The area around Valentine, Nebraska comes alive during summertime. The rivers are flowing, the
landscape is thriving, and the people are smiling. With the warmer weather comes a seemingly
endless array of possibilities for outdoor adventures. So we compiled seven of our favorites to help
narrow it down.
Here are seven adventurous activities to do during summertime in Valentine, Nebraska.
Float the Niobrara River
Surrounded by sandstone cliffs, pine-tree-covered hills, riverside campsites, and hundreds of unique
waterfalls, it’s no surprise the Niobrara River attracts thousands of tourists each summer.
Whether you enjoy canoeing, kayaking, or tubing, the river is perfect for adventurers and chillaxers
alike. The river itself is wide and holds hundreds of pools deep enough for a cooling swim —
necessary from time to time to escape the bright sun. And with multiple local rental companies
available to accommodate, your trip can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.
In short, the Niobrara is an absolute must.
Smith Falls State Park
At a height of nearly 70 feet, Smith Falls stands as the tallest waterfall in Nebraska. The famous waterfall is reached only via a beautiful, moderate hiking trail, which can be accessed from a campsite sitting beside the Niobrara River. Whether you’re floating, camping, or driving, you’ll have no problem finding this scenic State Park. And find it, you better.
Once an old rail line built in the 1870s, the Cowboy Trail now exists as the longest “rails-to-trails” trail in the world. While it’s still being developed from abandoned railway to limestone trail, the route currently stretches approximately 195 miles from Norfolk to Valentine. Apart from the cool history of Wild West train travel, the trail provides expansive views of the Sandhills and a wide range of wildlife to hikers, bikers, and horseback riders. Near the end of the Cowboy Trail in Valentine, be sure to check out the view of the Niobrara River Valley from 150 feet above at the famous trestle bridge.
The Prairie Club
Just 17 miles south of Valentine sits one of the top golf resorts in the world — without the usual sophistication associated with such places. As a semi-private destination, The Prairie Club offers world-class golf and lodging to its members and the public. With two of the Top 100 Public Golf Courses in America and a 10-hole short course modeled after the basketball game, “HORSE,” the links are perfectly situated on top of the Nebraska Sandhills and the Snake River Canyon. Find yourself there some evening enjoying a Nebraska ribeye while watching the sun set over the canyon, and you may be able to witness a Scottish bagpiper playing his pipes on the 18th green — reminiscent of the Old World golf design that exists here. The remoteness of this destination is one that can’t be beat. Definitely a place worthy of a pilgrimage.
Speaking of remote locations, this central land of America is famous for its incredible visibility of the Milky Way. Whether you’re an astronomer, photographer, or simply a wonderer of the universe, you’re sure to lose yourself gazing upon these bright night skies. While the stargazing is amazing all around Valentine, the Merritt Reservoir’s Snake Campground (30 miles south of Valentine) offers one of the best locations. Every year, this campground holds the annual Nebraska Star Party toward the end of July.
The Merritt Reservoir expands over 3,000 acres and holds some of the biggest trophy fish in Nebraska. While best-known for its walleye fishing, the lake also holds largemouth and smallmouth bass, perch, crappie, bluegill, and northern pike. The Reservoir offers more than just fishing, though. With sandy beaches and pure, clear water, the lake is great for boaters, swimmers, and beach-goers. A trip to the reservoir is often a necessity during the peak of the hot Nebraska summers.
Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge
Just a few miles south of Valentine, the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge protects a variety of plant and wildlife. Once an active military fort from 1879—1906, the land is now home to herds of bison and elk, as well as a host of other wildlife. The Refuge’s extensive trail system is perfect for those who desire to get outside and connect with nature. You’re sure to observe plenty of it along your route.
These seven iconic Nebraska summer activities will be sure to satisfy your craving for outdoor adventure. It’s
what we’re all about here in Valentine.