Take a Fall Byway Drive in Nebraska
One of the many joys of fall is seeing the colorful explosion of changing leaves. Nebraska has plenty of these places to enjoy in all different corners of the state. From the forests of the west to the bluffs of the Missouri River in the east, here are four spots to take a scenic drive.
Head to the northwestern corner, and you’ll find a vastly diverse landscape, including buttes, bluffs and forests that contrast with the plains of much of the rest of the state. There are still plenty of opportunities to see fall foliage.
The Bridges to Buttes Scenic Byway runs on U.S. 20 from Harrison to Valentine and will take you past many of the area's top attractions, including Fort Robinson State Park, Toadstool Geologic Park and the Pine Ridge Ranger District of the Nebraska National Forest. You will find plenty of color, particularly in early-to-mid-October.
On U.S. 75 between Fort Calhoun and South Sioux City, you’ll mirror the route Lewis and Clark took on their famous expedition on the Missouri River. The proximity to the river provides beautiful fall views of wooded bluffs of the Loess Hills, and the route is steeped in places to learn about the area’s rich history.
Blackbird Scenic Overlook, which is north of Decatur, offers fantastic views of the river and its fall foliage. The lookout structure is a modern recreation of a Native American earth lodge that also has historical information on the Omaha Tribe.
The Outlaw Trail Scenic Byway connects Ponca to Valentine on Nebraska Highway 12. By following this route, you’ll see the transition from the Sandhills region to the picturesque views of the northeast Nebraska hills. Hit the northeast part of the state in mid-to-late October for peak fall colors.
Niobrara State Park features scenic looks out at the confluence of the Niobrara and Missouri Rivers and a three-mile loop drive to see the very best of the park’s autumn sights. You can visit Nebraska’s second-largest lake at Lewis and Clark State Recreation Area near Crofton, where you can rent a campground or cabin if you want to stay in the area a little longer.
At the east end of the byway in Ponca, you’ll find Ponca State Park. This state park has some of the best autumn views in Nebraska in addition to camping, fishing and plenty of other recreational activities. Don't forget about about fun annual events, like Hallowfest!
If you enjoyed the fall Missouri river scenery in Nebraska’s northeast section, you’ll definitely find the southern part of the state worth exploring as well.
The Heritage Highway Scenic Byway runs on U.S. 136 between Edison and Brownville. In Red Cloud, you can enjoy the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie, a never-before-plowed native prairie. The grassland is teeming with naturally occurring botanicals, which provide amazing fall backdrops.
At the east end of the state, the charm of historic small-town Brownville is hard to beat, especially when this river town is set ablaze with changing leaves in autumn. Stroll the quaint streets and tour 19th-century landmarks and museums that will take you into the past.
Head south on Nebraska Highway 67 to Indian Cave State Park near Shubert. You’ll find panoramic views of the Missouri River and all the fall foliage you could dream of. You can explore further on the park’s 22 miles of hiking trails, and be sure to come in October for the annual Haunted Hollow event.