Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area and Nature Center
Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area, Nature Center and wildlife reserve encompass 1,094 acres of rugged rock buttes and pine-clad canyons south of Gering. Geared primarily for day-use, the recreation area overlooks the North Platte River Valley and historic Scotts Bluff National Monument looms to the northwest. The park features over 4 miles of hiking/biking trails, stone-covered picnic shelters (built in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corp.), and a secluded campground from which to enjoy nocturnal nature and a quiet campsite.
This biologically unique landscape is one of a kind in Nebraska. Species representing short-grass prairie and montane / ponderosa pine woodlands ecosystems are interspersed. The largest stands of Mountain Mahogany found in Nebraska are located within the Wildcat Hills. The overall vistas seen from the ridge tops are breathtaking.
The Wildcat Hills were formed from ancient river deposits of rock, sand and silt carried from the Rock Mountains following their uplift some 60 million years ago. The escarpments, bluffs and nearby river valley have yielded some significant discoveries to paleontologists and archaeologists. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission acquired the initial trace in the picturesque Wildcat Hills escarpment in 1929 and the 705 acre recreation area in 1980.
The Nature Center is an educational facility, museum and interpretive center. The center’s split-level design takes advantage of the hilltop location and the windows are deeply tinted so visitors can get close-up views of birds and other wildlife coming from the forest to use feeders and plantings along the building. Birders find a huge variety of species, many of which are rare in other parts of Nebraska, within the park. Observation decks surround the building for spectacular views and whatever time of the year, visitors will find a variety of wildlife including whitetail and mule deer, wild turkey, bobcats, coyotes, elk and others. Several herds of re-introduced Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep roam the entire range of the Wildcat Hills. They can frequently be seen on the ridges along the hills. The visitors’ center features a living beehive and several mounts of raptors and wildlife found in the area. There is also a wide array of hands-on educational activities including a simulated fossil dig site at the nature center. Year-round educational programming is provided, including summer day camps, High Plains Science Adventures science camp, and school events throughout the year.
Adjacent properties make up an extended Wildcat Hills Wildlands, open to the public for hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, hunting, camping, bird watching, and enjoying nature: Buffalo Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA), Cedar Canyon WMA, Wildcat Hills WMA, Platte River Basin Environments, Inc. Bead Mountain and Montz Ranches, Scotts Bluff National Monument, and The Nature Conservancy’s Murphy Ranch. The entire Wildlands encompasses nearly 30,000 acres of conservation property open to the public.
Wildcat Hills Recreation and Nature Center are located 10 miles south of Gering via Nebraska Highway 71.
A valid Nebraska park entry permit is required for all vehicles entering the area. Annual and daily permits are available at the nature center, as are hunting and fishing permits and stamps.
Primitive camping is available.