Climbing the Highest Mountain in Nebraska
(Panorama Point 5424)

12-13 Dec 1999 - by Gary Swing (view roster page)

Having successfully climbed all of the 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado, I felt that I was ready for a real challenge. So, I set out to climb the highest mountain in all of Nebraska with my wife Kenna. (Now ex-wife.) Unfortunately, we were destined to encounter unexpected obstacles on our expedition.

On a cool, dry Sunday in December, we drove to the Tri-Corner Monument where the borders of Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska meet. After driving north from Denver and east from Cheyenne, we took Exit 401 from Interstate 70 in the town of Pine Bluffs, Wyoming. I thought the namesake pine bluffs south of town were the most picturesque feature of our journey.

Just north of the interstate, we turned right (east) on 8th Street for 0.6 miles to Beech Street. We headed south on Beech Street (County Road 203) for 12 miles to the Colorado-Wyoming state line. We left the pavement here, turning left on a farm road. This road was deeply rutted, so we drove on a faint track next to it. The road passed a windmill and reached the stone Tri-State Monument 0.7 miles from the paved road.

We parked in Colorado, walked all the way to Wyoming, and then headed east-northeast into the Nebraskan outback. We passed a small watering hole and soon reached the approximate point where my 10 year old guidebook indicated that we should cross an east-west fence line. We felt uneasy about climbing over this barbed wire fence into a farmer's fields, so we headed east across desolate prairie land on the south side of the fence line.

There was a herd of bison on the next plot of land north of the fence line. We definitely didn't want to intrude on the territory of these enormous beasts, so we continued on our eastbound route. After traversing about a mile to the east, we reached a dead end at a fence corner. The road north to Panorama Point was directly across the fence, but a sign was posted here, advising that hiking and bike riding are now prohibited on the other side due to the new bison ranch.

We trekked back to the car and used the standard drive-up route for Panorama Point. We found that it is still open to the public, by car only, with a self-service fee of $1 per person. The road was deeply rutted, so we straddled it with our low-clearance car. A four-wheel drive vehicle or high-clearance vehicle would be helpful here.

We drove right up to the stone monument at the highpoint. It was situated atop a small rise with extensive views of the prairie. We stepped out of the car for a few minutes to take pictures and sign the summit register before heading back home.

To drive to Panorama Point, take exit 401 from Interstate 80 in Pine Bluffs, Wyoming. Just north of the interstate, take 8th Street east for 0.6 miles to Beech Street. Turn right here and drive south about 9.2 miles to a gravel road on the left (County Road 203). Turn left here. The road bears right at 0.7 miles, becoming southbound County Road 1 for 0.6 miles, and then turns east for 2 miles as County Road 6. Turn right on County Road 5, passing a farm house on the right in 1.4 miles, and then turn right (west) on a dirt road marked with a sign for Panorama Point. Pay your fee here and drive the final 1.3 miles to the summit.


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