The North Overlook Trail

A sign reads
The North Overlook Trailhead is located at the northeast corner of the Summit Parking Lot.

NPS/Eric Grunwald

Quick Facts
41.837322, -103.700038

Parking - Auto, Recycling, Scenic View/Photo Spot, Trailhead, Trash/Litter Receptacles

The North Overlook trail provides an amazing view of the North Platte River Valley, the badlands, and the cities of Scottsbluff and Gering.

Length: 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) if all the loops are made.

Surface: Asphalt

Difficulty: Moderate

Access: The North Overlook Trailhead can be found at the north end of the summit parking lot. This trail also connects to the 1.6 mile Saddle Rock Trail which leads to the Visitor Center.

The North Platte River valley is six miles wide at this location. Before reservoirs were built, the flow of the river was much more variable and its channel was much wider than it is now. The stark, barren and deep ravines of the badlands below were too difficult for wagons to traverse and forced wagon trains through Mitchell Pass instead. The badlands were formed from rapid erosion of a sedimentary layer known as the Brule formation. The Brule layer is quite soft and erodes easily, but, retains enough lime so that once the water leaves the surrounding sediment, it compacts and hardens leaving the moonscape.

Two man-made intrusions visible from the North Overlook within the monument boundary pre-date the establishment of the national monument in 1919. The irrigation canals were dug in the 1880's to early 1900's, to provide the life for farming in the valley. In 1911, the Union Pacific Railroad crossed the badlands and transports coal from the Thunder Basin of north central Wyoming through the national monument.

To many of the pioneers crossing the flat and treeless prairie, the sight of Scotts Bluff topped with evergreens provided welcome relief from the monotonous landscape of the plains. The trees seen on the summit and in the canyons are the same type seen in pioneering days: Ponderosa Pines and Rocky Mountain Junipers.

Along the trail, the highest point on the bluff is marked at 4,659 feet (1,420 meters) above sea level. This marker, now exposed, sticks up above the surface of the surrounding rock, showing the amount of erosion that has occurred since the marker was placed in 1933.


Scotts Bluff National Monument

Last updated: September 3, 2022