There are two main canyon systems in the park, and several of the trails run through, or on the sides of, those canyons. The north canyon sees more traffic since the trails have been there longer, plus the vistas are less obstructed by trees. The Black Hills Overlook Trail and the Steamboat Loop Trail provide the best experiences with the north canyon. Nebraska offers an interactive trails map that can be accessed by clicking here: Nebraska Interactive Trails Map
The south canyon, sometimes called Lebo Canyon, is not as rugged and was more thickly forested before the 2012 forest fires. The Norwesca Trail runs through the heart of the south canyon.
The best access to the trails that encircle or run through the canyon floor, are at the Black Hills Lookout Point (accessible by a 1.8 mile unpaved road located mid-point on the 3.6 mile paved loop), the primitive tent area trailhead, and the trailhead located about 100 yards west of the Pine Cone Butte Picnic Area (which is the quickest way to the canyon floor).
The best access to the Norwesca Trail, is from the Chadron State Park Conference Facility about 1/4 south of the park headquarters. The trailhead here is combined with the Soapweed Trail for about 100 feet. The Soapweed Trail turns sharply to the west, while the Norwesca Trail continues in a southerly direction. The Norwesca Trail will eventually make a major bend to a westerly direction, eventually coming crossing the unpaved roadway that goes out to the Black Hills Overlook Point. Hikers have several options at this point. They can hike out to the point and take the Black Hills Overlook Trail that runs along the north rim of the canyon, and eventually out to either the primitive tenting area or the trailhead near Pine Cone Butte. Another option (complicated) is to continue on the Norwesca Trail to it's end, where it joins the Steamboat Loop Trail, then ultimately arriving at the Steamboat trailhead along the paved park loop road. The downside of this option is a long walk along the road back to wherever you parked, or else to bushwhack over the ridge across from the Steamboat Loop trailhead, and pick up the Cabin Loop Trail and following it around to it's junction with the Soapweed Trail, and finally arriving at the original trailhead. The last option (apart from out-and-back) is to go right on the unpaved road and follow it for about 100 yards to where it intersects with the paved park loop road. Taking a right and walking this loop about 1/4 mile, will bring you to the Soapweed Shelter and access to the Soapweed Trail. The Soapweed Trail will take you back to the Norwesca Trail and trailhead.
Red TapeLike all state parks in Nebraska, all vehicles need a park permit - either a daily or an annual. You can get those at the park headquarters at the entrance. No alcoholic beverages are allowed in the state park, nor are firearms. Horseback riding is not allowed in the park, except on a special trail set aside just for that purpose. So, hikers should only encounter other hikers or mountain bikers on the trails in the park.
The primitive tenting area is tucked back into a shady pocket near the RV area, but is just far enough back to be quieter than the RV or cabin areas.
Links and Contact InformationPersons interested in more information or in making reservations, can call the park headquarters at: (308)432-6167
Once you get to the park headquarters, it will be worth your while to pick up one of their free park maps. Since the park management is very pro-active in trail upkeep, it would not hurt to ask about any new developments or trail work going on.
The state of Nebraska has a website for the park, which can be accessed by clicking here:
CHADRON STATE PARK
You can download a state park map from the Chadron Wellness website at:
To view a Chadron State Park YouTube video, click here: Chadron State Park on YouTube