Toadstool Geologic Park is a hidden gem you should absolutely add to your route the next time you’re in western Nebraska. Having camped and hiked here several times, it is easily one of my favorite places to visit! Here’s everything you need to know to have a fun adventure with your dogs at Toadstool Geologic Park and Campground.
Nebraska: A Hidden Gem For Dog Friendly Adventures
Nebraska? Yes, Nebraska! We promise you it’s more than whatever boring picture is running through your head right now. And bonus, there are a lot of great things you can do with your pets!
Nebraska has eight state parks, two national forests, and three national grasslands—all of which welcome dogs to some degree or another. Additionally, there are plenty of great dog friendly cities to explore, such as Grand Island, Scottsbluff, Lincoln, and more.
Visiting Nebraska’s Dog Friendly Toadstool Geologic Park And Campground
As you make your way through this lovely state, aim for the northwest corner near Crawford, NE, to find Toadstool Geologic Park. The park is part of the Oglala National Grassland and is managed by the United States Forest Service.
READ MORE ⇒ Exploring The National Grasslands With Dogs
The main attractions at Toadstool Geologic Park are the toadstool-shaped formations and other geologic sights. The rocks in Toadstool Park formed more than 24 million years ago and are related to Badlands National Park in South Dakota. Exploring this park feels like you and your pup teleported to the moon!
Note: If you’ve visited Badlands National Park in South Dakota, but were disappointed by the fact that NONE of the trails there are pet friendly … you’re in for a pleasant surprise at Toadstool!
The day-use area, campground, and trails at Toadstool are ALL dog friendly. Parking for the day-use area is $3 per vehicle. And campsites are $15 per vehicle per night on a first-come-first-served basis.
In addition to the trails and camping, there is a sod house exhibit on the grounds. The current sod house, constructed by the Forest Service in 1982, is meant to resemble one built in 1902 that is no longer standing. The high plains homestead exhibit gives visitors a chance to see how some people lived here in the past.
Camping At Toadstool Geologic Park With Dogs
The campground at Toadstool is a small but lovely. Each of the six campsites has a covered picnic table, trash can, pedestal grill, and campfire ring. There are also vault toilets, but no running water or electricity.
The best part is that you’re far from any city or busy road, so it is very quiet and peaceful. (Plus, there’s nothing for your dog to bark at!) And you can see SO many stars at night!
Hiking Toadstool Geologic Park With Dogs
There are three hiking trails you can access directly from the campground at Toadstool Geologic Park. And all three are pet friendly!
The most popular trail is a one-mile loop that weaves through the clay and sandstone formations (hoodoos). Download the interpretive brochure or get a copy at the trailhead and learn about the park and its unique features as you explore.
This trail is especially fun to hike at sunrise and sunset to see how the sky’s colors change the look of the white rock formations.
For a little longer hike, the Bison Trail is three miles one-way. About halfway around the main loop, you’ll take the trail heading up the canyon to the Hudson-Meng Education and Research Center.
The Center is currently closed, but when it is open, visitors can tour an ancient bonebed of extinct bison. Researchers are still hoping to discover why so many bison died here.
The third trail is a five-mile loop. From the campground, you and your dog will cross the badlands into the grasslands on the Great Plains Trail until you connect with the Bison Trail and follow it back to the campground. It is a stunning transition to climb up from the stark badlands to the flowing green of the grasslands – definitely worth the adventure if you and your dog have the time!
People and dogs who want an even longer hike can branch off to continue exploring the Great Plains Trail. It runs north and south, crisscrossing along trails and roads from Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas up to the Canadian Border in Montana and North Dakota!
Keeping Dogs Safe While Hiking Toadstool Geologic Park
There are varying leash rules throughout the grasslands and national forests, so be sure to check for signs indicating if a leash is required for your dog. While hiking in Toadstool Park, we recommend leashing your dog. The campground and day-use areas are fenced, but there are horses and cattle roaming throughout the areas you’ll be hiking.
At times it can be hard to see the trails, and it’s easy to get turned around in the badlands and grassland. To ensure you stay on track, watch for the brown posts marking the trails. When you reach one, look for the next post to hike toward before you continue.
Also be sure to bring plenty of water, snacks, and sun/wind protection for you and your dog while hiking. Summers in the Oglala Grassland can get very warm and are often windy.
Last but not least, bring a towel to clean off your dog if the weather has been rainy. The ground at Toadstool Park can get very muddy and slippery when it’s wet! This includes the hiking trails and the gravel road leading to the park. Both Cool Whip and Hercules looked like they were wearing brown boots after one of our hikes!
Exploring Other Nearby Dog Friendly Places
While you and your four-legged adventure crew are up in northwestern Nebraska, be sure to keep exploring!
Fort Robinson State Park is just 30 minutes south from Toadstool Geologic Park. It makes for a great day trip or a base camp for all your adventures.
Another option is to head south from Fort Robinson another 90 minutes or so and see the famous Scotts Bluff National Monument. The bluff, which rises 800 feet above the valley surrounding it, was a main landmark for anyone traveling the Oregon Trail.
Drive just a short bit more and you’ll reach Chimney Rock, another well-known landmark along the Oregon and Mormon Trails. There are many unique rock formations throughout Nebraska and the rest of the Great Plains!
Keep in mind that Custer State Park in South Dakota is two hours north of Toadstool in the magnificent Black Hills. With 71,00 acres to explore, there is no shortage of fun activities with your pets!
Ready to plan your trip? What is your favorite place to visit in the Midwest? Let us know in the comments!
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