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Red Cloud Buttes Trail

Red Cloud Buttes Trail

Red Cloud Buttes Trail

Page Type: Route

Lat/Lon: 42.69102°N / 103.44521°W

Object Title: Red Cloud Buttes Trail

Route Quality: 
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Page By: panhandletrails

Created/Edited: Jul 20, 2009 / Dec 11, 2015

Object ID: 531414

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Page Score: 78.27%  - 9 Votes 

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Sheer walls on Red Cloud Buttes
Though there are at least 45 named trails at Fort Robinson, Nebraska, the Red Cloud Buttes Trail accesses one of the most beautiful areas of the state park. The National Forest Service map shows a network of trails in the Red Cloud Buttes area. This network is even better illustrated by Nebraska's relatively new Fort Robinson interactive trail map, accessible by clicking here:
Nebraska Interactive Trail Map.
You can move the map to your desired destination, then zoom in for details. The map is printable also. Nebraska has worked to improve trail markings at state parks. In years past, many trails were poorly marked.

One of the best routes to view the area, would be to access the trail at a Wagon Wheel trailhead located about 1/2 mile west of the White River bridge on Highway 20 just west of Crawford, Nebraska. There is a small parking area there with a sign, but not much other helpful information. Hikers will have to climb over a padlocked gate and head across the meadow toward the first trail marker. All the trail markers are diamond shaped, usually white but sometimes other colors.

Less than a mile up the trail, one will come to a fork in the trail. The right fork goes out to Saddle Rock. The route left will go on just a short distance until you come to another fork. The right fork is the continuation of the Wagon Wheel Trail, and goes out into pasture land and on into the town of Crawford. The left fork is the Mule Trail, which turns to the west and goes up into thick forest on a fairly steady incline. There is a junction with the Red Cloud Buttes Trail at about 3/4 miles. The left fork goes west on the north side of the Red Cloud Buttes (allowing hikers and climbers many options for a summit on many parts of this ridge system), while the right fork works back around to the east behind some of the other buttes, eventually arriving at Lovers Leap Butte, the overall steepest summit in Nebraska. From the trailhead to Lovers Leap, the distance has to be under 3 miles, but there are no distance makers, so one has to estimate. The Red Cloud Buttes Trail continues on in a loop that eventually takes a westerly direction, then loops toward the south and junctions with the West Red Cloud Buttes Trail and then the Buttes Trail Ride Trail.

Because of the array of trails and loop possibilities, you will have to plan your route according to your preferences. The views along the loop that constitutes the Red Cloud Buttes Trail are spectacular in many places, and most of the time you will have the trail to yourself. There are rare sightings of rattlesnakes in the area, and even more rare sightings of mountain lions. So, be aware of your surroundings.

The buttes in the area are all soft sandstone with many sheer sides, from 100 to 300 feet. Getting to the summit areas of Red Cloud Buttes is better done from the north side mid-point and west, than from the east, where that end is pretty much sheer all around. Giant's Coffin Butte, on the south side, is totally sheer all around. Access to the summits of Lovers Leap Butte and Saddle Rock is possible, but only with some very careful scrambling. Careful study of your topo and trail maps will go a long ways toward making your ventures in this area very enjoyable.

Fort Robinson History

Saddle Rock
This historic outpost served from the days of the Indian Wars until after World War II. This was the site of the 1879 Cheyenne Outbreak and the death of famed Sioux Chief Crazy Horse. Over the years, the fort served the Red Cloud Indian Agency, as a cavalry remount station, K-9 dog training center, POW camp and beef research station.

The State Historical Society operates a museum and many restored or reconstructed exhibit buildings to interpret the Fort's history.

Getting There

Crossing stream to get to Soldier Creek Wilderness Area
Fort Robinson State Park boundaries are just to the west of Crawford, Nebraska on Highway 20. At 22,000 acres, this is the largest state park in Nebraska. The nearest airline service is at Chadron, some 30 miles to the east.

The great thing about a hiking trip to Fort Robinson, is that the Soldier Creek Wilderness Area sits at the western boundary of the state park. And, the Nebraska National Forest has nearly a quarter million acres nearby. So hiking and climbing opportunities do not end at Fort Robinson.

Red Tape

The only Red Tape you will face, is needing a state park permit to park. Firearms are not allowed in the state park from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Hunting is allowed there, in season. So please be aware of those seasons when you hike there in fall, winter, and early spring.

Camping and Lodging

The state park not only has tent and RV campsites, but also has lodging available in the original officers quarters and enlisted men's barracks. You can make reservations, or get other information by calling:

Resource Links

To get more information about Fort Robinson, click here:

Additions and Corrections

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Viewing: 1-3 of 3    
RedwicThis is NOT a Mountain page


Voted 10/10

This needs to be either a "Route" or "Trailhead" page. Please change.
Posted Jul 20, 2009 9:01 am
panhandletrailsRe: This is NOT a Mountain page!


Hasn't voted

Sorry! Mistake corrected.
Posted Jul 29, 2009 6:15 pm
RedwicRe: This is NOT a Mountain page


Voted 10/10

It looks great, now. I like the photos!!! :-)
Posted Jul 29, 2009 8:59 pm

Viewing: 1-3 of 3    


Sheer walls on Red Cloud ButtesFort Robinson WindmillSaddle RockSoldier Creek Wilderness Area entranceSoldier Creek Wilderness TrailheadGiants Coffin ButteView along Red Cloud Buttes Trail
Mexican CanyonCrossing stream to get to Soldier Creek Wilderness AreaAncient Twisted PineRed Cloud ButtesSaddle Rock Fog