As we drove into Scottsbluff, Nebaska, we weren’t sure how long we wanted to stay. We considered spending a night or two, so we could add the state to our map, then head into Colorado to get a head start on our adventures there.
But when I checked my Chimani national park app, I learned there are three National Park Service sites in the immediate area. That changed the game, causing us to settle in for a week-long stay. After our whirlwind month in the Rapid City area, it was good to slow down and regroup.
We stayed in Scottsbluff from Sept. 8-15, 2018.
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Our RV Campground in Scottsbluff
We stayed at Riverside Park Campground in Scottsbluff, a city park we found on Campendium. I believe we paid $25/night and got the seventh night free.
I liked it there. We had a pull-through with a huge grassy area and tree. Neighbors came and went frequently, but it stayed fairly quiet.
We were right by a large pond with a walking trail, and the small zoo is adjacent to the campground (we didn’t go, but we did say hi to the bison through the fence).
1514 S. Beltline Hwy W. – Campendium
What We Did in the Scottsbluff Area
All of our exploring centered around the three National Park Service sites.
Fort Laramie National Historic Site
We spent the most time at Fort Laramie, located about an hour from Scottsbluff. What a cool place. Almost everyone related to westward expansion, from explorers to military members to Indian chiefs, spent time there. It was a fur trade post, military garrison, Oregon Trail stop, and Pony Express stop.
While none of the buildings are original, 11 are reconstructed–some beautifully furnished–and all fascinating to walk through. We spent hours on the grounds: watching the visitor’s center film, attending a ranger talk, and taking the self-guided tour around all the buildings.
Related reading: I highly recommend “Blood and Thunder: The Epic Story of Kit Carson and the Conquest of the American West” by Hampton Sides. I read it early in our western trip this year, and it brought so much depth to many of the sites we’ve visited, including Fort Laramie. The history of westward experience is complex, yet it’s reduced to false simplicity in many textbooks. This book is fair to all parties, sharing a side of history too many of us missed in school (myself included). You can follow my Amazon link to read others’ reviews or order a copy.
Scotts Bluff National Monument
Scotts Bluff National Monument was only a few minutes from the campground. We didn’t spend a ton of time there–I think we had run out of steam due to work. BUT we had one of the most memorable opportunities ever: we got to walk on the actual Oregon Trail!
Over our five years of fulltime RVing, I’ve thought of the pioneers so many times. The extent of my accomplishments as a traveler pales in comparison to those who literally blazed the trail for me.
Agate Fossil Beds National Monument
It took almost an hour to get to Agate Fossil Beds from Scottsbluff. Though it was in the middle of nowhere, we actually had cell service! This is one of the newer NPS sites, established in 1997.
So what is it all about? Some epic archaeological finds have taken place here. The visitor’s center film shares the remarkable story of the Agate bonebed and the extinct mammals found there. You can take the 2.7-mile Fossil Hills Trail to see the quarries from the early 1900s.
Besides the fossil history, Eric was astonished by the James Cook Collection gallery. It includes the most beautiful gifts from Chief Red Cloud to James H. Cook, owner of the Agate Springs Ranch.
What We Ate in the Scottsbluff Area
Scottsbluff is not a foodie haven. We had one stand-out surprise, which was The Emporium. It was worthy of any major city–genuinely delicious and classy. I had an unbelievable sweet potato curry, which was on special. Eric had a superb burger, and I also enjoyed my cocktail.
The only downside was price, which was above what we normally spend. Otherwise, we would’ve gone back multiple times. I’m terribly sad to share that it looks like The Emporium has shut down since we visited two months ago. ?
The only other dining experience I’d recommend in Scottsbluff itself is 16th Empire. While the food was average, the service was excellent and the atmosphere welcoming.
If you want a local coffee shop, you can try Cappuccino and Company.
If you’re exploring the area and find yourself near Torrington, then try Deacons Restaurant. It’ll strike you as a standard local diner, but the food exceeds expectations. We ate there a couple of times.
(Avoid Rosita’s at all costs. It was one of the worst all-around restaurant experiences we’ve ever had.)
Where We Are Now
It has been so cold! The November high in central Oklahoma is normally in the 60s, and the average low is 37 degrees. Well, the high yesterday was somewhere around 35.
Our 17-year-old Javen is with us for Thanksgiving week. When he goes back to school on Saturday, we’ll head down to Texas. We’re dropping Meriwether off for a round of maintenance. It’s hard to believe we have less than five weeks with our home of five years, before we move out for good.
Hope you all have a wonderful holiday week. Leave a comment to let us know how you’re doing and where your adventures are taking you!