OverviewThe Rim of the World Trail is the primary route through Nebraska's 4,000-acre Ponderosa Wildlife Management Area (WMA). This WMA has been in existence since 1965, but the trail is actually an old 2-track road long abandoned by the county for being too steep. The only vehicles allowed on the trail are state fish & game units. Like the rest of the Pine Ridge, the WMA is characterized by steep buttes, canyons, ridges, sandstone rock formations, and small streams. Thick ponderosa pine forest covers much of the area, though there are some stands of aspen and ash. The area does not see many visitors, except during firearms deer hunting season and wild turkey spring hunting season. Besides an abundance of deer and wild turkeys, other wildlife seen there include bighorn sheep, some elk, a growing mountain lion population, coyotes, and the common mix of porcupines, racoons, and skunks. The WMA has survived three major forest fires. The first was the McIntosh Fire in 1985 and the second was the Sawlog Fire in 2000. The third, 2012, was by far the worst, with almost everything north of the Rim of The World Trail destroyed.
CAUTION is warranted in this burn area, along with permission from the WMA office. The state of Nebraska is working to remove dangerous fallen timber from it's state parks and WMA's.
Route and OptionsThe Rim of the World Trail is about 4 miles long, from the trailhead to the WMA boundary. Hikers climb from 3,960 feet at the traihead to about 4,380 feet at the high point on the trail just past the halfway point. Not far from the WMA end of the trail, hikers will come to a junction with the Rattlesnake Trail, which heads in a mostly northerly direction on a gentle slope down over 300 feet into a rocky canyon. The Rattlesnake Trail is just over 1 mile in length. It's beauty is the easy access it gives to the canyon bottom, allowing for lots of exploring. Rattlesnake Trail will also gett you started on one of the ways out to Crown Butte.
While the hike on the Rim of The World Trail is great just for a remote get-away into a very rugged and scenic area, it is also good for the options it gives hikers for some off-trail hiking to nearby canyons and major buttes. At the mid-point of the trail, there is a 200 foot deep canyon about 1/2 mile straight south. If hikers go off-trail straight north for about 1 mile, they will come to the south side of Castle Butte (4,504 feet), which is a long serpentine butte with very steep sides. About 1 mile (straight line)north-northwest from the end of The Rattlesnake Trail, is Crown Butte (not to be confused with the nearby Crow and Little Crow Buttes). Though hikers do not cover long distances when exploring off-trail, the terrain is very rugged and steep, so progress will be slow.
Anyone who chooses to hike this area should be advised these trails have no markings, so PLEASE study your maps carefully! A good topo map along with your national forest map is essential. GPS is a great idea, though do not depend entirely on it.
Essential GearUnless you go during the winter, when your selection of gear would be dictated by how much snow was on the ground and how cold it was, you will need only what you would normally take on a hike of 3 hours or longer, depending on how many side routes you might wish to try.
Suggestions would include water, appropriate shoes or boots, hat, hiking pole, sunscreen, tick repellent from early spring to late August, compass, map, rain gear if the forecast is questionable, and a camera. If you are hiking solo or with just one friend, pepper spray is advisable in case you encounter a mountain lion. This is WMA land and not a state park, so you might encounter local hikers who sometimes carry a pistol because of the mountain lions. This is legal in Nebraska.