The day after we arrived in Gering we returned to Scotts Bluff National Monument to hike the Saddle Rock Trail up to the summit.
The Saddle Rock Trail begins at the visitor center and climbs 435 feet in 1.6 miles. The first third of the trail is relatively level. The trail then climbs rapidly up most of the 435 feet in less than a mile. About half way to the summit the trail goes under Saddle Rock through a short tunnel.
On the other side of the tunnel the trail goes up a series of switchbacks, then over Saddle Rock.
Once over Saddle Rock the trail continues with a gentle climb to the top of the bluff.
In 1933 a survey marker was placed in the rock at the highest point on the bluff. At that time the area around the marker was even with the marker. Erosion has rapidly lowered the surrounding area since then.
Below is a photo of a small area of badlands below the bluff, with the Platte River in the background. The Oregon Trail generally followed the south side of the Platte River through Nebraska. But here it had to go south of Scotts Bluff, as the wagons couldn’t go through the badlands and the area next to the river was too soft.
On the second full day of our visit we drove eight miles south to visit Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area. Operated by the state of Nebraska, the area has a nice nature center and a series of short trails that wind up and down through eroded ridges and canyons. We combined some of the trails to complete a hike of about three miles. The temperatures were a little too warm for much more.
Next up for us is a visit to Cheyenne, the capitol of Wyoming. More on that later . . .