It would be a long ten + hours to reach my next destination on day two of my road trip. Yet it was an enjoyable drive through the hilly prairies of Nebraska. The wide open spaces are stark, but beautiful even to an Indiana girl who loves her trees.
I stayed with my Son and Daughter-in-law at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument. He works here as a Park Ranger. Agate is north of Scotts Bluff about 40 minutes. It sits in the Niobrara river valley. There is a mix of mammal fossils, Indian artifacts and great views. Great visitor’s center and nice trails. Bring your binoculars as there is great bird watching.
The next day we visited Scotts Bluff National Monument.
It is a beautiful place. The bluffs are the main attraction here, but also of importance is the Oregon trail that went right by here. You can still see the furrow left by the wagons.
You can drive to the top of the bluffs going through two tunnels on the way. On the top, trails lead to beautiful lookout points. If you prefer, shuttles will take you up.
There are a few trails. One comes down off the bluffs and winds through a tunnel. But for lack of time, we didn’t get to do this.
There is a nice Visitor’s Center with a nice gift shop.
Our next day’s adventure was at Rocky Mountain National Park. It truly was an adventure. None of us ever been, so we were quite excited. And wow, I can truly say it was way beyond our expectations.
We were staying two days. I rented a cabin from Airbnb. And let me just say here that this was spot on! Best decision I made for our stay.
Our first day we drove down the Old Fall River road. This is a gravel road through the valley with sharp switchbacks, steep climbs and amazing views of the mountains. I was driving my Buick Lucerne, so I read plenty of reviews to make sure I wasn’t endangering my car. The reviews were encouraging, but I still entered the narrow gravel road a little uneasy at what was ahead. You see, there is no turning around once you enter.
My fears were in vain, as I had no trouble. Only once did I scrape bottom around a switchback. There were plenty of places to pull over and enjoy the views. A lovely waterfall was close by the road at one pull-off. Another place we wandered down in a meadow and enjoyed a walk beside a creek.
The climb out of the valley was something else. It all opens up and you are on top of the mountain. What amazing, drop dead views we laid our eyes on. The road ends at the Alpine Visitor’s Center. It literally sits at the top of the mountain. There’s a cafe also.
Absolutely, go down the Old Fall River road. You’ll not regret it.
We continued down the west side of the park and stopped for a picnic. Here was a trail that led to a lake and beyond a lovely meadow. It was a great hike to end our day.
On day two we stopped at the Grand Lake Visitor’s center. Our cabin was near Grand lake. There are two lakes located here and both are sparkling blue with the mountains encircling them. There are hiking trails here, but we lacked time to explore. The visitor’s centers (There are four) have plenty of guide books and trail maps to assist you. The Rangers are helpful to answer questions.
On our way back up north we stopped at the Colorado river valley and hiked a trail that led to a historic ranch. The river is the size of a creek here.
Once we passed the Alpine Visitor’s center we continued down the Trail Ridge road. Now remember, I was a little nervous about the gravel road. Well this road was on steroids compared to that! This is the highest road in the US. We’re above 10,000 feet, no guardrails, just sheer cliffs.
My Son is afraid of heights and was starting to freak out. It creeped me out too. I tried to keep my eyes on a road that just seemed not to be wide enough. We rallied though and enjoyed the views at the pull offs. We hiked the Alpine trail up to 12,000 feet and was blown away at the mountain top panoramas.
As you can surely tell, I loved this park. It would be at the top of my must see, I have to go back list. Two days isn’t enough. We didn’t have time to explore the east side of the park. I highly recommend going. You will not regret it. Be forewarned though...you will feel the altitude. It kicked my butt. I was gasping for air a few times.
I will never forget this road trip. I’ll be thinking about it all winter. There are links at the bottom for other places you can visit in the Nebraska Panhandle area.
Get out there and explore!