It may be because I’ve worked in an office for most of my adult career, but whenever I can, it is my goal to explore the great outdoor. I hope to visit all 63 US National Parks one day, and have already visited a few of them this year! Nebraska has national monuments, national historic sites but no National Parks. Nebraska is blessed with a wonderful state park system. There are many state parks and recreational areas that you can visit. Ponca State Park is one of Nebraska’s top state parks. It was named after the Ponca Indians that inhabited the area. This 2,400-acre park, located along the Missouri River, is just two hours away from Omaha. It’s also only about 2 hours away from Sioux Falls in SD and a little more than an hour from Sioux City in IA.

History of Ponca State Park

As a history enthusiast, I am always fascinated by the old. This park has a rich history. Lewis and Clark passed through this area on their way to the Pacific. The National Park Service named Ponca State Park as part of the Lewis and Clark historic trail. Ponca Chief Standing Bear fought for American Indians to be recognized under American law as “persons”.

Beautiful Ponca State Park. Nebraska Tourism Photo Courtesy

The Best Time to Travel

You can visit the park at any time, depending on your preferences. Spring and fall are the best times to visit the park because we like to walk our dogs. The Ponca State Park’s wetlands in the spring are a stopover for migrating birds. It is a wonderful place to go bird-watching. The fall is a wonderful time to visit. The trees will turn vivid shades of orange and red.

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Ponca makes for a great day trip. If you wish to stay longer, the park offers cabins and camping. 27 cabins are available year-round. Four-bedroom mini-lodges are available with two bathrooms, a large-screen TV, wireless internet and a gas fireplace. Seasonally, a few rustic log cabins are available for those who want to “rough” it. Ponca now also offers glamping-style tents, which I am super excited to test. They also have a range of camping options.

Ponca State Park Cabins. Nebraska Tourism Photo Courtesy

Ponca State Park Activities

Ponca has a lot to offer. There are many things to do in Ponca. The Highland Oaks Public Golf Course, which is located just outside the park, offers a variety of activities.

Ponca State Park Tent Camping. Nebraska Tourism Photo Courtesy

Hiking At Ponca State Park

We love to hike and found that Ponca has 17 miles of trails I would classify as moderate to easy. The Old Oak Trail is our favorite, as it leads to a 300+ year old Oak tree located in the middle. According to the park in 1964 the tree was officially over 320 years old. This means it was only a sapling just 24 years before Mayflower landed on Plymouth Rock. It’s an old tree.

It was easy to navigate the 1-mile trail through forested areas. Prairie wildflowers were nestled in amongst the trees. It was amazing to see the old oak!

The Corps of Discovery Trail is a good choice for experienced hikers. It was named after the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which passed through the area in 1804. The trail passes through a stone-staircased old encampment. You’ll get a great view of the Missouri River once you reach the top of the ridgeline.

Our three dogs made the hike even more fun. It’s great that they enjoy exploring as much as us.