In the very heart of America lies Nebraska, an often-underrated state filled with possibilities. Vast, flat, endless prairies cover most of the state, but that doesn’t mean camping in Nebraska is lacking whatsoever. To the contrary, this “nice” state offers a wealth of activities–some of which you might not expect to find in a Midwestern state. After finding camping in Nebraska, you can also kayak and canoe, jet ski and windsurf, fish and hike.
Some of Nebraska’s most popular camping spots can be found near Lake McConaughy. As the largest reservoir in the state, this lake is a state recreation area that attracts thousands of visitors each year. Beautiful sand beaches line its shores, while the calm water invites you to come kayaking, jet skiing, and even scuba diving. In terms of camping in Nebraska, it doesn’t get much better than Lake McConaughy. Simply pitch your tent right on the beach and enjoy.
Nebraska also has its fair share of historic, archaeological, pioneer, and Native American sites. Consider camping near Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park or Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, both locations where you can easily pick up shark teeth and ancient fossils.
Another unbeatable attractions is Scotts Bluff National Monument. Home to marvelous rock formations high above the Platte River, the landmark is an important monument to Native Americans and settlers who have crossed the Oregon, California, and Mormon Trails. After appreciating the beauty of Scotts Bluff, make your way to Chimney Rock in Bayard. This remarkable rock spire is one of Nebraska’s main natural attractions and historical sites, having played an important role in both Native American and pioneering history.
There is no shortage of activities to enjoy in Nebraska. Lace up your boots for a hike at the Pine Ridge National Recreation Area, go boating on the beautiful Niobrara River, or drive the highlight-filled Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway. Camping in Nebraska is an experience different from any other, thanks to small crowds and big views.
Indian Cave State Park is over 3,000 acres nestled in the banks of the Missouri River in southeast Nebraska. It's relatively short hour-and-a-half drive south makes it both accessible and effective for a secluded getaway.
I arrived on a Saturday morning for a simple solo overnighter and the park did not disappoint. Pro tip: be sure to grab a map on the way in to see which camping spots are open. The trails are all open for hiking but only a few highlighted ones are open for overnight stays.
Fires are allowed only in the ring but with proper prep, that doesn't present a problem. Be aware that though there is plenty of fallen Deadwood, you will be hard pressed to find anything besides cottonwood. If you don't want to spend tons of time gathering fuel, bring in some hardwood for a lasting coal bank.
I stayed right along the river at the start of the river road that leads to the main attraction of the park, the Caves. The Caves is an important historic site with natural formations and ancient petroglyphs.
We stayed in the recently renovated Owen #4. The renovations really updated it and they need to update the pictures they have on the web, with what it looks like now. New appliances, new furniture, fixtures, new bunk beds, etc. The cabin was very clean and organized upon arrival. They supply most everything thing you need i.e. dishes, cookware, etc. The one thing it does need is a corkscrew! We forgot ours and went without the wine we brought for dinner. With that bombshell though, it was beyond worth the getaway. The winter hiking was fantastic and it was quiet except for the wildlife, but that is why we went out there!
This park is right of Highway 30 and if you are passing through and want power and water for a few days this should be your stop. unlike other city parks, this one has a burn pit.
I would assume that campers would have use of the shower facility at the pool, but if not, you could just spend a few bucks and swim all day and shower at the end.
Grocery store downtown had great steak prices and good price on ice.
We were hoping to camp here below Gavin's Point Dam and enjoy Lewis and Clark Lake, a very large lake on the Missouri on the SD/ NE border By Yankton. They had closed just before our arrival.
Looked very nice and I was told that pads w/ electricity were only $16.
Army Corps Campground with all the bells and whistles. It was closed when we went, but we will return. The interpretive center was very informative and Lewis and Clark Lake is huge with nice beaches and great fishing.
The ranger said that electric sites in season were only $16. That is less than the state parks at the lake. Yankton is nice but don't miss the Nebraska tribal museums.
This lake has a nice beach and play area, electric hookups, picnic tables, burn pits, and boat ramp and dock. The fishing looks to be good and we heard people hunting birds in the area also.
Very affordable at $10 a night RV sites, but there are some very secluded primitive spots right on the lake.
Wagon Train has some good primitive sites, a nice Beach, good fishing, and plenty to explore. Fishing is great and includes bluegill, channel catfish, crappie, freshwater drum, largemouth bass, muskellunge, redear sunfish, walleye and wiper which is about the largest variety you will find in a Nebraska lake.
A mile-long hiking and biking trail is also found in the park.
Stagecoach is a very popular lake south of Lincoln. Vault and flush toilets. Power and primitive camping.
