July 30, 2015

There’s Adventure At Fort Robinson

Updated: July 17, 2018

With all the traveling I did growing up, I’m surprised we never visited the corner of Nebraska where Fort Robinson is located. I didn’t even really know about it until recently, and then I became slightly obsessed with finding a way to get there.

Finally, I planned a road trip that passed nearby and, voila, I got my wish.

Western Nebraska landscape near Fort Robinson
The view you’ll have on the road to Fort Robinson State Park in western Nebraska.

The Western Nebraska state park attracts a lot of visitors, especially family reunions and other groups, for good reason. I wish I had planned more than a day to visit the park. Next time, I’ll plan ahead and get a cabin there so we can stay a few days.

Horse-drawn carriage ride at Fort Robinson State Park in Nebraska
Just a regular thing you see at Fort Robinson. The state park has quite a history behind it.

If you only have a day there, though, you are able to fit a lot of active things in, for a pretty reasonable price (we’d just been at Custer State Park in South Dakota, so prices were much lower at Fort Robinson for similar activities).

Horse-drawn tour at Fort Robinson State Park in Nebraska
The horse-drawn tour is a historical tour of the park. We skipped it since the kids were a little young for it still.

We arrived at the scenic park late morning and headed straight to the information booth to make reservations. We booked a jeep ride for the four of us, and while we waited for our departure time, we visited the stables.

Pony ride at Fort Robinson State Park in Nebraska
Mooch and the pony named Snowball.

Neither Mooch or Farley are old enough for the trail rides, so they each got a pony ride instead.

They enjoyed it, and the park attendant was super friendly.

Pony ride at Fort Robinson State Park in Nebraska
He’s pretty excited that he’ll be old enough for the trail rides next year.

With more time to kill, we walked over to the Activities Center, intending to do some sort of craft there. No attendant was in the pottery room, so we checked out the other rooms there.

Native animal exhibit at Fort Robinson State Park in Nebraska
We took a quick tour of the native animals of Nebraska room.

There’s a room of wildlife displays and one with silly photo ops.

Exhibit at Fort Robinson State Park in Nebraska
I don’t even know.

The photo op room was a hit with my kids.

Fort Robinson State Park library and game shelves
The library has several games and books for different ages, tables and some comfy couches.

There’s also a small library and game room in the Activity Center, and it was a nice retreat to cool off on a summer day.

Horse-drawn stage coach at Fort Robinson State Park
A family of four can ride the stage coach for about $10, depending on the kids’ ages.

There’s a stagecoach at Fort Robinson that you can’t miss, and it’s a sure bet your kids will notice it and want to ride it.

It’s pretty reasonable, $10 for all of us to ride, and it lasts about 10 minutes. The route isn’t too exciting, but it’s how you get there that counts. The kids liked it.

Stagecoach ride at Fort Robinson State Park
Checking out the view from the stagecoach at Fort Robinson.

The jeep ride was the highlight of our visit. If you can stomach it, I recommend it. It’s a pretty low-cost adventure (our kids rode free). For the four of us (2 kids under 5), it cost $26.

Off-road jeep ride to Smiley Canyon at Fort Robinson State Park
The ride gets a little bumpy on the way up to Smiley Canyon.

You ride out to Smiley Canyon on a paved road, but once you reach the canyon, it’s dirt from then on out.

I was a little nervous at first, checking and double checking the kids’ seatbelt they shared. But they never came close to bouncing out of the jeep, so I relaxed.

Off-road jeep ride at Fort Robinson State Park
Nothing like riding in a jeep.

If you’re lucky, you’ll see some wildlife on your ride.

We saw buffalo and long-horned sheep.

And you’ll stop for scenic views along the way.

Family photo at Fort Robinson State Park
Awkward family photo…the kids did not want to stand still.

The stop is another chance for you to worry about your kids, this time, thinking your kids will fall off the butte. No kids fell off the butte that day.

The driver we had was very knowledgable. Mr. Wonderful sat in front with him and had a much better chance to hear the stories of the area. In back with four kids, whoops of joy kinda drowned him out.

Fort Robinson has a restaurant and a convenience store with sandwiches and snacks. Apparently, they offer some buffalo items you ought to try.

