Channel your inner cowboy at Valentine, a town in the midst of Western Nebraska’s expansive sand hill region. This town began as a tent settlement at the terminus of a railroad in the early 19th century. Come here today to find a vibrant and historic community set amongst landscapes that have inspired artists, poets and ranchers.
Learn about Valentine’s railroad and ranching history at the Cherry County Historical Society Museum, which displays models and photographs of the town’s early days. Stop by Centennial Hall, housed in a school building dating back to 1897, to see more exhibits of Valentine’s storied past.
Explore the fertile Nebraska sand hills, where plains have supported ranchers herding cattle for over a century. This 19,000-square-mile (49,000-square-kilometer) expanse of grass-stabilized dunes is the largest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.
Camp under the stars at Merritt Reservoir, one of the vital water sources in the region. Swim in cool waters, fish for bass and enjoy the photogenic bluffs and tree-lined beaches that surround the lake. Stop by the Merritt Trading Post for fishing and camping gear.
Follow the Niobrara River downstream from Valentine to hike trails through stunning riverine canyons. Canoe down the river with a guide and see bison and mule deer grazing on the banks. Visit the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge to see huge flocks of ducks nesting.
Experience the life of a cowboy at Arthur Bowring Ranch, where you’ll see authentic barns and dwellings of 19th-century ranchers. Take a pleasant horseback tour through the Cottonwood Lake State Recreation Area and see stunning waterfalls in the Smith Falls State Park.
Valentine is located in western Nebraska, about 5 hours’ drive from the state capital, Lincoln. Get around town and its surrounding attractions by car.
Follow the footsteps of pre-industrial ranchers along the cowboy trail, a limestone pathway that leads southeast of Valentine. Hike to the Niobrara gorge to a particularly spectacular wooden bridge spanning the 148-foot valley.