The lake contains crappie, largemouth bass, and walleye.
This is a smaller, quieter, and less expensive option to the larger lakes north of Lincoln,
The village of Valparaiso allows camping at the city park at the trailhead to the Oak Creek trail. Camping is free and there are electric hookups and water at the park.
The village allows limited stay for free to those using the trail.
the park has charcoal pits and is close to the library where you can access wifi even after the library is closed.
Two convenient stores are close.
Campsites close to the lake and nice paved walking trail. Several options for camping include primitive for $10, power for $15, and full hookups for $20. Pay showers and flush toilets. Wildlife area south of town is right on the river and good for a quiet hike.
Nice playgrounds for the kids.
Schuyler has some of the best Mexican food in the state.
Smith Falls State Park in NE is a good stop over while floating on the river. An awesome waterfall to hike to and some interesting roads to drive in on. Not good for RV’s unless you have 4 wheel drive and a high clearance type camper. This is the typical basic campground. There was a group present on a float trip and I learned that this is the highest waterfall in NE, which just goes to show how flat the state is :) Seeiously though it is worth a look.
Park by the fairgrounds and ballpark. Small town with a cool looking putt-putt golf course.
Daily, weekly, and even monthly rates. RV dump and flush toilets. Showers at the pool can be used for free.
Electric Hook-ups. 3 sites with sewer hookups.
Snake River Area Campground near Valentine, NE is on the Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area.
Can you say sand! And fishing. The nice thing about this entire area is one: you don’t see much of the park employees, it’s pretty much all honor system based. Which means if you occupy an entire campground you can stay up as late or early as you want. You can also be as loud or quiet as you like too. Two: This is definitely a water based vacation. The reservoir offers plenty to do and the campground is shaded and did I mention sandy. Dark at night, like pitch black. Critters are around so secure your food. Picnic tables, pit toilets, fire pits and a trash receptacle.
There is the Niobrara River nearby which is the major attraction of the area for float trips. Valentine, NE has food and fuel plus events throughout the year.
Clean quiet lake by Prague a small Nebraska town with a great Bakery and fun festivals.
The camping is quiet and clean as were the toilets. I did not fish but was told the fishing was very good,
Nice playground, picnic tables, and charcoal grills. Clean restroom. Free tent camping. good fishing in the canal. Close to town yet far enough away.
Nice parks in town including a memorial to Andrew Jackson Higgins, the inventor of the Higgins landing craft,
Better park for a picnic than camping.
The campground has multiple hookups with gravel slabs, picnic tables, and firepits with grates. in addition, many have raised charcoal grills. A paved walking trail goes from the campground and connects to a system of trails. Vault toilet was clean and close.
The camp area was close to a heavily trafficked road but it caused little disturbance. the toilet had no doors making it a concern if you were to enter and discover someone in use and made it uneasy when you were using it yourself for the same reason.
Columbus has a lot going on including a large waterpark.
This camping area has open sites close to the edge of the lake. Electric hookups, toilets, and convenience store close by.
The lake is artificial and has steep metal walls like a reservoir, which was probably what it was. Next to the reservoir is a large wetland teaming with wildlife. There is a long paved trail that skirts the lake.
Columbus Nebraska has a lot going on including a rather mammoth waterpark.
At Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area near Valentine, NE you have some choices to make. There are Merritt Main, Willow Cove , Lone Tree, Cottonwood , Pines, Cedar Bay , Beeds and Board Campgrounds to choose from. Each has sites near the Reservoir or further back in the scrub that have fire rings and picnic tables. Some have electric options, showers and boatramps. All have at least a pit toilet and dumpster. (And sand)
The state employees were a little scarce when I visited and the weather was not real inviting. I decided to not float on the Reservoir due to the low temperatures, but it would seem that the Nebraskans are a little hardier and used to the cold temperatures then me because there were a few out on the water fishing.
This area would be ideal for a large group get together and out in the middle of nowhere so any noise shouldn’t be an issue. I heard coyotes and it was pitch black at night, had the sky been clear the stars would have been amazing.
Valentine, NE is nearby for resupply and entertainment and there are some other recreation areas that offer hiking and of course floating on the Niobrara River.
Merritt Reservoir Main Area Campground in Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area, NE is one of many camping options throughout the area.
This is the largest of the campgrounds in the State Recreation Area. There is a fish cleaning area nearby with camper dumpsite. A pit toilet and dumpster are available and each site has a fire ring and picnic table. In addition there is A LOT of sand;) If you are a fisherman this area is ideal for you! If your looking for hiking and land past times not so much.
