Share this travel adventure!

guide2travel.ca

...travel adventures with a twist of history
Latest ArticlesAdventure

Over half a million people walked the roughly 2000 miles of the Oregon Trail between 1843 and 1869, one step at a time. Now, over a century-and-a-half later, we can also experience hiking the Oregon Trail. You may find, as I did, that Windlass Hill in Ash Hollow State Historic Park is one of its most scenic hikes.

For us today, hiking Windlass Hill’s 25-degree slope can be challenging, especially at the beginning. However, imagine those first pioneers walking behind wagons pulled by oxen and horses. When they reached Windlass Hill, the three-hundred feet drop into the North Platte Valley must have seemed almost impossible!

Hiking the Oregon Trail at Windlass Hill

Windlass Hill Interpretive Center in Nebraska.

Windlass Hill Interpretive Center in Nebraska.

The hike up Windlass Hill begins with a self-guided Interpretive Center housed in what appears to be a covered wagon on a rock foundation. Inside, you’ll find information about life on the Oregon Trail, as well as some artifacts. I found the wagon brakes — and detailed diagram of how they worked — fascinating.

It’s easy to follow the Oregon – California Trail signs (both historic trails used these common paths then veered off, depending on the final destination) on the surfaced path once you leave the parking lot. Do keep on the trail, as the finish helps prevent erosion and preserves the hill’s integrity.

Hiking up Windlass Hill at Ash Hollow State Historical Park.

Hiking up Windlass Hill at Ash Hollow State Historical Park.

The trail starts out gently, providing a scenic view while crossing the pedestrian bridge. On my visit, there was a little water in Ash Creek, running through the ravine below it.

Past the bridge, the trail takes a tough uphill turn. You may feel like stopping at that point — I know I sure did! However, once you make the gentle turn to the top (see the photo in the header), the going gets easier.

View From the Top of Windlass Hill

Hikers at the top of Windlass Hill overlooking the countryside for miles.

Hikers at the top of Windlass Hill overlooking the countryside for miles.

Some describe Windlass Hill as the “Holiday Inn of the Oregon Trail.” Why? Well, by the time they reached this point, emigrants on the trail had been following the wide-open grasslands of the high plains for days. And I can guarantee that the hot Nebraska sun can be torturous without some shade.

Here, settlers could see the Valley below with its ash and dwarf cedars — and Ash Creek, with its fresh water. While they still had to lower their wagons down with ropes, it most likely looked like a dream come true.

Cactus in bloom on Windlass Hill.

Cactus in bloom on Windlass Hill.

It didn’t take a lot of searching to find some of the best preserved wagon tracks in Nebraska as I walked over the top Windlass Hill. But I was rewarded by more than historic landmarks. The view in all four directions is amazing. Beautiful cactus bloomed in the grass. Yucca plants — vital for medicinal purposes to first peoples and pioneers — grew everywhere.

Yucca plant at the top of Windlass Hill overlooking the valley below.

Yucca plant at the top of Windlass Hill overlooking the valley below.

Windlass Hill Pioneer Homestead

Once I’d hiked back down Windlass Hill, I took some time to take photos of the pioneer homestead. Here, you’ll find the original stones from a home built by Reverend Dennis B. Clary, a pioneer Methodist Minister. As you can see when you visit, though, stones are few and far between! So, the Reverend had to haul them by horse and cart to build a two-room home for his wife.

Sod house made by the Lewellen Lion's Club in 1967 for the Nebraska Centennial.

Sod house made by the Lewellen Lion’s Club in 1967 for the Nebraska Centennial.

You’ll also see a soddie, or sod house, reconstructed for the 1967 Centennial. This type of home was common in the 1800s here, since there were few trees for building. There was even a fort, Fort Mitchell, built to provide shelter for pony express riders in 1864 made of sod.

Visit Ash Hollow State Historic Park Complex

Windlass Hill is part of the Ash Hollow State Historic Park complex in Lewellen, Nebraska. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966, Ash Hollow has 1000 acres of upland prairie.

