Top Picks for
4 Seasons of FUN
in the Sandhills!
SPRING – Top 4
#3. Waterfalls – A morning walk to Smith Falls is the answer for shaking the winter blues. Nebraska’s Highest waterfall is nestled back in the canyons on the South side of the Niobrara River in Smith Falls State Park. Fort Falls is located on the Fort Niobrara Wildlife refuge, just outside of Valentine. It is so close to town, and is perfect for a quick view or you can take in 3/4 mile nature hike while you are there. Snake River Falls is the largest waterfall by volume in Nebraska.
#4. Birdwatching – There is no ONE destination to birdwatch in the Sandhills. They are literally everywhere! One of our favorite spots to spot the most species is The Valentine National Wildlife Refuge. Several greater prairie-chicken and sharp-tailed grouse leks are present in the refuge, and the numerous marshes and shallow lakes offer breeding habitat for eared, western and pied-billed grebes, a dozen species of waterfowl, and shorebirds such as soras, Wilson’s snipes, and American avocets. The higher grasslands offer views of long-billed curlews, upland sandpipers, and Swainson’s hawks.
SUMMER – Top 4
#1. Float the Niobrara River – Whatever floats your boat – a canoe, a kayak, tubes or a tank! Choose your Niobrara River Outfitter and book your trip. There is nothing more relaxing, unique, or spectacular as this #1 overall pick!
#2. Star Gazing! – You do not have to travel far out of Valentine to enjoy stargazing like this every night. If you want a secluded spot far away from any light pollution, then we suggest you travel out to Merritt Reservoir.
#3. Fun in the Sun – Merritt Reservoir gets a lot of mentions on our top picks because it is a perfect spot for all seasons. But summer is the best because you can get so much in one spot! Fishing, water sports, camping, stargazing. This beauty is perfect for a day trip or for an extended stay.
#4 Golf – Pick from 5 courses on 2 World class golf destinations designed by the Tom Lehman Design Group. Frederick Peak Golf Club is Valentine’s Local City Golf Course. They will provide you with a 10 hole experience that should not be passed up. The Prairie Club is just South of Valentine and prides itself on giving you golf in it’s purest form.
FALL – Top 4 Picks
#1. Camping – Whether you are a “sleep under the stars” type or you want a cabin with all the comforts of home… there is something for everyone. (plenty of hotels too! 😉 …) Look here and our lodging page
#2. Museums – Arthur Bowring Ranch State Historical Park in Merriman is rich with history of the working cattle ranch. Centennial Hall and the Cherry County Historical Museum in Valentine will help you dive deep into the area’s genealogy and has captured a moment in time of what life used to look like when the area was settled.
#3 Hiking – Smith Falls State Park, Fort Niobrara Wild Life Refuge, Niobrara National Scenic River, Valentine Wildlife Refuge, Valentine City Park and Valentine Nature Trail, Government Canyon on the edge of Valentine, The Cowboy Trail, just to name a few…There is something for every skill level.
#4. Hunting – Turkey Hunting, Whitetail and Mule Deer, Upland Birds, and small game – They all can be found on the Valentine Wildlife Refuge, Samuel McKelvie Forest, Merritt Reservoir (check all rules and regulations for all areas)…. Valentine offers some of the best public land for hunting in the state.
WINTER – Top 4 Picks
#1. Ice Fishing – Valentine has crystal clear lakes that make for some of the tasty catch. If you can fish it in open water in your boat, you can step out and fish it when it is covered in ice! Valentine Refuge Lakes, Merritt Reservoir, Cottonwood/Steversen, Big Alkali.
#2. Sip the Cold Away – Niobrara Valley Vineyards in Nenzel, NE and Bolo Beer Co, in Valentine are our top pics for local crafted beverages. They are hand crafted in small batches and are unique to the Sandhills.
#3. Winter Wonderland of Waterfalls! All of the beauty you have come to know from the warmer months can warm your heart in the winter, too! Smith Falls is a must see any season, but it will take your breath away mid winter. You will likely have the view all to yourself, too. If you have enough time, be sure to check out all of the waterfalls in the area during this time of year. They each carry a unique beauty.
#4. Heart City Bull Bash – Held the 2nd Saturday of February. Main Street in Valentine is closed off and filled with a full line up the area’s finest Bulls. Learn what blood line might be a good match for your beef operation. Visit with area ranchers about their upcoming bull sales. Check out the newest options in equipment and feed for your farm or ranch. Not into all that “bull”? The local downtown stores have sales galore. Tons of pop up vendors, food and hot drinks and snacks….. and even a wine tasting. If you still have enough energy, sign up for the Annual Running with the Bulls…(the don’t really run with you).