Scottsbluff, NE: Mitchell Pass
Cut through Mitchell Pass and follow in the footsteps of Oregon Trail emigrants on this easy, 1.1-mile out-and-back in Nebraska's Scotts Bluff National Monument.
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Eagle Rock and Sentinel Rock (two of the area’s five prominent towers) flank this half-mile trail that heads west from the visitor center. The trail’s earliest section paralells the park road and begins as a wide, paved path with two covered wagons on display. Its surface turns to sand as it enters a wagon-carved gulley—an original section of the much-traveled Oregon Trail—and climbs gently beneath the crumbling southern face of Eagle Rock. A granite memorial marks a newly graveled section of path that rises out of the ruts and rounds the sandstone hilltops toward a cul-de-sac overlook of the surrounding plains.
This exposed trail can be windy on the bluff’s north side, but on still days it’s a good option for families. And, the trail’s up-close views of Eagle Rock are some of the park’s most impressive.
-Mapped by Kristy Holland
- Distance: 1.8
Location: 41.8285301, -103.7074506
Start near the visitor center and cross the road.
Location: 41.828714, -103.7076545
Reconnect with the paved path on the other side of the road. The first section of trail is flat and paved, but turns to dirt within a few hundred yards.
Location: 41.8295494, -103.7107444
From this point heading west, the trail follows the bed of the original Oregon Trail. Imagine pulling your covered wagon through the deep grooves carved in the soft sandstone.
Location: 41.8317638, -103.7133729
As it climbs a small hill and approaches a 4-foot stone monument, the trail turns to a more uniform gravel surface. On this northwest side of Eagle Rock, look for the tunnels over the park’s summit road and wooden markers showing the path of the Oregon Trail west of here.
Location: 41.8319916, -103.7118495
The trail’s only shade is found along this short section shrouded by a patch of 10-foot juniper-cedar hybrids which aren’t big enough to offer much relief. Try to set out early or late in the day to avoid the harshest temperatures.
Location: 41.8323913, -103.7121338
Just over half a mile from the visitor center, this pioneer campsite offers great views of the plains and bluffs west of here. Take a rest at the bench-equipped cul-de-sac overlook and admire the view before turning back toward the trailhead.
Location: 41.8288818, -103.7087381
Eagle Rock looms over this trailside wagon and over this entire trail through the pass.
Location: 41.828706, -103.7075955
Old exhibits inside the visitor center explain the significance of this trail to early American immigrants.
Location: 41.82865, -103.7078583
Looking back toward the visitor center from the beginning of the Mitchell Pass Trail.
Location: 41.8289138, -103.7088346
Signs warn hikers to stay off the wagons alongside the trail.
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An interpretive sign and this stone bench mark the beginning of the trail’s roughest section.
Location: 41.8317638, -103.7133032
This monument was erected by the state of Nebraska to commemorate the importance of its Oregon Trail history.
Location: 41.831745, -103.7129033
A gravel path runs alongside this rutted segment of the Oregon Trail. The trail through this pass area also accommodated gold-hunting 49ers and riders with the Pony Express.
Location: 41.8317998, -103.7119782
You’ll notice the tunnels on the park road that heads toward the summit of Scotts Bluff. The road to the summit (and the trail on the bluff’s east side) is just 1.6 miles long.
Location: 41.8319956, -103.7118012
The open prairie doesn’t support many trees, so this patch of hybridized juniper and western red cedar really stands out near trail end.
End of Mitchell Pass Trail
Location: 41.8323873, -103.7120801
A bench and interpretive sign mark the end of the Mitchell Pass Trail.