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Nebraska in Pictures: 15 Beautiful Places to Photograph

Written by Brad Lane
Feb 5, 2020

Towering rock formations on the Oregon Trail and picturesque cities like Omaha and Lincoln are some of the most beautiful places to photograph in Nebraska. Grass-covered sandhills define much of the landscape of Nebraska, while the western panhandle offers unique badland formations. Other top spots to bring a camera in Nebraska include sunken gardens, a beautiful state capitol, and the world-famous Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo.

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1. Scotts Bluff National Monument, Gering

Scotts Bluff National Monument
Scotts Bluff National Monument

In western Nebraska, near the Wyoming border, Scotts Bluff is an 800-foot landmark that helped guide people on the Oregon Trail. Today, this towering formation surrounded by flat prairie is the centerpiece of a 3,000-acre national monument. Several photo opportunities await visitors to Scotts Bluff National Monument. Pictures of Mitchell Pass are particularly stunning when the sun sets over this gateway to the west.

2. Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway

Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway
Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway

The 272-mile Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway travels through Nebraska's most defining landscape. Alongside great photo opportunities, this scenic byway leads to several outdoor activities like hiking, biking, hunting, and stargazing. The grass-covered sandhills of Nebraska are unique to the state, and all 13 million acres offer a picturesque landscape.

3. Platte River Valley/Sandhill Crane Migration

Sandhill crane migration
Sandhill crane migration

Every spring, thousands of sandhill cranes migrate through Nebraska. Centered on the Platte River, this mass migration spurs one of the best wildlife photography moments in the country. Sunrise is generally the best time to see the most sandhill cranes, and several commercial outfits rent viewing blinds to get a closer look. Alongside a camera, bringing some binoculars is a good idea.

4. Courthouse and Jail Rocks, West Camp Clarke

Courthouse and Jail Rocks
Courthouse and Jail Rocks

In the Nebraska Panhandle, these two rock formations were essential landmarks on the Oregon Trail and Pony Express Trail. While travel is more accessible today, the 200-foot-plus Courthouse and Jail Rocks still draw tourists and interested photographers from across the region. Twenty miles to the west of Courthouse and Jail Rocks, another landmark seen on the horizon is Chimney Rock.

5. Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha

Sun Bear at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo
Sun Bear at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo

One of the best places to visit in Omaha, the Henry Doorly Zoo is world-renowned for its extensive animal exhibits. Exhibits at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo include an orangutan forest, African grasslands, and the world's largest indoor desert. Interactive attractions at the zoo include a Stingray Beach and wildlife carousel.

Accommodation: Top-Rated Hotels in Omaha, NE

6. Sunken Gardens, Lincoln

Sunken Gardens
Sunken Gardens

Renovated in 2004, Sunken Gardens are a beautiful natural space in the state capital of Lincoln. The Annual Garden within the facility features over 30,000 individual plants that share a different theme each year. Other natural areas include an all-white Healing Garden and a growing collection of perennial plants. Great for photo shoots, this public space has free admission.

7. Toadstool Geologic Park, Harrison

Toadstool Geologic Park
Toadstool Geologic Park

Within the Oglala National Grassland in northwest Nebraska, Toadstool Geologic Park highlights the Nebraska badlands. Some of the unusual geological formations have eroded over millions of years to give the park its namesake features. Three hiking trails explore this beautiful area, including the cross-country Great Plains Trail. A campground at the park opens the opportunity for stunning sunset pictures.

8. Cowboy Trail

Cowboy Trail bridge over Niobrara River
Cowboy Trail bridge over Niobrara River

A converted railroad line that extends across the northern part of Nebraska, the Cowboy Trail is one of the longest rail trails in the nation. Currently spanning over 200 miles, the trail is still in development, with another 100 miles under construction. The trail crosses through Nebraska farming country and into the Great Plains. One of the most photographed sections of the trail features a 148-foot-high pedestrian bridge over the Niobrara River.

9. Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, Omaha

Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge
Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge

Offering a great view of the Omaha skyline, the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge is the first walking bridge to connect two states. Spanning the Missouri River into Iowa, the eye-catching bridge is fun to photograph. On the Nebraska side, the Heartland of America Park and adjacent Old Market area of Omaha offer other postcard pictures of Nebraska.

10. Chadron State Park, Chadron

Elk in Chadron State Park
Elk in Chadron State Park

Nebraska's first state park, Chadron State Park invites exploration and wildlife photography. Defined by buttes, canyons, and rolling grasslands, Chadron is in the scenic Pine Ridge region of northwest Nebraska. Hiking and biking are two of the most popular activities at Chadron. The park's six miles of trails connect to the adjacent Nebraska National Forest. Hundreds of miles of trails within the Nebraska National Forest cater towards hikers, bikers, and horse riders.

11. DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge

Snow geese in Desoto National Wildlife Refuge
Snow geese in Desoto National Wildlife Refuge

Spanning the Missouri River into Iowa, this vital floodplain hosts thousands of migratory birds each year. Visitors to the refuge enjoy a variety of activities, including wildlife photography and hiking. Spring and fall are the best seasons to catch birds in flight, though the winter is well regarded as the best time to photograph bald eagles.

12. Indian Cave State Park, Shubert

Stairs at Indian Cave State Park
Stairs at Indian Cave State Park

A popular spot for hiking and nature photography, this 3,000-acre state park centers around a massive limestone cave. Near the Iowa border on the Missouri River, several hiking trails span the densely wooded region. An intricate set of stairs accesses the namesake cave, and a nearby campground is also available. Autumn at Indian Cave State Park is particularly scenic when the leaves change color.

13. Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, Whistle Creek

Daemonelix Trail at Agate Fossil National Monument
Daemonelix Trail at Agate Fossil National Monument

This national monument in northwest Nebraska contains a dense collection of fossils from the Miocene era. Alongside million-year-old mammal bones at Agate, the stark scenery of buttes on the Great Plains is excellent for a photograph. Visitors can explore the area on the one-mile Daemonelix Trail or the wheelchair-accessible Fossil Hills Trail.

14. Snake River Falls, Valentine

Snake River Falls
Snake River Falls

Nebraska isn't known for its surplus of waterfalls, but its largest waterfall by volume rivals any found in the American West. Snake River Falls, in the sandhills southwest of Valentine, is on private property. Owners have granted special permission to allow visitors to see the falls. Prohibited activities at Snake River Falls include fishing and swimming, but the moving water makes for great photographs.

15. State Capitol, Lincoln

State Capitol building in Lincoln
State Capitol building in Lincoln

The State Capitol building in Lincoln is the most photographed government building in the state. A national historic landmark, the building was constructed in four phases between 1922 and 1932. Today, the capitol sits on manicured grounds, where it's easy to photograph the intricate detail that went into the building. Visitors can capture the ornate interior of the State Capitol on a guided tour.

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