Ice cream at Fort Robinson State Park in Nebraska
Cooling off with some ice cream.

We packed a lunch, plus got some ice cream from Sutler’s Store.

Nap time interrupted the adventure, and we intended to return that night – a Thursday night – for the free rodeo. Turns out, the Thursday of Fourth of July weekend means no rodeo.

We’ll return, since there’s a lot more to see and do.

Kid-Friendly Activities (prices and times for 2018)

Know when you enter the park, you’ll need a permit. A year-long Nebraska parks permit is $30. Prices listed below were verified in 2018 at the Nebraska Game and Parks website.

Guide to Fort Robinson State Park in western Nebraska - Things to do and see as a family, from stagecoach rides and pony rides to off-road jeep adventures #Nebraska #familytravel

Swimming pool – Open daily, 1 to 5 p.m. and 6 to 8:30 p.m.; adults, $5, children ages 3-12, $4; ages 2 and under, FREE.

Activities Center – Daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., crafts, and rentals for bikes, horseshoes and tennis rackets

Trailside Museum – April-May and September-October, Thursdays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Memorial Day through Labor Day, daily, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; adults (19+), $3, kids (5-18), $1, 4 and younger, FREE. This is where you see the mammoths fighting, paleontology and geology exhibits, educational movies and gallery.

Learning Center and Landmark Store – Fort Robinson History Center and Museum housed here.

Horse trail rides – For ages 6 and older; hourly 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., except noon (45-minute ride, $18), and departing at 8 and 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 and 2 p.m. (75-minute ride ages 8 and older, $24)

Pony rides – For ages 5 and younger, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; $3

Jeep rides – 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; adults, $13, children $10, kids 5 and under, FREE

Horse-drawn tour (history of the fort) – Departs hourly 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., except noon; adults, $7, children, $5

Kayak ride and tube rentals – Van departs for river daily at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. for kayaks, and 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. for tubes. $15

Mountain bike rentals – 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; $8/hour or $25/day

Rodeo – Thursdays, 8 to 9 p.m. FREE

Legend Butte Gold Course – Open beginning April 1

Post Playhouse – Summer schedule with performances six nights a week at 8 p.m. and matinees at 10 a.m. on Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Wednesday through Sunday. postplayhouse.com

Hayrack Breakfast – Sunday, Monday, Thursday, Friday, 8 a.m.; adults, $13, kids 12 and younger, $10. Reserve tickets the day before.

Hayrack Steak Cookout – Monday, Thursday, Saturday, 6 to 8 p.m.; adults, $20, kids 12 and younger, $10.

Chuck Wagon Cookout – Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, 6 to 8 p.m.; adults, $12, kids, $8.

* Jeep, hayrack rides, cookouts and other activities may be arranged for groups in the fall; contact the park office. After mid-August, activities will depend on staff availability. Times are subject to change.

Guide to Fort Robinson - One of Nebraska's most popular state park offers trail rides, chuck wagon dinners and more for families #Nebraska #outdoors #familytravel

If you go

Fort Robinson State Park

Where: Fort Robinson State Park, 3200 Highway 20, Crawford, Neb.

* * * * *

Planning a trip to South Dakota and Western Nebraska? I wrote a series of posts and reviews of kid-friendly attractions, lodging and a photo-heavy trip recap. Check them out:

Nebraska and South Dakota Adventure With Kids

Canoeing the Niobrara River with Kids

Comfort Suites and Convention Center (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Firehouse Brewing Company (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Reptile Gardens (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Dakotah Steakhouse (Rapid City, South Dakota)

The Hills Inn (Hot Spring, South Dakota)

Evans Plunge (Hot Springs, South Dakota)

Mammoth Site (Hot Springs, South Dakota)

Chadron State Park (Chadron, Nebraska)

Comments

  1. The jeep ride is pretty much all we did there. We walked around a lot. There was a Native America dance going on, so we watched that to. I liked the jeep ride, and I’m afraid of heights. I guess I dislike high rides more than anything (roller coasters and flying swings).

    • I’d say if you had to pick just one thing to do there, though, the jeep ride should be it…of the couple of things we tried out. Who knows, maybe the chuckwagon dinner was something we missed out on?

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