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Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area and Nature Center

  • Archery Range
  • Biking
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Hunting
  • Picnicking
  • Playground

Whether you become captivated by indoor interactive displays or from the exploration of 1,094 acres of wilderness, you’re sure to gain a deeper appreciation for the outdoors with a visit to the Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area and Nature Center. The park, which is situated high on a rocky escarpment in the Wildcat Hills, offers an escape to the region’s signature rugged topography and evergreen-studded canyons. Not to mention, the area features an extraordinary view of the North Platte River Valley from its system of trails and observation decks at the nature center. New additions under construction at this park are sure to make it a premier attraction in the Panhandle. The park is easily accessible, situated 10 miles south of Gering along Nebraska Highway 71.

Attractions

Wildcat Hills Nature Center

The nature center not only serves as the park’s headquarters, but also is a stimulating learning environment with displays and programs paying tribute to the region’s flora and fauna. From the first sight of the 27-foot tall artificial ponderosa pine tree that spans two floors inside the split-level building, visitors realize they are in a unique facility. Thousands of children and others visit the center each year to participate in educational programs or self-guided tours of the displays. In addition to the wide array of nature education programs, the building and its captivating view of the park and valley below may be rented for a variety of events such as conferences and weddings. A gift shop provides souvenirs and resource material to visitors.

Shooting Complex

The Wildcat Hills Shooting Sports Complex is a family-friendly shooting sports education center with a focus on safety, education and fun. The center features archery, small bore, pellet, shotgun and rifle ranges. It provides educational programming and quality instruction. Equipment rental is available. Visit the Wildcat Hills Shooting Sports Complex page for more details, rates and hours.

Hiking and biking

Throughout the year, hikers at Wildcat Hills enjoy more than three miles of nature trails through the canyons and rocky bluffs of the park. The single-tracks, also popular among mountain bikers, have four main trailheads. Each route courses through a mosaic of upland plant life. The primary trail is located below the large shelter and is accessible to all ages and abilities. Park visitors should be aware the trails traverse rugged terrain and steep inclines in places, and the elevation of upwards to 5,000 feet may challenge the stamina of some who aren’t used to it.

Picnicking

Among the recreation area’s structures are three historical stone shelters that were built during the Great Depression era by the Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration. The shelters, built with native stone that was quarried nearby, are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The larger group shelter has fireplaces in each end and can accommodate about 40 people comfortably. The two smaller shelters each have a picnic table and fireplace and are ideal for family outings.

Birdwatching

The nature center attracts birds and birdwatchers, as a number of exceptional feathered species flock to the park. Well-stocked feeders can be observed at close range behind tinted glass windows at the nature center as species such as evening grosbeaks and red crossbills visit. Each fall the center serves as headquarters to the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies which captures and places leg bands on birds to obtain migration data.

Wildlife for Wild Places

An array of wildlife has room to roam at Wildcat Hills among a mix of evergreens, grasses, spring wildflowers and the rare-to-Nebraska shrub mountain mahogany. The Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area is adjacent to the nearby 230-acre Wildcat Hills Wildlife Management Area, which allows hunting. Other nearby properties, such as the Bead Mountain Ranch and Murphy Ranch of the Platte River Basin Environments, provide even more public access. The expanse of lands has been known to attract an occasional moose and is the site of Nebraska’s first documented northern saw-whet owl nest. Other wildlife species in the area include bighorn sheep, mule deer, white-tailed deer, wild turkey, bobcat and coyote. Also, prairie rattlesnakes are occasionally seen in the area, so watch your step.

Camping

Primitive camping

Camping is offered at 12 non-pad sites east of the center. There is also a group camping area available. Picnic tables and fire grates are found at points throughout the area, and drinking water is available. Vault toilets are provided at two sites.

Nearby attractions

Monument Country

Wildcat Hills SRA is close to Scotts Bluff National Monument, Chimney Rock National Historic Site and many other natural wonders and public lands of the Wildcat Hills and North Platte Valley.

Scottsbluff-Gering

Central to these attractions is the Scottsbluff-Gering area, providing big-city amenities to the scenic region.

Lake Minatare State Recreation Area

Lake Minatare, just minutes away, is a popular place to enjoy summer activities like camping, boating, fishing, and more. 

Contact Information

Address: Wildcat Hills SRA | 210615 Hwy 71 | Gering, NE 69341
Phone: (308) 436-3777

Email: Send email