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Chadron State Park Canyons & Trails

Chadron State Park Canyons & Trails

Chadron State Park Canyons & Trails

Page Type: Canyon

Location: Nebraska, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 42.70010°N / 103.01914°W

Object Title: Chadron State Park Canyons & Trails


Page By: panhandletrails

Created/Edited: Jul 13, 2009 / Feb 25, 2013

Object ID: 529363

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North canyon overlook
Chadron State Park is Nebraska's oldest state park. The park is set in a rugged area of ridges, buttes, and canyons, with thick forest in many places. The major forest fires of 2012 took out many trees, but the state has been working on removing the dead trees to minimize snag hazards. Even though the park is just under 1,000 acres, trails in the park have been expanded to fifteen miles. But, that is just where the hiking opportunities begin. The Nebraska National Forest is all around the state park, with nearly a quarter-million acres of forest, and over a hundred miles of old roads and trails, a hiker can find weeks of great hiking nearby. The National Forest Service office in Chadron has the best maps available to show all the latest trails and back roads. Plus, they can offer many tips and insights into places you might want to explore.

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.

Getting There

Trail along rim of north canyon
Chadron State Park is 8 miles south of Chadron, Nebraska on Highway 385. The main paved roadway loop through the park is 3.6 miles long, but is connected with several smaller loops that provide cabin and camping access. Free trail maps are available at the park headquarters.

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 Tape

Like 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.


Fall colors through rock window
There are 22 great small cabins for rent in the park, plus a few dorms, quite a few RV pull-through campsites, and a primitive tenting area. The park has a swimming pool, showers, tennis court, sand volleyball, picnic areas, and a small lake set up for trout fishing and paddle boating.

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 Information

Persons 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:

You can download a state park map from the Chadron Wellness website at:

Chadron Wellness

To view a Chadron State Park YouTube video, click here: Chadron State Park on YouTube


Black Hills Overlook Trail canyon viewFall colors through rock windowNorth canyon viewSteamboat Butte wall in canyonTrail along rim of north canyonSmall "window" in rock butteBranch in north canyon
North canyon overlookBeauty on canyon sideHikers in Lebo Canyon