31st October, 2019
My niece was attending school at Western Nebraska Community College so my sister flew from Australia, met me in Florida and we flew into Denver, Colorado to start the trek north to visit. From the moment we left the plane in Denver we were freezing. We drove through light snow all the way to Scottsbluff, Nebraska.
While we were waiting for classes to finish the day after arriving we decided to visit Scotts Bluff National Monument. We were rugged up in all the winter woollies were had bought with us. The temperature was below freezing and it had been snowing lightly during the night. Neither of us are used to the cold weather.
Scotts Bluff is a huge sandstone and siltstone formation that is in stark contrast to the otherwise flat plains surrounding it. It was a beacon for those travelling along the Oregon Trail in search of new lives west of the Rocky Mountains. It was about a third of the way along the Oregon Trail.
The road to the top of the bluff was closed due to ice so we decided to hike the 1.6 mile trail to the summit. Even if the road was open I think we still would have done the hike. I’m one for taking advantage of opportunities if the resources and time allows.
The start of the trail winds through the small undulations at the base of the bluffs. We needed to be careful with our step as there was a lot of ice on the trail. We had a tail wind on the way out which meant for fairly easy going but a cold butt. When we reached the base of the bluffs the trail then zig-zagged up the side until we came to a short tunnel which bought us out on the other side of the bluff.
The trail continued to the top where it branched off to the north or south overlook. It was very cold and windy on the top. We had a quick look at each overlook, took some silly photos at the summit and then headed back down. The scenery was amazing, the light dusting of snow over everything helped to heighten the magic of the place.
All up we walked 3.9 miles and it took us approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes.
The Visitors Center was being remodeled so there was a temporary building set up with a bookstore and a little theatre with a 15 minute video about the history of Scotts Bluff. It is well worth the time to watch the video.
After the hike to the top of the peak we didn’t think we could manage the 1 mile hike along the Oregon Trail that is also in the park. We returned a couple of days later to complete this hike.
It is an easy walk past examples of the wagons used on the Oregon Trail and various information boards detailing the geology and history of the area. There are many signs about the danger of rattlesnakes but I think they were smarter than us and had found somewhere warm to hide. The hike only took us about 40 minutes with stops to admire the scenery and read the information panels.