Aerial view of a highway and bridge over the Dismal River in the Nebraska Sandhills near Thedford. Image credit marekuliasz via Shutterstock.

7 Most Scenic Road Trips To Take In Nebraska

Nebraska sits along the Great Plains which stretches for miles and miles and is accompanied by natural rock formations, towering dunes, and encapsulating scenic spots. While there are plenty of small towns and charming cities scattered throughout Nebraska, it is a state worth driving through in hopes of catching a glimpse of the diverse beauty it has to offer. Enjoy a scenic road trip along the expansive byways of Nebraska, taking in the excitement of city life, charm of the small towns, and plentiful outdoor adventures in between each stop. From the lush green rolling hills along the Colorado and South Dakota state lines to the breathtaking views of the Nebraska Sandhills, there is something for everyone on these scenic road trips.

Gold Rush Byway

Carhenge - famous car sculpture created by Jim Reinders, a modern replica of England's Stonehenge using old cars.
Carhenge car sculptures along Gold Rush Byway. Image credit marekuliasz via Shutterstock.

The Gold Rush Scenic Byway is the Nebraskan portion of the U.S. Highway 385, which runs 131 miles along the Colorado and North Dakota state lines. The byway commemorates the 1874 discovery of gold in the Black Hills. Once a passageway for $200,000 worth of gold, the route is both historic and scenic, traversing through a diverse landscapes of vast valleys, rolling green hills, towering buttes, and forested canyons.

The small town of Chadron is an inviting stop, home to historic buildings, the Museum of the Fur Trade, live local music along its charming main street, and plenty of bed and breakfasts, eateries, and local shops. Chadron State Park is also worth a visit, ideal for hiking, biking, and outdoor exploration. Along the way, discover the fascinating roadside attraction of Carhenge, a Stonehenge replica, built by Jim Reinders using 39 vintage cars as a tribute to his father.

Heritage Highway

Aerial view of the Missouri River downstream of Brownville, Nebraska
Aerial view of the Missouri River downstream of Brownville, Nebraska. Image credit marekuliasz via Shutterstock.

Heritage Highway runs 238 miles through 10 Nebraska counties which are chockfull of towns that document the rich history of the state and its people. The trek starts in historic Brownville, which offers a rich and interesting downtown area featuring boutiques, galleries, and tasty treats. Make sure to check out the Whiskey Run Creek Vineyard & Winery for refreshments, and the cozy River Inn Resort.

The byway also runs along the Missouri River, where visitors can enjoy all kinds of water sports, ranging from swimming to fishing and boating. Once in Fairbury, be sure to visit the Rock Creek Station State Historical Park, featuring prairie hilltops glistening creeks, and historic ruts carved by wagons that once traveled through the area.

Bridges to Buttes Highway

The unusual formations at Toadstool Geologic Park in Nebraska.
The unusual formations at Toadstool Geologic Park in Nebraska. Image credit Philip Eckerberg via Shutterstock.

Traversing 197 miles along U.S highway 20, the Bridges to Buttes Highway reaches from the Wyoming border to the bridges of Valentine. The route begins in Crawford, which is home to one of the greatest wonders of the west: Toadstool Geologic Park, where there is an endless collection of breathtaking natural rock formations, some of which resemble mushrooms. Fort Robinson State Park is a great place to set up camp for the night to enjoy the star-filled skies, scenic views, and exciting hiking trails. Drive through charming towns such as Hay Springs, Rushville, Gordon, Merriman, and Nenzel and experience the history and quaint atmosphere they each have to offer. End the trip in Valentine, home to the Cowboy Trail, which includes a large bridge with a picturesque view of the surrounding scenery.

Western Trails Scenic Byway

Outlet from the Kingsley Hydro Plant power generation facility at Kingsley dam, lake McConaughy on the north Platte river near Ogallala, Nebraska
Lake McConaughy on the north Platte River near Ogallala, Nebraska. Image credit Bob Pool via Shutterstock.

