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Chadron State Park

Distance1.28 mi
Elevation Gain200 ft
My Time33 min

Chadron State Park

On my way home from Mount Rushmore, we decided to make a little side trip to northwest Nebraska. I haven’t spent much time in Nebraska and wanted to see what it had to offer. I settled on Chadron State Park, in the town of Chadron, Nebraska and just under 2 hours from Mount Rushmore.

Chadron State Park seemed to have a little bit of everything available. There were cabins and campsites, an archery range, swimming pool, horseback riding and a fishing hole that I saw. After a short drive through the park, made longer by listening to the GPS that decided a scenic tour of the campsites was necessary, The FMLT team arrived at the parking pull off for the Steamboat Trail.

Steamboat Trail

The first thing I noticed about the Steamboat Trail was…Grass!!! Holy cow, after hiking the rocky sandy trails of Colorado was this really soft grass to walk on…careful what I wish for but more on that later.

A grassy trail leads up the middle of a hill.  Tall trees line either side of the trail in a scattered pattern.

So I decided to go counterclockwise on the trail but it turned out to be a pretty short loop and you could go either way. The Steamboat is very much a nice nature walk to begin with. The grass has a pretty gentle incline through a field with trees and wildflowers and it is really a nice, somewhat easy walk. About half a mile into the hike you come to a meadow. There is a total of around 225 feet of elevation gain and I would say about 80% of that is getting to this cool meadow.

At the top of the hill an open meadow with green grass just over ankle high.  Trees line the background of the picture at the edge of the meadown.

The Ridge

At the meadow, a quick u turn and you start heading up to a ridge that shows what I believe to be the entire park. There is also a pretty marked difference in the terrain. It becomes a much more rocky trail with a mix of loose dirt and sand.

A sandy trail leads ahead.  On the left the hill sharply slopes downward. To the right, a rocky wall feature stands about 11 feet above the trail.

Now this is the most important thing I will probably tell you on this blog. DON”T BE LIKE ME! What I mean by that is don’t fall for the nice soft grass that you can see from the parking area and not put your hiking boots on. While the regular gym shoes were fine for the grassy area’s, I really wish I had worn the boots when I got to this more rocky section.

A couple of the times on the walk down the ground tried to slip out from under me. I really wish I had a bit more traction from my boots. Luckily for me there are plenty of cactus and plants whose name should be “angry needle pointy bushes” to grab if you start to slip. Not saying that is what happened. So after picking quills out of my right hand and wiping the blood off I continued.

The Best View

The view from the top was of a panoramic of the entire park. It really reminded me of a cross between two worlds. There was the soft green grass that I think of in the Midwest and the grey rocky outcrops that I am used to on the Front Range of Colorado. It was really beautiful to see the two landscapes combine like this in the same park.

From the top of the trail there is a panoramic view of the entire park.  A rocky wall stretches ahead like a snake across the top of the hill.  In the distance there are rocky high points with trees throughout.

The trail itself is just over a mile and quarter but it was the best of both worlds. I had a nice walk through a grassy trail, a meadow, some more challenging rocky landscape. There was a nice panoramic, plants trying to kill me, and a it ended in another walk through the woods. Road trips can get a bit monotonous and this stop was needed to refuel my mind and body. It only took me a little over a half an hour to finish this hike. If I had more time I probably would have explored more of the park but for the time I had Steamboat Trail gave me everything I needed and more.

Elevation and Distance

If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around 1.3 miles and had a total elevation gain of 200 feet.

I am a Pro member of AllTrails and love it. If you are interested in the platform, please consider using my affiliate link for AllTrails. It gives me a small commission with no extra cost to you.

If you have a suggestion for a hike that you would like me to try, feel free to email me at or you can follow me on the below social media platforms. I have also added this hike and all the hikes to the interactive map that you can find here.

Here are some more pictures from the trail.

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