Ruby's Winding Road
A Hundred-Mile View From Atop Scotts Bluff
We still receive the most peculiar looks from people when we mention our visit to Nebraska this past summer. Yes, Nebraska. Our trip to the state was amazing! There is no shortage of historically significant areas to stop and explore. After visiting Ashfall Fossil Beds Historical Park, Fort Robinson State Park and Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, we headed to Scotts Bluff National Monument.
Scotts Bluff National Monument is located in Gering, Nebraska. It's through these towering bluffs that the Oregon, California, and Mormon Pioneer Trails passed. The bluffs along the North Platte River rise high into the sky and served as both a natural marker and barrier for early travelers to the west.
The region near the bluffs was originally inhabited by Native American tribes including the Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Pawnee and Kiowa. In the early 1800s, fur traders and explorers made their way to the region. It was the start of a movement throughout the century that included missionaries, emigrants, and gold miners heading west. Eventually, pony riders as part of the Pony Express rushed through the bluffs in an effort to open communication to and from the west.
Just as they stood for travelers in the 1800s, the rugged rock bluffs were visible to us for miles and easily marked our path toward the area. Upon arriving at the monument, we stopped at the welcome booth and were asked by staff if we planned to drive the 1.6-mile Summit Road to the top of the bluff. After verifying that our vehicle was less than 25-feet long and no higher than 11.7 feet, we were allowed to proceed to the top. Summit Road requires traffic travel through sharp turns and bluff tunnels making the size requirement necessary. Trailers are not allowed on Summit Road.
There is parking and a few lookout areas once you reach the top of the bluff. Wear your sneakers for a short walk along paths to access different viewing areas. According to the National Park Service, one can see about 100 miles west from the summit on a clear day. The elevation is 4,659 feet or about 800 feet above the North Platte River. Reservations are not needed to drive Summit Road.
At the base of the bluff, the Visitor Center parking lot accommodates larger vehicles and trailers with ease. Shuttles to the summit are available seasonally and as staffing allows if your vehicle doesn't meet size requirements to travel Summit Road.
From outside the Visitor Center guests can view the stacked layers of siltstone, volcanic ash, sandstone and cap rock that make up Scotts Bluff. A wagon train display provides a unique prospective for what it might have been like for pioneers to pack all of their belongings inside 10- by 4-foot canvas-topped wagons pulled by oxen. Walking alongside these wagons on a journey westward with a family must have been grueling, as travelers endured harsh weather, disease, wild animals, and attacks.
Scotts Bluff National Monument has about four miles of hiking trails. The National Park Service encourages visitors to stay on the trails due to area wildlife; specifically, rattlesnakes. Dogs are allowed to walk the trails on a short leash.
There is a small museum inside the Visitor Center and a book/gift shop. Visit the National Park Service website at www.nps.gov for more information about Scotts Bluff and visiting hours.
If traveling by RV, the City of Gering manages the Robidoux RV Park at the base of Scotts Bluff National Monument. Full hook-ups are available and you can reserve a site by visiting the city website. Our campsite included a concrete pad and landscaping, as well as a perfect view of the bluffs.
While visiting the area, take a short 20-minute drive to Chimney Rock National Monument. It's another natural landmark that served as a marker for early travelers. Chimney Rock is located in Bayard, Nebraska along County Road 75. Chimney Rock is a designated National Historic Site and is operated by History Nebraska. There is an admission fee to visit the museum. You can learn about Chimney Rock by visiting www.history.nebraska.gov/rock.
Nebraska is a great place to take an RV road trip adventure. We are glad we took the time to look around, stop and stay for bit.
Thanks for reading our blog and tap the heart icon at the bottom of the article if you enjoyed reading about our visit to Scotts Bluff National Monument and Chimney Rock National Monument. If you would like to receive an e-mail notification when we post new blogs, sign up using the form at the bottom of the page. It's completely free. Check out our other blog posts at RubysWindingRoad.com. In the meantime, we'll be out wandering.