Fort Kearney Rail Trail – Nebraska

I am traveling back to Indiana from Ogden and decided to check out a couple of rail trails along the way.  I thought it would be fun to share some pictures and my thoughts along the way.

Entrance road to Fort Kearney SRA.

Entrance road to Fort Kearney SRA.

The Fort Kearney Rail Trail is a short (1.8 miles) trail located just south of Kearney Nebraska.  Don’t let the relative lack of length discourage you from stopping here if your travels take you across the Cornhusker state on Interstate 80.  The trail crosses the Platte River, which is a very unique and special body of water.  It also connects to a network of very lightly traveled county roads and that allows you to extend your ride as long as you want.

The bridge over the main channel of the Platte River is a repurposed railroad trestle.

The bridge over the main channel of the Platte River is long and fun.

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There’s access to the bottomlands from the trestle. The Platte is a national treasure in the midst of a place where you might not expect to find so much natural beauty.

The Platte River watershed is legendary among birders.  This area is home to the largest whooping crane population on the planet.  Seasonal migrations are truly spectacular, but it was quiet yesterday.

This Platte watershed is home to the largest whooping crane population on the planet. Seasonal migrations are truly spectacular, but it was quiet yesterday.

The Platte is a braided river.  This newer bridge crosses another channel.

The Platte is a braided river. This newer bridge crosses another channel.

The trail surface is a mixed bag.  It’s mostly dirt, but there’s also some crushed stone and even loose sand.  It passes a sandy beach and a sand mining operation, so I think it’s pretty much natural.  I wouldn’t attempt this on skinny tires, but you don’t need a fat bike, either.  I rode my Specialized Hardrock with 1.75″ knobby tires and did just fine.

This isn't a groomed suburban trail, but it works.  There are some soft spots.  Wider tires are better, all things considered.

This isn’t a groomed suburban trail, but it works. The tunnel under I-80 is visible ahead. 

Getting here is the biggest challenge.  The trail is not well known locally and there are no signs identifying it. Head south from I-80 at the main Kearney exit and follow the signs to the Kearney State Recreation Area.  It’s about six miles from the intersection.  In addition to the trail, there’s a nice little campground here as well as a swim beach in a prairie pothole.  There were people birding and fly fishing during my visit on a Friday afternoon.

If you go…

There are actually two parks here… a historic park as well as the state recreation area.  That presents a small challenge in terms of where to go.  You want the SRA.  There’s a gatehouse at the entrance that was unmanned when I arrived.  Use the self service station and entrance to pay the $5.00 entrance fee and put a tag on your dashboard.  Turn right and park in the first parking area and then follow the road around to the trailhead.  You can’t miss it.

As soon as the sun comes up, I’m off to explore the Blue River Rail Trail in Marysville Kansas.  I’ll post up pics tonight or tomorrow.  Cheers!

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One thought on “Fort Kearney Rail Trail – Nebraska

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