Not far from the Missouri border in southeastern Nebraska, about 10 miles from Brownville, is the Nebraska attraction, Indian Cave State Park. It’s known for great hiking trails, but also the activities that appeal to kids.
UPDATED: This post was first written in 2014 and updated in January 2023 with up-to-date park prices, hours and activities.
A little off the beaten path, this gorgeous park is located near the Missouri River and is known for its namesake, Indian Cave. For a detailed history, head to the Journal Star. If you’ve been to the Loess Hills in southwest Iowa, this park will have a familiar feel to it given that it is, in fact set in the Loess Hills (new fact for me, I didn’t think Nebraska could claim Loess Hills).
There are lots of campsites – and backcountry camping is allowed – so Mr. Wonderful and I decided we may just come back in the fall to camp here. With a park map in hand, that’s where we headed to first. Having only seen one picture of the park, I honestly expected the cave to be cavernous. Something we could walk in and explore. Maybe it’s the “Goonies” fan in me.
What we saw, then, was a disappointment.
The graffiti couldn’t be ignored. It covered the walls of this landmark. Plus, it turned out it’s a cave you can’t enter and it’s not that deep. Farley and I did attempt to find the prehistoric petroglyphs of animals on the wall amid the graffiti.
We both lost interest quickly and headed back to the car, where a sleeping Mooch and bored Mr. Wonderful waited. Onward into the park we drove.
We made a pitstop to play in an ancient park. The hypochondriac in me didn’t like the chipping paint and sharp metal edges on the playground equipment but the kids loved the place.
The swings were a hit.
Our next stop was at the Living History cabins. The resident soap maker, blacksmith, candle maker and broom maker are there on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (from Memorial Day into October).
Being fans of living history experiences, finding these re-enactors was a nice surprise for our family.
We arrived near 4 p.m. and so did a quick run through the area.
The cabin was the most interesting to the children.
Our final stop was a scenic overlook. We watched five raptors soar in the wind.
The view of the river is quite nice.
It was peaceful, until Mooch broke out into “Let It Go” and Farley interrupted my brief history lesson by asking when the aliens came.
I think we were all ready to call it a day.
There is a lot more to explore in the park, so we’ll return someday soon.
More Indian Cave State Park Activities
Since our first visit was just one day, we did not get to enjoy all the activities the state park has to offer. We’ve returned another time (the fall at Indian Cave State Park is beautiful) and discovered a few more things! Here are a few of the fun things families can do at Indian Cave State Park:
– Horseback trail rides are available in season. Kids ages 6 and older can do the trail rides at Indian Cave State Park. Trail rides are $18 per rider.
– There is a restored schoolhouse and general store from the old river town of St. Deroin, where old-time crafts are demonstrated on weekends during the summer.
– Indian Cave State Park holds Christmas in the July every year on the last Saturday of July. Meet Santa Claus, go on horse-drawn sleigh rides, listen to storytellers and watch a Christmas movie outdoors.
– Halloween is celebrated throughout October. Expect hayrack rides on certain dates, as well as a haunted forest called Haunted Hollow. After hearing the soapmaker describe it (The Headless Horseman makes an appearance with a chainsaw), I’d suggest only older kids go to it! The Haunted Hollow hayrack ride is $8 for adults and $6 for children.
– Each spring, the state park has the Outdoor Adventure. Held on the last Saturday in April, there are family activities, including a fun run, hayrack rides and cooking demonstrations.
– Primitive and RV camping is allowed at Indian Cave State Park. If you’re more of a cabin-type of a “camper” (like me), you’ll want to visit a different Nebraska State Park.
If you go
Indian Cave State Park
Where: 65296 720 Road, Shubert, Neb.
Park admission: A valid Nebraska State Parks permit is required. It’s $30 annually (if you’re a resident), or you can pay $6 for a single day admission.
Getting to Indian Cave State Park from Omaha
Here are the directions to get to Indian Cave State Park from Omaha: South on Highway 75, East on Highway 136 (9 miles), South on Highway 67 (9 miles), East on Highway 64E (5 miles).
Or you can take Interstate I-29 South, take Exit 110 to Brownville. Follow US-136 West (7 miles), South on NE-67 S (9 miles), East on NE-64E (5 miles). Continue on NE-64F Recreation Road and you’ll get there.
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