Thing to Do

Saddle Rock Trail Geology Hiking Tour

A park ranger points to a cliff face while a crowd of people gathers around.

Are you fascinated by rocks and geology? Learn more about the geological forces that shaped, and continue to shape Scotts Bluff on this 1.6 mile hike!
60-90 Minutes
On this self-guided walking tour of the Saddle Rock Trail, visitors will have an opportunity to observe and learn about some of the unique geology of Scotts Bluff National Monument. The Saddle Rock Trail is a 1.6 mile-long trail with 435 feet of elevation change. 
Pets Allowed
Entrance fees may apply, see Fees & Passes information.
The Saddle Rock Trail Self-Guided Geology Tour starts at the Summit of Scotts Bluff. When the Summit Road is open to vehicular traffic, participants should drive to the Summit Parking Area. At the Summit Parking Area, walk the North Overlook Trail to the far end where the tour starts at a scenic overlook of the North Platte RIver Valley and the Orella badlands below. 

Participants may also start their tour at the Lower Saddle Rock Trailhead and hike up and down the trail for a 3.2 mile round-trip hike. Another option is to take the Summit Shuttle to the Summit of Scotts Bluff when it is available.
The Saddle Rock Trail is open year-round. However, snow and ice may make sections of the trail slippery and dangerous.
Scotts Bluff National Monument's grounds and trails are open sunrise to sunset. 
Accessibility Information
Access to the North Overlook is by a 16% uphill path of about 60 yards (55 meters). The path is paved and approximately 36 inches wide. It will take you to a level looping trail system which is about 150 yard (137 meters) long. Several overlooks from the summit will reveal the North Platte Valley. The remaining 100 yards (91 meters) contains a steep downhill grade of 19% with dropoffs on either side.

Scotts Bluff National Monument

A glowing orange sky is silhouetted by distinctive rock towers.
The Saddle Rock Trail is a wonderful place to observe the unique geology of Scotts Bluff National Monument.

NPS/Eric Grunwald

The geologic story of Scotts Bluff National Monument began approximately 33 million years ago. At that time, as the Rocky Mountains were being uplifted to the west, sediments were being weathered and eroded out of those young mountains. Those sediments, sand and silt, were carried out of the mountains by wind and meandering rivers and began to accumulate on the floor of the Great Plains. Occasionally, volcanic eruptions to the west spewed ash into the air. Carried by the wind, the ash accumulated along with the other sediments in layer upon layer. At the same time, forces of weathering and erosion worked to break down the plains and carry them to the ocean.

This is a 1.6 mile (one-way) hike along the Saddle Rock Trail. The self-guided tour is set up to begin at the summit of Scotts Bluff. However, you can also begin at the lower trailhead which is located just east of the visitor center. There is an elevation change of 435 feet on this trail and no water is available along the trail. To get to the first stop, drive to the summit of Scotts Bluff and take the North Overlook Trail to the northmost overlook. There you will see a view that reaches across the North Platte River Valley.

Last updated: June 12, 2022