About 30 minutes down the road is Valentine, NE for your food, fuel and supply needs. Otherwise this area is dark and quiet at night…..except for the wildlife of course.Bring your stargazing gear for additional entertainment and don’t forget lots of bug repellent:)
Worth Brothers Rec Area is located west off Highway 50 on 733 road on gravel. It is a primitive camping area - no hook ups. It has a few fire rings, and raised grills. There are picnic table and a covered group picnic shelter. There is drinking water, bathrooms, playground, archery, and a swimming beach. $5 a day or $15 for annual permit.
"Nebraska’s state wildlife management areas are open to… many activities, including hiking, bird watching, nature study, and primitive camping. Maps of WMAs may be found in the Public Access Atlas."
"Access to these lands is free, and no entry permit is necessary."
Primitive camping right along the beautiful Platte River just south of Schuyler, NE.
While hiking along the trail I came across a freshly killed deer. On my return I passed by again and saw the skin had been peeled back like a turtleneck shirt you are removing. I tried to think What animal would peel the skin of a deer??? So if you go there, keep a lookout for Bigfoot!
Electric sites by the highway near the park entrance, but don't overlook the 4 RV sites by the fishing pond. Cabins, primitive camping, hiking, and lovely scenery.
Campsite #43 is the only site with what I would call a view, but the view from there is excellent. The hiking was great. The area is pretty cool with Native American exhibits, the casino, and Lewis and Clark Lake nearby.
Though we loved the scenery and wanted to stay, the park had shut off all the water. We expected the $15 off-season price since there were no longer horse rides, pool or other activities but there were no showers or restrooms in the RV site. No water to wash dishes in!
The regular season is $20 a night but they are discussing raising that. Don't bother with the off-season.
Also, see my reviews of Crofton and Verdigre. Camping there is not as nice but they are close and more affordable.
It’s a nice campground especially since it’s MWR. Many full hook up sites and a very nice boat house with water toy rentals. We stayed off season and the self registration is easy. Only issue we had was determining which sites were the dry lower rate sites. The tent camping is even less identifiable. It is exposed to the elements and we actually broke camp at night due to high winds. I’d like to try this place again if we are in the area again.
This campground is mainly for Rvs. The campsites are full hook ups which are $20. The sites each have a picnic table, and fire pit. They are on pavement, level, and are kind of close together. There is a nice playground away from the sites along with a fenced in sand volleyball court. The park also has a frisbee golf course. The lake/pond has a paved sidewalk surrounding it with plenty of benches scattered to just rest or enjoy the lake and it's wildlife. You can hear the bull frogs, geese, and coyotes when the sun goes down. There is a train track behind the lake, and it seems to have a train every few hours that you can hear from your site. A couple of things that I noticed was the large number of vehicles coming through the campgrounds that were not staying hear. It was very busy and noisy. They also have 2 large fenced in dog runs for the pups.
A few years back we were told to come experience Halloween at Indian Cave State Park. I was skeptical, but once we went we were hooked and keep coming year after year. We even won the decorating contest last year-The prize is free camping, can't beat that. People come from all over to partake in this fun time. There is the decorating of the camp sites, pumpkin rolling, haunted hay rack rides, trick or treating for the young and old, and it's really an experience.
We stay in a site that is your basic State Park sites-Electric. In the campground there are vault toilets(not the cleanest, but by far not the worst). The bath house is a ways walk. There are lots of trails to wander through and lots of fun to be had.
We primary visit Lake Wanahoo for fishing as the large lake is well stocked. They provide tent and RV camping. However, there is almost no wind break or shade throughout the area. High winds or extreme temperatures can wreak havoc on overnight trips. That also makes privacy tough to come by. The facilities are all relatively new and clean.
This campground has seen huge improvements over the last decade. They now sport an impressive set of cabins and other facilities for the 21st century camper. Tent camping continues to be available and has better privacy than many sites throughout Nebraska. The park isn't far from a small town where you can easily get anything you might need for your trip. Explore some of the activites that staff hold weekly or go take a hike! There's also playgrounds and a pool for the kids.
This is a highly developed state park boasting an aquatic center, indoor gardens, zip lines, horseback riding, cabins and even a hotel on site. Popular for family reunions due to the amount of space and accessibility. There is a wonderful lookout tower that allows people to take in views of the Platte River. Nestled between two major cities in Nebraska, you're never far away from anything you may want to do or see. RV and tent camping is obviously available with limited privacy. This is also a great event venue with multiple large buildings available for reservations. This is not the 'roughing it' kind of camping, but rather a fun experience for the whole family.