Just like the ecology of Nebraska’s Pine Ridge farther north more closely reflects that of the Black Hills 40 miles to its north, so the Wildcats reflect the ecology of Wyoming’s Laramie Range 60 miles west. Deer, pronghorn antelope, elk, bighorn sheep, coyotes, wild turkeys and mountain lions inhabit the region. Rattlesnakes are occasionally seen in the Wildcats, though non-poisonous snakes are much more common.
The Wildcat Hills are the site of the famous Robidoux Trading Post. Built by Anoine Robidoux in 1851, the post was located in a secluded canyon near the Oregon Trail. Native American tribes traded furs at the post for needed supplies. The post also contained a blacksmith shop. The post has been re-built on its original site, and great efforts have been made to make it authentic, including a buffalo grass sod roof.
Hiking and Climbing
There are only a few named summits open to the public, which includes Scotts Bluff, Courthouse Rock, Jail Rock, and Bead Mountain. Some of the best climbing challenges are closed to the public at the Scotts Bluff National Monument, including Dome Rock, Sentinel Rock, South Bluff, Eagle Rock, and Crown Rock. The monument officials believe the rock there is too unstable to be safe, and do not want to see either them or any climbers injured. There are unnamed summits and canyons that can be explored in some areas like Carter Canyon, Buffalo Creek, Cedar Canyon, Montz Ranch, Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area, Bead Mountain, and Murphy Ranch. To access the Nebraska Trail System's online interactive map, which includes the trail network at the Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area, click here:
Nebraska Trails Interactive Map
Two of the highest summits in the state, Hogback Mountain at 5070 feet and Wildcat Mountain at 5025 feet, are on private land. If you can obtain permission to climb these, they are readily accessible near the junction of highways 71 and 88, a few miles south of Scottsbluff. Gabe Rock, at 5010 feet, is a few miles south of here, but again on private property.
To explore summits and canyons on private lands will require the interested hiker/climber to contact the owner. Usually the best approach is to go to the home nearest the objective and inquire. The other alternative involves the tedious task of contacting public officials for plat maps and then tracking down the contact information for the landowners. Some of the great private summits would include Roundtop, Castle Rock, Sheep Mountain, Big Haystack Mountain, Smokestack Rock, Hogback Mountain, Wildcat Mountain, Coyote Rock, Steamboat Rock, and Bighorn Mountain. There are others that would make fun climbs as well.
Red TapeThough there are over 30,000 acres of public lands, the great majority of the Wildcat Hills are on private or restricted lands. Please be sure you observe all posted regulations on public lands, and consult the landowners for any private lands you may want to access.
The Scottsbluff-Gering area serves as the economic hub for the area around the Wildcat Hills. Airline and bus service is available to Scottsbluff, and car rental services are also available in town. Contact the local chamber of commerce offices to up-to-date contact information.
When to Explore
Scottsbluff & Wildcat Hills Area Weather Forecast & Conditions
Some of these areas to explore are also open to hunting (Scotts Bluff National Monument is not), so if you are concerned about the risks of hiking in active hunting areas, please check out the page link below for dates and other relevant information:
Nebraska Hunting Season Dates & Information
If you choose to hike and climb during an active hunting season, be sure to wear plenty of bright orange.
Scottsbluff-Gering Chamber of Commerce
Bridgeport Chamber of Commerce
Kimball-Banner County Chamber of Commerce
Wildlife Habitat Lands
Scotts Bluff National Monument