Nebraska Camping Grounds: Guide to the Top 15 State Parks and Reservoirs

There is so much to unwind if you plan a vacation in America’s “Cornhusker” state, Nebraska. Visitors often have a minimal perception of the state and can hardly think of its cosmopolitan culture, cities, lifestyle and down-home cuisines. Mostly they can conjure up images of the prairies, farmlands and quirky sights. 

However, there is more to explore beyond this so-called defined horizon. Truth seekers are willing to invest their time to find out what makes this U.S. state beautiful, appealing, and different from others. 

Aside from city sophistication in Omaha, Nebraska can charm you with its best outdoor experiences. There is no wonder why people travel from far to enjoy camping in Nebraska. When in the camping state, you are spoiled for choices, from placing your tents near the tallgrasses and prairies to witnessing the rolling hills covered in tall pines. 

You will be overwhelmed to know about the wide variety of Nebraska campgrounds in the state. Let’s delve through this post to know about these stunning locations in detail. 

Top Listed Campgrounds in Nebraska

1. Chadron State Park, Chadron

Are you looking for a true sense of detachment from the fast-paced world? It’s time to take a deep breath and head towards Chadron State Park in Nebraska. You will find absolute tranquillity amidst the fresh mountain airs and tall pine trees.

Chadron State Park, Chadron

There is an option to rent cabins at the State Park, but why miss an opportunity of tent camping in Nebraska? After all, the modern campground is appealing with well-maintained facilities like electric hookups, showers, grills, laundry and playgrounds for kids. 

Families will definitely appreciate activities like horse riding, swimming in the pool, paddle boats, evening programs, and much more. For adventure junkies, the old roads available in the National Forest are ideal for mountain biking trails. 

2. Swanson Reservoir, Trenton

You can plan camping in Southwestern Nebraska with the Swanson Reservoir. This lovely spot beside the Republic River remains open from the beginnings of May to October.

The lake-side camping area is perfect for indulging in watersports activities and fun. You can swim along the cool waters of the lake or turn towards other pastimes like fishing or boating. Truly, Swanson provides the best camping in Nebraska with an enormous area consisting of 4,974-acre lakes and 3,957 acres of land.

Swanson Reservoir, Trenton 

You can easily pitch your tents on the sandy beach with several electrical hookups spread throughout the campgrounds. This experience simply doubles when you get a chance to detect various species like crappie, whalley, northern pike, white bass, black bass, wipers and channel catfish. 

3. Platte River State Park

If you happen to live in either Lincoln or Omaha and are keen on an adventure, camping along the Platte River on Nebraska’s eastern border with Iowa could be a great choice. The public recreation area expands over 400 acres of land, making it a popular site for camping in Nebraska State Parks. 

Additionally, the park is filled with many observational towers where you can climb and get a glimpse of the great plains for over a mile ahead. However, that’s not it, you can also enjoy a family brunch at the Scott Lodge Restaurant that welcomes its guests with a scenic view.

Platte River State Park

Besides enjoying the scenic beauty amidst the waterfalls, you can also enjoy hiking trails and explore the beauty of nature spread across the Platte River State Park. 

4. Box Butte Reservoir State Recreation Area, Hemingford

You shouldn’t be missing the mesmerizing camping site in the northwestern part of Nebraska. Nine miles north of the Hemingford town lies the Box Butte Reservoir State Recreation Area on the west edge of sandhills. It encompasses 2,122 acres of property with the 1,600-acre reservoir impounding on Niobrara River. 

You can delve deeper into the water or spend hours without hesitating as it permits free swimming. There are other recreational water activities to enjoy like fishing and electric boating. Moreover, there are exceptional opportunities for bird lovers to engage in some of the best bird-watching scenes.

Box Butte Reservoir State Recreation Area, Hemingford

Outdoor camping is real fun in Box Butte Reservoir, which has both modern and primitive facilities. 

5. Indian Cave State Park

It can be exciting camping in a Nebraska State Park covered amidst the wilderness of nature. The Indian Cave State Park is a pristine area with lush greenery having numerous trees, shrubs, and other flora. It enthralls you in the breathtaking vistas of the Missouri Rivers with plenty of trails to explore for nature enthusiasts.

The autumns look spectacular with their fall foliage, especially if you plan a trip in October. You can even engage in hiking and biking scenes in the State Park to boost your adrenaline. The affair becomes more thrilling when you hike through the eerie ghost town of St. Derion.

Indian Cave State Park

It’s the beginning; there are a host of other activities to look forward to, like horse riding, boat, ramp, RV camping, skiing, and sledding in winters, etc. 

6. Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, Ashland

Your search for modern camping grounds is over when you backpack for Eugene T. Mahoney State Park. It’s a remarkable place for camping in Lincoln, Nebraska, near Ashland on the Platte River. This place won’t disappoint you as it permits seasonal activities with water park boat rides in summer and ice skating rinks in winter. 

You can get around with dozens of fun-filled water sports and entertainments like swimming pools, water slides, tubing, fishing, etc. There are options for both natural and horseback trails that take to observational towers with mesmerizing views.

Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, Ashland

Mahoney also got you covered with all sorts of latest facilities, including RV hookups, shady tent sites, rented cabins, art and crafts, local astronomy clubs, and much more. 

7. Fort Kearny State Recreation Area, Kearney

Spread over 186 acres of land, the Fort Kearny State Recreation Area is known for its unique distribution of land and sandpit lakes. One of the best sites to pack your bag without the need for any tenting equipment, you can enjoy a stay beneath the shaded sites of this location near the Central Nebraska city of Kearney (spelled with an “ey”.)