Stretching 144 miles from the Wyoming border to Ogallala, the Western Trails Scenic Byway is surrounded by towering bluffs and natural stone structures, as well as forests of breathtaking pine trees. Because of its placement in the great outdoors complete with hiking spots, camping sites, and sparkling lakes scattered all across the area, it is the ideal road trip for an outdoor adventurist.

Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area is one popular stop, boasting views of the rocky bluffs, canyons, and valleys. Chimney Rock National Historic Site is another must-see, home to a rock formation that naturally points upwards, some say it is "towering to the heavens." Lake McConaughy and Lake Ogallala sit near the end of the road, sharing a peaceful and scenic atmosphere, ideal for a relaxing end to the trip.

Outlaw Trail Scenic Byway

Perspective of Nebraska Highway 12, also known as Outlaw Trail Scenic Byway, with wind turbine (left), smoke rising from a house fire in the town of Springview, and mirage of water across pavement
Perspective of Nebraska Highway 12. Image credit Ken Schulze via Shutterstock.

Outlaw Trail Scenic Byway, also known as Nebraska Highway 12, runs 231 miles from South Sioux City to the town of Valentine and travels parallel to the Missouri and Niobrara Rivers. It also goes through the Devil's Nest, a collection of deep canyons with heavy tree coverage, which has housed a number of gangs and outlaws from the past, including Jesse and Frank James Gang, Doc Middleton, and James Jameson. Today, however, it is a more laid-back and adventurous road, full of lush green foliage, valleys, and dunes. While on the drive, enjoy a visit to Lewis and Clark Lake or Smith Falls State Park, and revel in the sparkling waters and naturally inviting atmosphere. The end of the route intersects with the Bridges to Buttes Highway, making for an exhilarating and lengthy trip, should you choose to continue.

Loup Rivers Scenic Byway

Aerial image taken by drone of the meander of the Loup river in Nebraska, United States
Aerial image of the Loup River in Nebraska. Image credit Zeppelin82 via Shutterstock.

The Loup Rivers Scenic Byway runs 151 miles along the North, Middle, and South Loup Rivers within the Loup Basin and ends at the foothills of the Nebraska State Forest. The area is well known for its farmland landscape, consisting of red barns, silos, and grazing farm animals. The Danish capital of Dannebrog is one of the most popular stops along the way, home to an authentic Danish bakery, a Christmas festival, and the Danish Grundlov Fest festival. The Calamus Reservoir State Recreation Area is a great spot to stop and camp, as well as canoe or kayak along the Calamus River. Near the end of the road, Happy Jack Peak and Chalk Mine is an explorer's delight, including 6,000 square feet of honeycomb caves waiting to be explored!

Sandhills Journey National Scenic Byway

Migratory Sandhill Cranes fly over a cornfield in Grand Island as part of their spring migration
Migratory Sandhill Cranes fly over a cornfield in Grand Island. Image credit Joseph Sohm via Shutterstock.

The Sandhills Journey National Scenic Byway runs 272 miles from Grand Island to Alliance, covering rural sections of Nebraska in its path, including the Nebraska National Forest and the sand dunes of the state. Broken Bow is a quiet and relaxing stop along the route, housing unique spots such as the Custer County Historical Museum, Kinkaider Brewing Co., and Arrow Hotel. The Carnegie Arts Center is a great stop along the route, with options for travelers to paint their own work of art or admire that of others. Enjoy the great outdoors in Victoria Springs State Recreation Area, featuring warm and inviting mineral springs, as well as opportunities for paddle boating, camping, and endless exploration. 


These scenic road trips through Nebraska boast a glimpse into the gorgeous and diverse landscape of the state, but they also each contain their own rich and intriguing history. After a drive along one of these enticing byways, there is no doubt that another will make its way into future travel plans! From the vast and inviting campsites to the charming bed and breakfasts, there is somewhere to stop and soak in the beauty of each location while meandering through the great state of Nebraska!


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