Nebraska: Western Trails Historic & Scenic Byway

Nebraska: Western Trails Historic & Scenic Byway

02 Chimney Rock

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Follow U.S. Route 26 and Nebraska Hwy 92 along the side of the North Platte River and retrace the steps of the pioneers on the Oregon Trail. The drive passes through gentle, rolling hills and takes you past a succession of historically important sites.

This route was first published in 2010 on RoadTrip America. To see this piece in its original form (together with interactive map) and hundreds of other route suggestions covering North America, visit

The highlights of the Western Trails Historic & Scenic Byway include:

Ogallala (starting point)
Start in Ogallala, a city that was, during its heyday from 1875-85, the scene of more violent deaths than Dodge City. This was the end of the cattle trail, where Texas cowboys drove their herds to meet the Union Pacific Railroad.

Lake McConaughty (mile 10)
Take the anti-clockwise route around the north side of Lake McConaughty on Nebraska Highway 92, more a more scenic drive. Known locally as Big Mac, the lake offers camping, boating, water skiing and scuba diving, but is best known for trophy fishing.

Bluewater Battlefield State Historic Park (mile 41)
If you have the time, take a quick diversion to the site of the Battle of Blue Water (1855), the first major clash between the US Army and the Sioux Indians.

Chimney Rock (mile 106)
Chimney Rock stands 325 feet above the prairie. It was a famous landmark of the western migration, marking the end of the plains section of the route and the beginning of the even more challenging mountain passage.

Scotts Bluff National Monument (mile 127)
Scotts Bluff National Monument, an enormous lump of rock towering 800 feet above the North Platte River, was another path marker for those on the Oregon, California, Mormon and Pony Express Trails. There’s a road up to the summit (with optional shuttle) and a choice of short trails including remnants of the original Oregon Trail.

The Great Smoke (mile 151)
Approximately five miles west of Morrill, look out for a historical marker for The Great Smoke, where thousands of American Indians came together to sign The Horse Creek Treaty of 1851.