On this episode of “Heidi stumbles into a random Saturday adventure…” we visit the highest peak in Nebraska!
Okayyyy, “peak” may be overkill. Also, I’ve known about Panorama Point for awhile, and always planned on doing a 120 mile bike ride out there sometime from Cheyenne. But a December evening of playing around on Peakbaggers.com spurred me into thinking… I could just sit around the house all day, or I could take the one hour drive from my house to the highest summit in Nebraska. A Saturday adventure was born!
A dusting of light snow coated Cheyenne, but the roads dried up as I headed east on I-80 toward Pine Bluffs. Panorama Point was not the first stop planned – first I’d be going to the “tri-state marker” where Nebraska, Colorado, and Wyoming come together (one of ten tri-state corners in the United States). This location is on the same property as Panorama Point, but there is not direct way between the two since it is an active bison ranch. Luckily, it is on Google Maps under “CO-NE-WY Tri-State Marker,” and is easy to find when heading south on Laramie County Road 165… just turn left immediately after the missile silo! (I’m not making that up!)
A rough two-track road will lead you out to the marker. There were pretty deep ruts in place that I felt were maxing out the clearance on my Subaru Forester if I wasn’t careful, so beware if in a lower clearance car.
The original stone marker was placed in 1896, with improvements made over the year.
After quick selfies (I will admit, there’s not a whole lot to see and do), I headed back to make my way to Panorama Point. It was about twenty minutes or so of driving on gravel county roads in Colorado, eventually crossing into Nebraska, heading north on County Road 5. You will approach the High Point Bison Ranch on the right, and soon after the entrance to Panorama Point is seen on the left (if coming south from an I-80 approach near Kimball, the entrance to Panorama Point will be on the right, and if you get to the ranch sign, you’ve gone too far). Tip – Google Maps has two Panorama Points listed, choose the one in “Pine Bluffs, NE” to get routed to the correct one.
The property owners charge $3 per person to visit the high point, which I think is more than fair, as they could just gate it off and not let anyone out there since it is private property and an active bison ranch. I didn’t have exact change, so I stuffed a $5 bill in the slot. It was worth it for this adventure!
A washboarded track takes you out to 5,424 feet… the top of Nebraska! Panorama Point does indeed offer up panoramic views of the tri-states, and I found it rather pretty. There is an official marker, a bench, and a metal desk with a visitor log inside.
It is not a 14,000 foot peak, but in Nebraska’s defense, Panorama Point is higher than Denver’s elevation, so there’s that! It is also the 20th highest state high point, which means thirty states have lower elevation high points. I played around with photos and cartwheels and cheesing about this feat of mountaineering I accomplished. The wind was rather cold (it was only 27 degrees before wind chill was factored in), so I did not stick around as much as I would’ve liked.
You can stop by the visitor center in Kimball, NE for an official certificate. I chose to head home, as going to Kimball would’ve added a decent amount of time. It was smooth sailing on the gravel back roads to Pine Bluffs, where I got on I-80 for the cruise home.
High pointing is not necessarily something I’ve ever chased, as Mount Washington in New Hampshire is the only other state high point I’ve done, but I can see what makes it fun, especially when it comes to exploring the more unique ones (like states that aren’t exactly mountainous). I highly doubt I’ll ever summit Denali, so finishing all fifty won’t ever be my goal… but I can have fun adventures summiting in Nebraska, instead!
For more information… click here!