Every 4th of July we aim to spend the holiday in Western Nebraska visiting my grandmother. This year was one for the books though as we took our first adventure as a family of five in our Braxton Creek teardrop trailer. We spent three nights in the area, each at a new location, and one epic stay at a Harvest Host, Papa Moon Winery. We love spending the fourth in my grandma’s small town in Western Nebraska. Before we left on our last day we wanted to hike the Scottsbluff National Monument in Scottsbluff, NE.
We got going a little late for a hot hike on July 5th in Western Nebraska. I believe we arrived at the trailhead at about 11 AM. The getting there was easy! It is right outside of town and parking with our little rig was simple (they even have designated pull-through RV parking). If you are going with a group and you have kids, we recommend dropping one car at the top so you can shuttle back down to the bottom.
As a disclaimer, all of the hikes we recommend are something a 3 year old could do themselves or have a parent easily carry them on their shoulders. For this one, our 3-almost-4 year old and 5 year old did great, but did need to be carried about 1/3 of the way because of the heat. The one-year-old rode in the backpack carrier for the whole trip.
It starts out on flat, prairie land terrain. Then the trail moves along the side of the rock face and it slowly starts creeping up, getting gradually steeper. The climb along the rock face is where we really started to feel the July heat. Apparently, Western Nebraska is technically a desert. And let me tell you, the sun beats down against that sandstone and it just radiates heat. About two-thirds of the way up, there is a tunnel through the rock.
This is the place to take a long break. The views are incredible and the wind whistles through the tunnel and cools you off completely. You can see for miles from this spot. Here, you really take in the fact that you are in the middle of a desert and feel the appreciation for shade and wind. The hike from the trailhead to the tunnel took us about 25 minutes.
After the tunnel, the hike becomes a little rockier and less hiking path. This part was the only time I really had any concern for the kids on the trail. There are some steep drop-offs and less sure-footing. However, they were carried for most of this last 1/3 on shoulders. Even with hiking themselves, my worry wasn’t great, just be aware of the path change and keep an eye on them. The places for drop-offs are short though and soon you start working into the center of the bluff, heading to the upper parking lot. The hike from the tunnel to the parking lot was about 20 minutes for us.
The top of the bluff has evergreen trees, shade, and wind. It was definitely easier to cool off at the top when you weren’t against the sandstone rock face. From the parking lot there are big viewfinders and some history on the area. Many people chose to just drive to the top and get out for the views. We would definitely recommend this if you aren’t up for the hike.
Overall, this hike took us 45 minutes and we absolutely loved it. Yes, it was hot. Yes, we probably should have started at 7:00 instead of 11:00. Yes we did sweat a ton. But the kids loved it, they loved accomplishing something that was difficult. And we loved it. We left feeling so content and pleased with the whole experience.
We also definitely felt we earned our treats from Sonic in Scottsbluff afterwards.