State Recreation Area
210615 Highway 71 | Gering, NE 69341
Whether you become captivated by indoor interactive displays, interpretive programming, shooting sports 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. 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. Features include a Nature Center, Shooting Sports Complex, overnight camping and a vast system of trails. An extraordinary view of the North Platte River Valley can be seen from the trails and Nature Center observation decks. The park is easily accessible, situated 10 miles south of Gering along Nebraska Highway 71.
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 span 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. A gift shop provides souvenirs and resource material to visitors.
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.
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. Bird species such as evening grosbeaks and red crossbills frequent the area. 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.
Among the recreation area’s structures are three historical stone shelters. These structures 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.
Throughout the year, hikers, bikers and equestrian riders at Wildcat Hills enjoy more than 3 miles of trails through the canyons and rocky bluffs of the park. The single-tracks have four main trailheads. Each route courses through a mosaic of upland plant life. Park visitors should be aware the trails traverse rugged terrain and steep inclines in places, as well as elevation upwards to 4,600 feet, which may challenge the stamina of those not used to it. Trails are multi-use and users should be mindful of other users utilizing the system.
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.
This 3,000-acre National Monument operated by the National Park Service was an important landmark on the Oregon, California and Mormon Trail. Learn more about the monument.
This site is one of the most famous landmarks on the Oregon, California and Mormon trails. The area features the newly expanded Chimney Rock Museum, operated by History Nebraska, with exhibits and interactive activities. Learn more about the museum. Learn more about the historic site.
Lake Minatare and Bridgeport state recreation areas offer more options and activities for your stay in western Nebraska. Both areas provide boating, camping, fishing and are a short drive from Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area.
Wildcat Hills SRA offers primitive campers 12 Basic sites along the interior trail roads. The summit access road is not accessible to large recreational vehicles or to vehicles towing larger camping trailers or boat trailers since the turnaround is extremely sharp.
Camping reservations are available for half of the campsites in the park. The other half is first-come, first-serve and campers must register at the Nature Center or self-pay station after-hours. Picnic tables, fire grates and three primitive restrooms are placed throughout the area, and drinking water is available near the Nature Center.
The Wildcat Hills Nature Center building, offering a captivating view of the park and valley below, may be rented for a variety of events, such as conferences and weddings.
A park entry permit is required to visit state parks and may be purchased at the park, statewide Game and Parks offices and permit vendors, or in advance of your arrival online. View those fees, as well as attraction and amenity pricing.
Our 76 gorgeous state park and recreations areas host a plethora of events throughout the year. From bird hikes to kayak races, Living History events to family outdoor days, our parks host something fun for every outdoor enthusiast.