If you are looking for a day trip that includes beautiful scenery, activities, and history—pack some water, lunch, and hiking shoes and visit Indian Cave State Park.
Located in the southeast corner of Nebraska, it is just under two hours away from Omaha. We have done camping trips and day trips to the park, and each time offers a fun and active trip for the family.
The most unique part of this park is the large sandstone cave.
On the walls, you can view ancient Native American petroglyphs, of which the origins remain mostly a mystery. If you want to make the trip to see the cave, make sure to check the website before you go to make sure you will have access to the viewing, because the steps to the cave are frequently closed due to heavy rainfall.
There are many other things to explore at the park as well, from 22 miles of biking or hiking trails, guided horseback rides on the 16 miles of equestrian trails, living history events, Christmas sleigh rides, hayrack rides in spring and fall, and river access for boating. For camping, you can take your camper if you have one, or if you are like us, you can pitch a tent for primitive camping along their scenic hills. If you are feeling particularly daring, you can even set up a tent on a campsite right next to the old St. Deroin cemetery, which along with possible hauntings, also has one of the most beautiful horizon views in the park.
Last fall when we camped, we visited the old ghost town of St. Deroin (which has a restored schoolhouse and general store), hiked many trails, and went around the park making stops along the way to read about the history and take in the breathtaking views.
Indian Cave State Park is by far one of my favorite spots for primitive camping near Omaha.
Although it can get crowded, there are many campsites available, and they are spaced out in a way that you are not crowded next to other campers. The park is very clean, and there are outhouses close to most campsites. You do need to come prepared with supplies because there are not many restaurants or stores anywhere near the park.
The park has a rich history, including its own town history, Native American roots, and it is part of the Lewis and Clark trail. During the summer and fall, they have living history weekends. We have never made it to one of these, but it is on my list of things to do here.
We love to hike at the park because of the beautiful nature and views.
If you hike as a family, keep in mind that this area has a lot of wildlife. We always make sure our children and pets stay on the trails and wear closed-toed shoes, and preferably pants. There are many beautiful birds and wildflowers all around the park, so binoculars and cameras are a must. In the fall, my kids love to spot the brightly colored trees and hunt for colored leaves on the ground. At night, we love to gaze at the stars on clear nights and listen to the owls hooting and coyotes howling.
If you are itching to get out of the house without having to plan a huge vacation for the family, Indian Cave State Park is a great option. You can adapt the trip according to your family’s desires, whether it be hiking, boating, picnicking, bicycling, horseback riding, or just sitting and taking in a view, you can have a relaxing day in nature while soaking in a little history.
For more information about the park, visit their website.