The entire area is rich with fossils, including prehistoric animals like hyaenodons and entelodons. It is illegal to remove any fossils from Toadstool Park. Before the major forest fires of 2012, this badlands area stood in stark contrast to the thick pine forests a few miles northwest. Big Cottonwood Creek Canyon, due to its lack of any significant vegetation, remained unscathed by those fires.
There are two trails in the park. One is a 1-mile interpretive loop trail. The other trail, the Bison Trail, is a 3-mile trail that runs through the heart of the canyon south to the Hudson-Meng Bonebed, and archeological excavation site open to the public.
When you arrive at the parking area of Toadstool Park, you will find an old sod house, some parking spots, camping spots and a few picnic tables. There are also two vault toilets there. Trail maps are posted, and some handout maps are often available.
Red TapeThere should be no red tape, so long as you just pay your user fee, which is small. Removing fossils from the park is illegal, so keep that in mind while hiking. Please comply with all posted campfire and fireworks restriction. All campground regulations are posted. Trails are off-limits overnight.
Around the midpoint of the trail, it crosses the divide between the White River and Cheyenne River watersheds, and drops into the upper reaches of Whitehead Creek. This is not very noticeable since it is so near the uppermost reaches of either stream bed and the terrain has softened from deeper canyon to simple badlands. Near the midpoint, the trail crosses Road 7918.2, which also provides a hiking option to Roundtop Peak and Pine Butte.
At the end of the trail, hikers have the option to scramble up the sides and hike a short distance over to the Hudson-Meng Bonebed, choose a jaunt over to Roundtop Peak, skirting Cedar Canyon, or they can head back to the trailhead. The elevation gain from the trailhead to the high point of the trail is about 340 feet. Poor trail conditions always exist in rainy weather, making hiking the canyon not advisable until the trail dries out.
When to ExploreBecause of the problems of poor trail conditions and very muddy roads on rainy days, visitors will want to keep up to date on the forecast & conditions. You can check these out at this link:
Toadstool Geologic Park – Crawford Area Forecast & Conditions
Area Camping, Lodging & Other Resources
Drifters Cook Shack – High Plains Homestead
Fort Robinson Camping & Lodging
Chadron State Park Camping & Cabins
Crawford Nebraska Hotels & Businesses
Toadstool Geologic Park
Hudson-Meng Bison Bonebed
Crossing the railroad tracks into Toadstool Park, requires one to be aware of the frequent trains passing through the area, often every 7 minutes. And, as previously mentioned, rain messes with the roads and trails. If you go out on the trail anyway, be prepared for slippery footing, and in some short stretches, sand and mud with the consistency of quicksand.