentine. There are accessible toilets in Norfolk, O’Neil and Valentine. Most of the trail outside the urban areas is rough being surfaced with crushed limestone verses concrete in most of the cities and villages.” He suggests that wheelchair users “…start in the towns and work your way out of town. That way [you] can “test drive” the crushed limestone surface and turn around if [you] have problems.” He says you will get into nature quickly after leaving the towns. It is a very rural trail. Nebraska Game and Parks phone number is 402-471-0641.
Nature For The Blind has a directory of Braille trails for almost every state in the US and for many other countries.
The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy lists wheelchair accessible trails in Nebraska.