Nebraska's First-Ever State Park Has Everything An Outdoor Lover Could Possibly Want

For those of us who work in an office all day, the weekends (and the summer) mean it's time to get outside and touch some grass. There is just something about being out in nature all day that rejuvenates the soul and calms the nerves. There are 6,972 state parks in the United States that preserve land, water, flora, and fauna, and they cover terrain of almost every kind. If being surrounded by lovely Ponderosa pines and soaring buttes, camping, watersports, and endless activities sound like the perfect trip, you should take some time to visit Chadron State Park in northwestern Nebraska. Around 9 miles south of the city of Chadron in the middle of the Nebraska National Forest, the park sits at an elevation of 5,000 feet above sea level. (Though that's not quite high enough for altitude sickness, keep these essential safety tips in mind, just in case.)

Chadron State Park was established in 1921 as the first state park in Nebraska. With 972 acres of outdoor space, the park has pretty much everything you could want in an outdoor adventure. There is swimming, fishing, several types of camping, a lagoon, a pool, 100 miles of trails for hiking and biking, archery, volleyball courts, and so much more. Here's all the information you need to know before you go to Chadron State Park in Nebraska. 

Camping and sports

Chadron State Park, in Nebraska's Pine Ridge, is great for camping. There are sites with electric hook-ups as well as tent sites. There are showers, a dump station, picnic tables, grills, a playground, and laundry, which might not sound like fun but is necessary if you're really doing the outdoors right. You can reserve a site on Reserve America up to a year in advance or first come, first served on the day. If you want something a little more cushy, there are 22 cabins for rent, and they've got everything you need. The cabins are equipped with heat and air conditioning, blankets, towels, stoves, silverware and cooking utensils, and a fridge. There is a convenient campground map and a cabin map to help you find the perfect site. If you're a tent fan, here are some simple tips to help you put it up faster

From Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, you can access the park's trading post, where there is a craft center, a snack bar, and a gift shop. You can even try your hand at hatchet-throwing if you're feeling brave. At the park's shooting sports complex, you can give archery a shot (pun always intended), tomahawk-throwing, and pellet gun-shooting for around $5 or less per person. 

Watersports at the park

Chadron State Park requires a park permit, which you can get as a day or yearly pass, and it gets you a lot of activities. You can take boats (without motors) like canoes and kayaks, or rent paddle boats at the trading post in the summer for the park's 100-acre lagoon. If you love fishing (and you have your Nebraska fishing permit), you'll find the lagoon and Chadron Creek stocked with trout. You can also potentially reel in largemouth bass and bluegill. If you plan on fishing at the park in the winter, here's some lifesaving advice for cold-water boating. If you feel like swimming, there is a public pool at the park with lifeguards on duty. It's open from Memorial Day through Labor Day, though hours are reduced in August. There are even swimming lessons and water aerobics at the pool. 

Chadron State Park also has volleyball and tennis courts, a softball field, a disc golf course, a winter sledding hill, and even horseshoe pits. If you want to travelerblog the park on a horse, Chadron offers guided horseback riding tours during the late spring and summer. There are over 100 miles of multi-use paths for hiking, horseback riding, and biking, though you have to bring your own bicycle because there are no bike rentals in the park. If you're an expert bicyclist, make sure to check out the single-track trail system. This isn't for the faint of heart, as it has sharp turns and hills.