Fort Kearny State Recreation Area, Kearney

Ideal for visitors for a comfortable camping trip, you can get access to all the basic amenities like showers, dumping stations, and modern restrooms. 

8. Lake McConaughy and Lake Ogallala State Recreation Areas

Popularly known as Nebraska’s largest reservoir, the Lake McConaughy and Lake Ogallala State Recreation Areas have lovely camping sites. Filled with numerous Nebraska campgrounds, the site offers both primitive and modern camping options. 

Further, visitors can also enjoy several activities such as fishing and boating in abundance. Although the campgrounds are open throughout the year, the campsite prefers to keep its showers closed during the winters. 

Lake McConaughy and Lake Ogallala State Recreation Areas

However, that’s not all at Lake McConaughy; the place is home to serene beauty and beautiful wildlife, giving you an experience at eagle-viewing with a parking permit.

9. Fremont Lakes State Recreation Area, Fremont

One of the most popular locations for camping near Omaha Nebraska is the Fremont Lakes State Recreational Area. Featuring 40 acres of land with around 300 water acres in 20 sandpit lakes, it’s truly meant for water enthusiasts. It offers various activities like boating, swimming, water skiing, and fishing, escalating the outdoor fun in summer.

Fremont Lakes State Recreation Area, Fremont

This campground of Nebraska has around 175 asphalt pads and 200 electrical grounds, with other designated places for picnic reserves, shower buildings, and separate RV camping. 

10. Wagon Train State Recreation Area, Hickman

The Wagon Train State Recreation Area is situated not very far away from the city of Lincoln. If you happen to stay at or near Lincoln and are looking for places to go for camping or weekend getaways, then camping at this recreation area is bound to be one of your best experiences. The camping site is well-equipped with both electrical and non-electrical setups. 

The recreation area is rich with spots that allow you to enjoy primitive camping sites and a day with nature. Therefore, if you are wondering about camping in Nebraska, the Wagon Train State Recreation Area in Hickman is your best bet.

Also Read: 10 BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN NEBRASKA

11. Niobrara State Park

The Niobrara State Park is all about enjoying camping experiences in the wild fauna. Situated on the confluence of Niobrara and Missouri Rivers, there is ample opportunity to capture some of the best shots of nature. The camping grounds are nestled amidst the hills of the surrounding area. 

Nature’s bounty is readily apparent all around the park with species like white-tailed deers, turkeys, muskrat, beavers, and mink prowls. The varied birdlife makes it a favorite birdwatcher destination. Don’t get astonished if you hear the song of the whippoorwill or call of coyotes in the night.

Niobrara State Park

Apart from the wildlife, you get provisions for cabins, RV camping facilities, boat ramps, picnicking, swimming, horseback trail rides, fishing, raft tours, and much more. 

12. Windmill State Recreation Area, Gibbon

The Windmill State Recreation Area in Gibbon is situated between the Grand Island and Kearney. The recreation area is filled with several lakes near Kearney, which means there are more possible chances for you to have primitive camping sites here.

Windmill State Recreation Area, Gibbon

The best part about the Windmill State Recreation Area is that you can experience camping trips on different occasions and seasons. In fact, camping in Nebraska can give you a lot of activities to explore here.

13. Enders Reservoir, Enders

Almost every other camping location in Nebraska has developed some sort of modern facilities. However, camping in Enders Reservoirs can be different as it is still not equipped with recreational activities. The majority area is dedicated to wildlife, especially during the fall and winter seasons.

Enders Reservoir, Enders

It encompasses around 5,700 acres, a vast stretch of the area, including the lake. Maybe it’s less on the recreational side, but there is more of nature’s beauty. The uncrowded setting and peaceful jungle scenario provide you the ultimate luxury to get lost in the wilderness. 

14. Buffalo Bill Ranch State Recreation Area

Named after the American West’s most intriguing showman, William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, an Army Scout, the Buffalo Bill Ranch State Recreation Area validly personifies the frontier spirit of “Buffalo Bill” Cody. This recreation area offers you the experience of how Buffalo Bill leads his life at the Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park. 

It also offers fishing and camping in North Platte, thanks to its direct access to the North Platte River. You can also find a Second Empire House built in the late 1800s, accompanied by a huge barn that expands over lots of acres previously called “Scout’s Rest Ranch.”

Buffalo Bill Ranch State Recreation Area

All these historical locations make this place worth visiting and an excellent choice for camping to see how America’s “Wild West” showman lived his life.

15. Smith Falls State Park, Valentine

Camping in Valentine Nebraska is devoted mainly to water lovers. The park’s rugged topography amidst the North Central Plains is more admired by visitors than Nebraska’s many other manicured camping sites. It’s ideal for tenting camps near the main attraction, which is the Smith waterfall.

Smith Falls State Park, Valentine

You can engage in some interesting water sports like canoeing, kayaking and tubing in the Niobrara River. It also includes many trails, the Jim MacAllister Nature Trail being the famous that exposes hikers to the convergence of mixed ecosystems. 

Conclusion

Nebraska offers nature, wildlife, and history at its best. All these and the picturesque nature make Nebraska popular as one of the best camping sites among all the other states in the U.S. Besides that, it also offers visitors a chance to participate in fun-filled outdoor activities like swimming, boating, and fishing, making it the perfect camping spot. 

Given the fact that recreation areas in Nebraska were developed, keeping in mind people’s need to connect with nature, the place is your gateway to nature. Come, take a break from your hectic lifestyles and experience peace and serenity amidst the middle of luscious greenery and woodlands.