THING TO DO

Hike to Fort Falls

A waterfall curves down the side of a dark canyon wall before forming a wide shallow pool below.
The Fort Falls in summer.

NPS, 2017

A great trail for all ages and abilities, the Fort Falls Trail is a 1.0 mile round loop with two trailheads.

This trail features the 45-foot-tall Fort Falls Waterfall, along with scenic views of the Niobrara National Scenic River, and scenic overlooks of the six ecosystems that meet at the river's banks.

The Fort Falls Upper Trailhead in the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge quickly leads hikers down to the canyon floor using metal walkways and stairs. You can examine every level of the tree canopy on your way, and walk over the stream that feeds the Fort Falls.

There is a viewing platform for the Fort Falls where you can enjoy the shade and splash of the water against the canyon floor. Following the stream further, you'll come to the shore of the Niobrara National Scenic River, and the steep walls of the canyon can be seen at a distance along with different soil layers that contribute to the unique geology of the Niobrara River Valley.

The trail continues up the river's bank with strategic benches for taking breaks along the way. The Lower Trailhead is located at the Bur Oak Picnic and Parking Area on the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge. The remaining distance of trail leads hikers further up along the canyon wall through deciduous and coniferous forest systems with information signs for learning along the way. Hikers can follow this leg of the trail back to the Fort Falls Upper Trailhead and Parking area.
Details
Walking just the 0.25 mile to the Fort Falls and Niobrara River Bank can be done in about 20 minutes, but to enjoy all that this trail has to offer, we recommend the whole 1.0 mile loop, which can take about an hour.
Along this trail you will see both the Fort Falls and the Niobrara National Scenic River, but other highlights include wildlife, views of the soil layers on the canyon walls that are unique to the Niobrara River's geology, and pass through just a few of the six ecosystems that meet at the River's banks.
All ages are welcome.
Pets are allowed on the Fort Falls Hiking Trail as long as they are on a leash.
The Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge is open and free to the public from dawn until dusk.
Located at Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge, the Fort Falls Upper Trailhead is just 0.25 miles from the Fort Niobrara Visitor Center. It features a parking area, free of charge, open from dawn until dusk. 

The trail is a 1.0 mile loop, but from this trailhead, the Fort Falls and Niobrara National Scenic River can be seen in just under 0.25 miles. This trail is mostly dirt walking paths with metal stairs and walkways and a short paved section to help hikers reach the canyon floor where the Fort Falls land.
No reservations are needed.
This trail can be accessed year round, but hiking in the winter on the metal walkways and stairs is hazardous. Crampons may be helpful for grip.
The Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge is open and free to the public from dawn until dusk.
Accessibility Information
This trail is not accessible. The section that is paved is not well maintained and is rough with weeds growing out of the pavement. The metal walkway has a few steep areas, though it could potentially accommodate a wheel chair for viewing of the upper stream that feeds the Fort Falls. There is a set of about 40 metal stairs that take visitors to the base of the Fort Falls Waterfall that can be slick and uneven. The rest of the trail is single track dirt and sand than can be as narrow as 12 inches across.

More to do on the Niobrara

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