5 Must-try Nebraska Ranch-Cations
Nebraska offers all sorts of unique stays, including accommodations on working guest ranches across the state. If you're looking for some rootin', tootin' fun, then checkout some of our favorite ranch experiences.
Niobrara Riverview Retreats, Valentine
Outdoor serenity is the trademark of this working cattle ranch that borders two miles of the Niobrara River and Schlagel Creek Canyon. Here, you’ll find five different ecozones. Rolling sandhills give way to pine river breaks and mixed hardwood-covered valleys filled with wildlife. The rustic, airconditioned lodge, accommodating 10 to 64 guests, features a large kitchen, dining hall and seven bedrooms, each with a bathroom and shower. Spend your evenings roasting marshmallows around the firepit and playing yard games. Water-lovers will welcome the easy river access for swimming, wading or sunbathing, and arrangements can be made for tubing and kayaking. Nesting trumpeter swans and numerous bird species call the 30-acre marsh home. Catch-and-release northern pike (some larger than 10 pounds), largemouth bass and bluegill can be fished from the shore or from provided kayaks and canoes. Among the ranch’s many trails, owner Steve Hansen, a biologist by profession, offers a self-guided nature hike using a handheld GPS. Overnight stabling and trail riding are available for horse owners
Rowse's 1+1 Ranch, Burwell
Connect with your inner cowboy at Rowse’s 1+1 seven-generation working ranch. Spend several days or a week and experience ranching life as you work alongside lifelong cowboys. Located on more than 7,000 acres in the heart of the Sandhills, the ranch raises 800 cow-calf pairs and has an award-winning quarter horse breeding program. You’ll be teamed up with a gentle, trained quarter horse that will be your four-legged companion during your stay, with the opportunity to ride approximately six hours every day. Guests accompany the Rowse family and staff as they work the ranch—helping the cowboys with their jobs by checking pastures, working and driving cattle and sorting bulls. After morning chores are finished, head to the arena for afternoon roping lessons and additional horsemanship instruction. Log bunkhouse rooms feature décor with cowboy flair and each has its unique personality filled with antiques, hand-carved headboards and rocking chairs on individual front porches. Each room boasts a private bath, stocked coffee bar and mini fridge. At the main ranch lodge, you’ll share Tammy’s buffet-style, home-cooked meals with the family. Specialties include chicken-fried steak, wood-grilled ribeyes on Friday nights and often-requested cherry cheesecake and red velvet cake. Note t hat ranch guests must be 18 years or older.
Double R Guest Ranch, Mullen
Cattle outnumber people amidst this wide-open prairie adorned by sparkling spring-fed lakes and dazzling sunsets. Tucked into towering pines, guest cabins are furnished with your comfort in mind, featuring air-conditioning, satellite TV, fully equipped kitchenettes, barbecue gas grills and yard games. Hike the tall grass prairie and evergreen groves searching for wildflowers, birds and photo opportunities. Fish for pike, perch, bass and bluegill for your evening meal. Take a guided ranch tour in a double-seat four-wheeler. Hunt for whitetail and mule deer or for geese and ducks in the lakes and marshy flatlands. Paddleboat on the lake near the main house, and tank down the nearby Middle Loup River. For a nominal fee, board your horse and explore the hills and trails (use of corrals and grazing included). History resides on the property at the original homestead, a 1908 sod house and one-room schoolhouse containing a treasure trove of books available for reading. Cap off your evenings with stargazing, in one of the best viewing places nationwide due to zero light pollution, and ogle at the inky star-filled sky.
Big Blue Ranch, Burchard
You’ll definitely be occupied at Big Blue Ranch, located on one of the state’s only remaining preserved tall grass prairies. Custom designed, the lodge’s great room has 18-foot vaulted ceilings, floor-to-ceiling stone fireplaces and leather sofas. French doors lead to a spacious porch overlooking the lake. In spring, witness the stomp, strut and boom of the greater prairie chicken’s mating dance. For exceptional viewing, you can be dropped off at the blinds overviewing the mating area. Fish for largemouth bass, bluegill and northern pike from the 60-foot dock or a complimentary kayak, canoe or flat-bottom boat. In winter months, conditions might be ideal for ice fishing. Depending on the season, you can hunt for trophy buck or wild turkey. Any evening, view a spectacular sunset and stargaze under the visible Milky Way.
Flying Heart Ranch, Hay Springs
Escape into the rugged Pine Ridge ponderosa forest at Flying Heart Ranch, operated by the Kadlecek family since the land was homesteaded in 1890. Flowing through the ranch, Beaver Creek was important to various Lakota people, particularly Chief Crazy Horse and his followers. On 10 miles of walking trails, formerly used as logging roads, you might spot some of the abundant wildlife. “The Hideout” cabin features three bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchen with modern appliances. Gather on the front porch for a view of the prairie and the Black Hills in the distance.