20 miles northwest of Crawford, Nebraska
Toadstool Park is noted for unusual geological formations and valuable fossil deposits. It also contains the longest-known mammal trackway of the Oligocene epoch. This one-mile trail is featured in an interpretive kiosk and a self-guiding trail brochure.
Historically called Little Badlands, this remote unstaffed area is one of the most spectacular settings outside of Badlands National Park. Dramatic cliffs and gullies plunge among domes of clay some 100 feet high, creating the illusion that you are standing amid a toy model of a vast mountain range. Even more intriguing are the rock toadstools that give the park its name. Hard, rocky material was left balanced on slender columns when the soft clay beneath eroded more quickly.
These clay beds were deposited here by ancient rivers as many as 40 million years ago. The erosion that sculpted them has been going on for nearly a million years.
A mile-long hiking trail—showcasing eroded clay and sandstone formations—leads across the Badlands, where you have a good chance of seeing elk and hawks. The ground is loose and steep, so sturdy shoes are recommended. You can camp here, but be warned: It’s rough and has few amenities.
Open year-round but may be inaccessible in wet weather. Admission charged mid-May–mid-Nov.