“"moonscape" of the Badlands”
As you drive down the gravel road to Western Nebraska's Toadstool Geologic Park, you'll wonder if you're in the right place... or even on the right planet. As with most hidden gems, the park is pretty far off the beaten path (literally and figuratively speaking) but it's well worth the journey. From the unique rock formations to the mysterious and ancient animal tracks to the strange dirt home in the park, there's plenty to see and do! The rock formations are the highlight of the Toadstool Geologic Park. There's an interpretive trail through the lunar-looking landscape, which gives you a good chance to look at the park's namesake toadstools. Wind and water eroded sandstone into the odd-looking shapes balanced on narrow pedestals, and the different layers of sediment that make up the rocks give them all stripes of color ranging from shades of red to greenish hues. If you've been to this part of Nebraska, then you'll know that it's pretty famous for its fossils. While you might not see dinosaur bones, you can find the remains of some even more interesting creatures, like Entelodonts (a hog-like creature also known as a hell-pig which went extinct about 16 million years ago) and Hyaenodons (a strange, carniverous mammal creature). You can even see the tracks of long-gone creatures embedded in the sandstone! If you're really into learning about the strange, extinct animals that inhabited the US before we came along, the park is one stop along a route known as the "Fossil Freeway", which starts down near Gering, Nebraska and heads North towards Hot Springs, South Dakota. You can also get a taste of some slightly more recent history by visiting the park's replica sod house. As pioneers began to settle on the prairies of the West, they found that wood to build log cabins was in short supply on the plains... but sod, the dirt and roots from the thick, hardy prairie grass, was abundant, and worked well enough to build houses. You could even fit doors and windows and wooden walls into the buildings, and they were cheap and well insulated (but kinda damp). While most sod houses have been replaced with better constructed, more permanent homes, some have survived, and others have been recreated (like the one at Toadstool Geologic Park) to give an idea of how people in the area used to live. -Roadtrippers 4 mi. N. on NE Hwy 2, W. on Toadstool Road, follow signs - The "moonscape" of the Badlands is an unusual setting for a picnic. Use self-guided trail brochure to explore the area's fascinating geology. Open year-round, 24 hrs/day. Admission mid-May thru mid-Nov: $5 camping fee, $3 per car for day use.
The geology in the area is amazing. If you can be there at dusk or dawn...the photo opportunities are amazing. There is a great hiking trail that has points of interest marked along the way that correspond to a brochure that you get at the start. There will be NO shade and if you are there in the summer it will be hot, hot, hot. Bring plenty of water.. none is available on location. The hike might be a bit challenging for some, but I saw kids of all ages hiking the trail. Just remind them that this is also rattlesnake country, so stay on the trail. There are six campsites that are there for a small fee and an outhouse. Camping there at night is awesome as there is almost no light pollution. Sky will be stunning. The gravel road in has potholes and MAJOR wash boarding. The last part of the road crosses a train line. Trains runs every few hours and can be very long. Be sure to have a full tank of gas before going there. If you love geology... you'll love this place.
We really enjoyed the park! The guide was super helpful and interesting and we would most definitely recommend people to visit!
Beautiful scenery! You can climb around the rock formations and it's very exciting! The one bad part about the camping site is that there was no running water.
Great stop for our family of four (kids age 12 and 10)! After visiting Scott's Bluff where all signs say you must stay on the path, this was a fun place to explore, climb, and experience the landscape. Expect about 12 miles on dirt/gravel road to reach your destination. It's free and there's nobody there; be sure to bring your own water. We spent about an hour and a half there. You can definitely spend more time there to explore more of the area. It was a family favorite!
It took forever to find this place because it's out by absolutely nothing except cows in all directions. There is a train track for sure on the North entrance that had 4 long trains moving along the area. My GPS took me on a route that was not shorter or less complicated, make sure you are on the best route before starting. Once we got out there, there is a self service day use fee, a campground that has NO running water. Port-a-pottys but NO hand cleanser. There is a trail on the peaks to follow which we didn't know about until Midway thru and found people. There's a box at the gate with information pamphlets about each numbered wood post on the trail. Bring a backpack with water so that you can climb without getting sick. Kids LOVE this place so bring extra water to rehydrate them after playing.
I visit this park multiple times a year, I love it. Be warned that it gets incredibly windy there and hot in the summer. It is near a train track so expect the bright headlights to shine on the rock formations at night basically ruining any kind of astrotimelapse you may attempt.
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Toadstool Geological Park and Campground
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