Attention aspiring astronauts (past or present): If you have ever wondered what it was like to walk on another planet, you must visit Toadstool Geologic Park in Western Nebraska. It is unlike any adventure you will ever have. Toadstool’s namesake is its giant stones are perfectly placed upon smaller rocks. It appears that extra-terrestrials placed these stones just so. Perhaps they were playing an alien version of Jenga.
Aside from being a magical place for space exploration, it is also incredibly educational and makes for a nice hiking spot. This beautiful piece of history shows how layers of rock formed over millions of years by volcanic ash, and how the rivers and wind eroded the rock. There are pocks in the rocks that are actually track marks from some ancient rhinos and other animals. The park provides a guide book to help you follow the tracks and identify fossils.
Out on the plains of Western Nebraska, without any Cottonwoods to provide you relief, it can be pretty balmy walking around on hot stones. Visit in the morning or evening so you can really enjoy your hike. Luckily there is a bench hidden in the middle of the park under the shade of a giant rock if it gets too warm.
You could spend an hour or a few days at Toadstool. If you want a longer hike, you can make the three mile trek to the Hudson-Meng Education and Research Center where they discovered over 600 bison skeletons from 10,000 years ago. Make a weekend out of it by camping right outside the park or stay down the road at High Plains Homestead where you will be greeted with an Old West town and a cowboy cookout.
Take your kids, or just let your inner child explore the adventures of Toadstool. Let your imagination run wild or just take in the vast history of the land by following the fossil trail. It's a must see, a requirement for any bucket list!
Chelsey Erpelding is lifelong Nebraskan who recently began her journey of rediscovering the state she was born and raised in and will raise her child(ren) in. She enjoys bringing her husband and little girl on her adventures around the state. She uses her personal blog www.chelseynebraskaact.com to document her discoveries. Chelsey also works part-time at Boys Town and loves to garden.