Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area is a unique place with plenty of outdoor activities, a Nature Center, and 12 primitive campsites for rigs. Located 10 miles south of Gering, Nebraska, the recreation area was created between 1929 and 1980 with the purchase of private land. The recreation area has a unique landscape similar to what may be found in the Badlands of South Dakota or the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area is situated between the North Platte River Valley and Pumpkin Creek and features bluffs, buttes, cliffs, canyons, and ridges overlooking the vast prairie landscape.
The area surrounding Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area was the original homeland of the Pawnee Tribe. The Pawnee first encountered Spanish explorers in the 17th century as they moved west from Florida. The Pawnee traded horses, hunted bison, and were agriculturist specialists. As time passed the tribe had conflicts with other Plains Indian Tribes including the Omaha, Lakota Sioux, and Ponca. There were five separate treaties signed with the federal government between 1862 and 1870.
Today, Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area boasts a plethora of outdoor activities including a shooting complex, hiking and biking trails, winter sports, and a fabulous nature center that is open year-round. There are 12 primitive campsites dispersed along the roads within the recreation that offer minimal amenities.
The weather at Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area brings summertime temperatures in the high 80s and low 90s with up to two inches of rain per month. Winter has snowfall up to nine inches per month, accompanied by temperatures in the 30s.
RVs can access Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area from State Highway 71, also known as the John McLellan, Jr. Expressway. Traveling south from Gering, rigs, and RVs will navigate along State Highway 71, which is a two-lane paved road. The road has a few spots that can be difficult right outside of Gering before the highway straightens out. As you get closer to the recreation area, there are more curves to navigate, and the terrain changes from undulating prairie to canyons, buttes, bluffs, and ridges that are more difficult to drive with your RV. The last two miles of your drive becomes challenging due to the highway curving through the uplift landscape.
Once inside the recreation area, there are a couple of dirt roads that travel through to various places such as overlooks. Driving within the recreation area is not recommended for big rigs. The roads are narrow, steep in places, and there are blind spots when navigating curves. Also, RVs and big rigs should not drive to the highest point in the recreation area because you will not be able to return based on the tight curves of the turn-around at the end of the road. While driving in the recreation area, you will need to share the road with bicyclists, pedestrians, horseback riders, and children playing near their roadside campsites. Please adhere to all posted speed limits within the recreation area for safety reasons.
The Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area Campground is dispersed along the roadways throughout the recreation area. There are 12 primitive campsites available for RVs, campers, and tents. Campsites vary from forested areas to short-grass prairie, which may limit protection from the weather and privacy. Each campsite is furnished with a fire ring, picnic table, and grass parking pad which may require leveling. RVs and big rigs will find camping more difficult due to the size of their rigs. RVs are limited to 30 feet in length. There is no dump station located within the recreation area. The nearest dump station for RVs is in Gering where you are encouraged to fill your water tank while dumping your holding tank. There are minimal amenities, but you will find vault toilets and water spigots. Generators may be used from 8:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. Pets must be restrained at all times by a six-foot leash. Although the campsites are open year-round, not every campsite may be usable during the winter months.
You need to take a good pair of hiking boots in your RV when you visit Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area. There are seven trails that you can experience while visiting the 700-acre recreation area. Families can enjoy easy hikes along Northlook Nature Trail and the Bobcat Loop Trail. For more advanced hikers, Cedar Ridge Trail and Turkey Run Trail are an excellent choice for exploring the unique landscape of bluffs, buttes, canyons, and short-grass prairie.
Taking your mountain bike in your camper to Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area is a perfect choice for exercising and exploring. The rugged terrain is challenging and more suited for medium to expert riders. There is more than four miles of mixed use trails for you to peddle while visiting the recreation area. One of the best trails is the Monument View Trail where you will be rewarded with fantastic views. Another good choice is the Muley Trail which has you rock hopping in spots along the rugged trail.
When visiting Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area you will want to take a pair of binoculars in your campervan and enjoy some of the best wildlife viewing in the state. There are several overlooks that are easily reached by foot or bike within the recreation area that offer stellar opportunities to view animals from the neighboring Big Game Reserve. Animals you can spot in the recreation area include coyote, bobcat, wild turkey, big horn sheep, and mule deer.
Most travelers that visit Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area who like to shoot at targets will bring their shooting equipment in their camper or trailer. The Wildcat Hills Shooting Sports Complex features a family-friendly shooting complex for small bore, pellet, shotgun, rifles, and archery. The complex offers plenty of safety and educational courses for people to learn more about the proper way to handle and shoot various guns and archery equipment. Don’t worry if you forget your shooting equipment because rentals are available on-site.
Visiting the Nature Center within Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area is a great idea. The center is packed with interesting information about the local ecosystem. Once inside you will be treated to unique fossils found in the area such as a fang from a sabertooth tiger. There is also an aquarium filled with local fish and a live beehive. The center contains a nice diorama of the recreation area that includes replicas of bobcat, Canada lynx, big horn sheep, and you can view exhibits featuring hawks, owls, and eagles.
When the snow starts to fly there are plenty of activities that are great things to do in Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area. The trail system is perfect for snowshoeing with several challenging trails like Turkey Run Trail for more advanced snowshoeing opportunities. Another good trail for advanced snowshoeing is the Cedar Ridge Trail which leads you to two overlooks where you will be rewarded with outstanding views of the natural landscape. Families and beginners can try the Bobcat Trail and can venture out on the Northlook Nature Trail.