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Ponca Trails

Ponca State Park is one of the most popular places to hike and bike in Nebraska. Following are descriptions of the park’s trails:

Education Center Nature Trail

Distance: .17 miles
Difficulty: easy
This trail is located behind the Resource and Education Center and is a great trail for young children. On this short trail, hikers will enjoy seeing a variety of plants and trees, including little blue stem, Virginia waterleaf, bur oak, and eastern red cedars. Also watch for birds on this trail such as wild turkeys, red bellied woodpeckers, and white-breasted nuthatches.

Tri-State Overlook Trail

Distance: 1.28 miles
Difficulty: easy
The Tri-state Overlook Trail loop starts near the east shelter. This trail has outstanding river views, including the Tri-state Overlook. From the Tri-state Overlook, hikers can view Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota. Vegetation along the trail is primarily eastern deciduous forest.

Old Oak Trail

Distance: 1 mile
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Portions of this trail were built in the mid-1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). This trail can be started at several points including the west shelter house and the old oak tree. Along with this “old wolf” oak tree, this trail features heavily forested areas and remnant ridge-top prairies. The bur oak tree is one of the featured attractions at Ponca State Park. It was core dated to be a seedling in 1644, which makes it 132 years older than the United States! Watch for yucca, prairie larkspur, jack-in-the-pulpit and other wildflowers.

Bloodroot Trail

Distance: 1.6 miles
Difficulty: easy
This trail is named after a common woodland wildflower (bloodroot) that is predominant throughout the park’s forested areas. This loop starts and ends just east of the old horse stables-watch for trail sign along the road. This loop trail is an excellent location to spot wild turkey and deer. The Bloodroot Trail also connects to the Old Oak Trail.

Whitetail Trail

Distance: 1.34 miles
Difficulty: easy to moderate
The Whitetail Trail can be accessed near the entrance of the Eric Wiebe Shooting complex and ends near G-8 campsite. The final portion of this trail is rather steep so use caution, especially during wet conditions. This is a great trail for a quick and easy woodland experience. Watch for wild leek (a native woodland onion) and whitetail deer (the trail’s namesake).

Corps of Discovery Trail

Distance: 1.34 miles
Difficulty: moderate to difficult
This trail is named after the Lewis and Clark Expedition who passed by this area on August 22, 1804. The beginning of this trail takes you through the area that was once a CCC encampment. Several cement and stone staircases located on this trail provide evidence of this. On top of the ridge there are exceptional views of the eastern gateway of the Missouri National Recreational River and Elk Point Bend. This trail is not recommended for novice hikers and bikers.

Buffalo Run Trail

Distance: 2.02 miles
Difficulty: easy to moderate
The trail’s namesake comes from a deposit of bison bones found below the bluffs in this area. On the eastern portions of this trail there are spectacular vistas of the river.

Prairie Loop Trail

Distance: 1 mile
Difficulty: easy
This trail begins in the Riverfront campground area and loops around a prairie restoration area. This prairie consists of more than 125 native grasses, sedges and wildflowers from locally harvested seed.

Backwater Trail

Distance: 1.2 to 4 miles
Difficulty: easy
The Backwater Trail traverses through portions of 580-acres that feature Missouri River bottomland. This area was donated to the park in 1999 by the Conservation Fund. The trail wanders through a variety of river bottom habitats including tall-grass prairie, wet meadows, cottonwood forest, oxbows, and river chutes.

Hike/Bike Trail

Distance: 2.5 miles
Difficulty: easy
This 10-foot-wide hike/bike cement trail starts at the East Shelter House and runs into the city of Ponca. This is a perfect trail for families with small children and strollers.