Chadron, NE: Steamboat Butte

Climb a lone butte (and spend a few minutes exploring its rugged base) on this easy 1.5-mile loop that offers a panoramic peek at Chadron State Park's rugged terrain.
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Climb a lone butte (and spend a few minutes exploring its rugged base) on this easy 1.5-mile loop that offers a panoramic peek at Chadron State Park's rugged terrain.

This 1.5-mile loop, built and maintained by local boy scouts, begins at the north side of the Sawmill Shelter—plenty big for a pre- or post-hike picnic. To begin, cross the grassy area and follow the gently sloping trail south. You'll notice evidence of selective logging and restoration efforts alongside the trail before it turns sharply uphill at mile 0.25. It's a short climb to a saddle along the ridge where this route turns right to wander around the prominent butte just a few hundred feet away. To continue on the loop, follow the trail south along the ridgeline. Keep an eye out for deer and wild turkeys as the trail widens into a meadow near the Black Hills Overlook Road. Before reaching the road, turn left onto an easy downhill path that cruises an open valley to close the loop.
Note: If you're hiking with small kids, consider skipping the butte-top section of this route where loose rocks and steep cliffs add an element of danger to this otherwise easy hike.
-Mapped by Kristy Holland

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 2.4

Waypoints

STM001

Location: 42.709143, -103.0231199

Follow the wide, mowed trail north from the Sawmill Shelter. You'll pass the outhouse and parallel the park road, which is barely visible through the trees.

STM002

Location: 42.70921, -103.0237019

Turn right to start the counter-clockwise loop.

STM003

Location: 42.7118943, -103.0255794

Stop for a quick look across the valley before climbing the trail up the steep hill on your left.

STM004

Location: 42.7116499, -103.0263573

At the saddle, turn right to spend a few minutes exploring the butte top. From this point, the main trail heads south on a rocky ridgeline just above the park's western boundary.

STM005

Location: 42.7124303, -103.0265558

The crumbling rock ledges around the butte are fun to explore, but pick your way carefully around the steep ledges and cliffs.

STM006

Location: 42.7079289, -103.026191

Look for trail maintenance activity and fallen trees on the ridgeline. The trail winds around the small obstacles, and continues rolling south.

STM007

Location: 42.7046491, -103.0240345

You'll see the Black Hills Overlook Road ahead, but this service-road-style trail turns left before reaching it. You'll join a mowed path leading downhill through an open ravine. Look for the birdhouse that marks the trail.

Top of Steamboat Butte

Location: 42.712387, -103.0270359

Sawmill Shelter

Location: 42.709143, -103.023085

Trees

Location: 42.7103807, -103.0242115

These blue marks help identify trees of different sizes and ages. Trees with the marks are spared during selective logging in the park.

Trail Views

Location: 42.7118943, -103.0255365

Looking north toward the buttes below the Black Hills Overlook Trail.

Top of Steamboat Butte

Location: 42.7124008, -103.0268294

The top of Steamboat Butte is fun to explore, but drops steeply away on both sides. Watch your step!

Trail

Location: 42.7122806, -103.0265316

The rocky ledges on the base of the butte.

Flowers

Location: 42.7094662, -103.0254292

Trail

Location: 42.7090247, -103.0257511

This is one of the few trails in the park that isn't marked with blazes. This caution tape led the way for a short section of trail along the ridge, but the well-trod path is generally easy to follow.

Log

Location: 42.7079289, -103.026073

The trail winds around this fallen tree alongside the trail.

Bird House

Location: 42.7046491, -103.0239272

Approaching the top of the hill, look for the small, white birdhouse that marks the turn downhill.