My heart is so full because this lovely place is in my home state. I was under this weird impression that waterfalls couldn't exist in Nebraska. Too much flat land and cows I guess.
Google, you are a beautiful thing. Thank you for giving me local adventures and being so much smarter than me.
Not gonna lie, I thought about skipping this place. I had just spent two uncomfortable days in a cabin with more fear than I wanna admit. I was not up for exploring. I wanted to be in my hometown sitting by a fire, drinking hot chocolate, and editing photos. Instead, I was fearfully trying to find a gas station in the middle of nowhere South Dakota at 5 freakin' thirty am.
Eventually I found one and after a hot cup of Casey's coffee, I was ready to let God run my day and the events that would fill it. Before, I contemplated skipping the falls and heading straight to my next hotel. After, I realized that a trip to Smith Falls would help me arrive at my hotel around check-in time and not hours before. Man, if I would have left straight for the Badlands that day, I would have killed some serious joy God was tryin' give me. Here's seven tips for visiting the falls...
1. Smith Falls is located on the outskirts of Valentine, Nebraska. Here's the address: 90615 Smith Falls Rd, Valentine, NE 69201. I read online reviews about the falls being difficult to find, but I found it pretty easily with this address and watching people closely who were returning from the falls.
2. You can buy your park pass in the park office, which is the first building you'll see entering the park. The entrance to the building is the opposite side of the parking lot. Click here for office hours.
3. Entry Permit:
4. To reach the falls, you need to head down the staircase right outside of the park office.
5. At the bottom of the staircase, you'll hang a sharp right onto a white rock path and cross THIS bridge over the Niobrara.
6. I was a bit intimidated by the walk and the fact that I had no idea where I was going. Thankfully, this experience will help you find the falls smoothly! After you're off the bridge, you should notice a winding wood deck. This walk is a little creepy alone but hey, so so worth it.
7. Bring an actual camera if you have one. These falls are freakin' magical. I was surprised to be the only one there, but dang I was so blessed to be. It was probably one of the coolest moments of my life.
Next time someone says Nebraska is boring, imma whip my phone out so fast and show them this waterfall. I can't believe I went 20 years without knowing about this place. How well do you know your home state?
*What is your absolute favorite waterfall experience?
*Do you have a bucket list for your home state? What's on it?
I dreamed about watching the sunrise in this park and yet when I woke up that morning it was 8am. :( I do this all the time, so I said a little prayer about how I would not let this ruin my day. I was nervous though, since it was Friday morning and it was pretty busy the night before.
Regardless, I paid $20 for a pass so I was definitely going back. The minute I walked out of my hotel, I knew things would be okay. It was cold and windy. Sometimes I feel like God arranges things too perfectly.
At the park, I noticed there wasn't near as many people as the night before. Which made getting around easier and ultimately better to get some great shots. Here's my insider's guide on how to get the most out of your visit to this pretty place.
Where to stay:
Remember how I said I only paint the nails on my left hand? Example A. Lol back to the guide...
Entering the park:
There are three entrances for the park-
You have three options when it comes to entrance fees-
*Your best bet is to pay for your pass at the entrance station. It can take months to receive one that you ordered online.
The park is open year round 24/7.
What to do:
When: Friday through Monday nights
Here are six of my favorite overlooks:
*To download the park map click here.
After my first night visit, I was crazy hungry when I got back to Kadoka. Luckily, I chose this town specifically cause Trey and I stopped there a few months back. We ate at this place called Sunset Grill and I never got a chance to feature it here on the blog.
I was ecstatic when I rolled into town because I had no idea my hotel was right next door to this restaurant! Again, seriously, God's arrangement for things. Anyway, this food is suuuper good. The first time I ordered the Philly Steak Sub and it was like the best one I've ever had. IN A TOWN OF 700. THE BEST PHILLY STEAK. I need a Food Network show. "Tiny Towns and Their Treats." Idk just an idea.
When I was by myself, I ordered the fried chicken deal, cause Trey got it the time before and it looked hellaaa good. It was bomb to eat, especially after munching on gas station food all day. Check it out homies.
Overall, I had a blast exploring this park by myself. AND I COULD DO WHATEVER I WANTED CAUSE I WAS ALONE. Where you wanna go? You should leave tomorrow. I'll go with if you're that nervous.
*Have you ever explored a State or National Park by yourself? What was your experience like?
*Did I miss one of your favorite activities at this park? What was it? Is it seasonal?
Travel bucket list:
Countries visited: 5
states left: 11