As well as the Visitor Area at Windlass Hill, Ash Hollow also has nearby:

  • Visitor Center
  • Hillside Spring and recessed cave
  • Stone schoolhouse built in 1903

This Garden County article gives specific details on visiting all of the historic landmarks and attractions in this area: https://www.visitgardencounty.com/tours.html

You can also visit Outdoor Nebraska for more details on this free attraction: https://outdoornebraska.gov/ashhollow/

Google Map

These are some of the attractions I visited on this part of my Nebraska road trip.

Acknowledgments

I visited Ash Hollow State Historic Park in Nebraska on a press trip hosted by the Nebraska Tourism Commission. This part of the trip was with Ogallala Keith County Chamber of Commerce. Many thanks to all of my hosts for an incredible week of adventures. Please note that I retain editorial control over all content that I produce.

Related Posts

Quebec, Canada — Visit Percé Rock — And One of the World’s Largest Bird Sanctuaries

Like other Canadian kids, I studied Quebec's Percé Rock in school. Then, it was an odd formation--a rock with a big hole in it--but still, it looked interesting, like Poseidon or Neptune had come along and shot a giant hole through it. Once I started traveling as an...

Hike, Bike, Kayak, Ski, & Snowshoe — Wascana Valley Trails Have it All

Kayakers dip their paddles into the creek waters, still warm from a dry, hot summer--their path, however, is nearly blocked by a jagged row of rocks. The first man chooses his line, pushing towards the creek side, where his kayak lodges. The second, cheering as he...

Places You Must See & Hike in Oregon: Painted Hills

Some say the Painted Hills of Oregon are one of the seven wonders of Oregon. For us, they were one of the highlights of our 10 day road trip to see the giant redwoods on California's East coast. So what makes them distinctive? You could say that Oregon's Painted Hills...

Favorite Cities–the Seven Hills of Rome–Rome, Georgia

Some cities are pretty. Some are historic. Some are eco-friendly. Rome--Rome, Georgia that is--is all three. The city of Rome is nestled, as is its namesake in Italy, between seven hills. The best view of them, I soon discovered, is from the top of Rome's historic...

Hike the Pacific Crest Trail for Spectacular Views

Check out this infographic of The Pacific Crest Trail. Running for 2,650 miles (4,265 kilometers) down the U.S. West Coast, it provides hikers and equestrians with some of North America’s most spectacular scenery and hiking opportunities. Thru hikes take about 5 months to get from the Canadian border to Mexico.

Hiking Theodore Roosevelt National Park–North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt ranched in the Badlands of North Dakota, describing the country in vivid detail in his 1885 book, Hunting Trips of a Ranchman. That was, of course, before he became the 25th Vice President of the United States (1901) or the 26th President...

Hike Across America: the Great Appalachian Trail

How many thru-hikers have hiked the Appalachian Trail? This infographic gives this you this fact, plus 25 additional exciting facts you didn’t know about the 14-state-long hike through the Appalachian Mountains.

Hike the Unforgettable Giant Redwood Forest or Ride the Sky Trail

Take an unforgettable hike through California’s giant forest at Trees of Mystery, in Klamath, or an adventure ride on the gondola Sky Trail through the treetops.

Why Were the Carberry Sandhills in Manitoba Important in WWI and WWII?

About 15 square miles of active sand dunes, or Bald Head Hills, form part of the mosaic that makes up the Carberry Sandhills in Southern Manitoba, just 18 miles south of the Trans-Canada Highway, a few miles East of Brandon. More than a century ago, farmers tried to...

Discover These Top 5 Treks in Nepal

Check the highlights of these 5 treks in Nepal. Trekking in the Himalayas is the adventure of a lifetime. Discover treks from Everest Base Camp to Poon Hill

About the Photo

The photo in the header above was taken of hikers on Windlass Hill, in Lewellen, Nebraska, USA. Windlass Hill is one of two attractions in Ash Hollow State Historic Park. The second is Ash Hollow Cave.

 

Pin Me

If you enjoyed this article, please share these pins for later.

Hike Windlass Hill in Ash Hollow State Historic Park

Hike Windlass Hill in Ash Hollow State Historic Park

Hike Windlass Hill in Ash Hollow State Historic Park

Search Categories

Follow us on social media!

We always book our travel through Expedia! Do you? Take a moment to check out your options.


Expedia.com