Get out of the House! Scotts Bluff National Monument
By Senior Airman Daniel Gage, 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 12, 2013
F. E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. -- At just less than 100 miles from Cheyenne, Wyo., Scotts Bluff National Monument is one of the more distant destinations that have been featured in Get out of the House! However, like the other places in the series, it is worth the drive.
The 500-foot-tall bluffs can be seen from miles away as visitors make their way across the seemingly endless high plains desert of Southeastern Wyoming and Western Nebraska.
These bluffs surrounding Scotts Bluff and Gering, Neb., are some of the last signs of the ancestral Great Plains which have slowly receded around the bluffs over the course of tens of millions of years.
Made up of layers of sandstone, volcanic ash and siltstone that have proven to be more resilient to erosion than the surrounding prairies, the bluffs show just how high the land rose in the plains during the creation of the Rocky Mountains hundreds of miles away.
Visitors approaching the area travel along remnants of the Oregon Trail, on Highway 92, through Mitchell Pass between Sentinel and Eagle Rock, much like the approximately 350,000 migrants moving west between 1841 and 1869 along the overland trail.
Along with a visitor center, Oregon Trail Museum and book store, the site also has numerous trails and a paved road to the summit stretching just over a mile and a half and climbing to an elevation of 4,649 ft.
Once at the summit, visitors can hike paved trails along the cap rock to two different scenic overlooks for a chance to see the towns of Scottsbluff and Gering in the shadow of the peak and the vast prairies in the distance.
From the north overlook, Laramie Peak can be seen 90 miles to the west, along with views of the Scotts Bluff badlands and the North Platte River. Chimney Rock is visible 23 miles to the east from the South Overlook, also providing a view of Saddle Rock, Mitchell Pass and the overland trail.
The Saddle Rock Hiking Trail may also be taken to the summit for those looking to incorporate a workout into their visit. The 1.6 mile paved trail also spans from the visitor center to the summit and while pets are allowed to join, they are required to be on a leash.
After taking in the view from the summit, visitors can enjoy a picnic on one of the picnic tables east of the museum.
Throughout the year, numerous special events are hosted at Scotts Bluff National Monument.
From mid-June through mid-August, living history programs are offered on the weekends, daily ranger presentations are given and a shuttle van makes scheduled runs to the summit every 30 to 45 minutes.
This month, the Oregon Trail Museum will host an annual exhibition of local artists work in commemoration of National Park Week.
Also in commemoration of National Park Week, taking place the last Saturday in April is the Spring Up the Bluff annual relay race, an event in which teams of six can race to get their baton from the visitor center to the summit of Scotts Bluff.
As part of the National Parks and Historical Sites, Scotts Bluff can be visited for free by active duty military and their families by presenting their military ID.
Operating hours for the national monument are from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the summer - Memorial Day to Labor Day - and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the winter.
For more information, visit www.nps.gov/scbl.