Experience the calm of America’s heartland in this quiet Midwestern state.
Smack in the heart of the Midwest, Nebraska is characterized by large expanses of prairie, massive lakes and reservoirs, and more than its fair share of unusual rock formations. It’s a great place to head if you want to feel like nobody else is around you, as most of the Nebraska population is concentrated in cities such as Omaha and Lincoln. While the many state parks and recreational areas certainly draw crowds on summer weekends, Nebraska has a certain stillness about it that attracts those seeking a quiet camping experience.
Northwestern Nebraska's sparsely populated panhandle is home to a mix of wide-open expanses of grasslands and unusual geologic features, a couple of which—namely Scotts Bluff and Agate Fossil Beds—have been preserved as national monuments by the National Park Service. Popular camping areas include Chadron State Park and Toadstool Geologic Park, which gets its name for its mushroom-shaped rock formations.
Central Nebraska is characterized by a mix of expansive grasslands and pioneer-era sites, with plenty of ways to experience the great outdoors. The Sandhills area is home to the Niobara National Scenic River, a popular spot to kayak and innertube in the hot summer months. Other highlights include the Massacre Canyon Monument, which marks the site of a battle between the Sioux and Pawnee people. Many of the region’s lakes and reservoirs also have campgrounds, including the adjacent Lake McConaughy and Lake Ogallala State Recreation Areas, as well as the Victoria Springs State Recreation Area and Medicine Creek State Recreation Area.
Much of Nebraska's best camping is in the northeastern corner of the state, owing largely to its proximity to the Missouri River—Indian Cave State Park is a particularly fun spot to explore. Birders should check out DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, which provides a rest area for ducks and geese during their fall migration. Eastern Nebraska is also a great place to learn about the Indigenous people of the region, particularly in Niobrara, home to the Ponca Tribal Museum and the Ponca Educational Trail and Earthlodge. Ponca State Park’s developed and primitive camping make for great boating, swimming, and wildlife spotting.
Nebraska's closest thing to a big city, Omaha offers a mix of indoor and outdoor attractions, from the botanical displays and natural areas at the Lauritzen Gardens to the Joslyn Art Museum, which features works from the likes of Titian and Renoir. Omaha is also a good base for getting to state parks along the Platte River, including Mahoney State Park and Platte River State Park.