Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway

GO WEST! Explore the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway

There is a place in America virtually untouched by the hand of man. It is Nebraska’s last unexplored frontier; a timeless, windblown ocean of undulating dunes, native grass, and vivid blue lakes. The Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway bisects this ancient ground, leading travelers to natural treasures undiscovered anywhere else…

  • Nebraska Sandhills
  • Ogallala Aquifer
  • Nebraska National Forest—Bessey Ranger District
  • Loup River system
  • Spring migration of sandhill cranes
  • Central Flyway for migratory birds
  • Brilliant night skies
  • Unique ecosystems
  • Abundant wildlife

Just west of Lincoln, Nebraska, is the start of one of America’s hidden treasures. Nebraska’s Highway 2, the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway, stretches 272 miles from Grand Island to Alliance through the Nebraska Sandhills. The Sandhills are the largest grass-stabilized sand dune formation in North America and one of the last remaining unplowed prairies in the Great Plains.

Still virtually intact for both flora and fauna, there are 275,000 acres of public lands on or within a short distance of the byway including the Bessey Ranger District of the Nebraska National Forest, Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge, and Valentine National Wildlife Refuge. Wildlife viewing, bird watching, hiking, fishing, and hunting are permitted on these public lands.

The Sandhills area is one of the great natural landscapes in the United States with more than 300 resident and migratory species of birds—from grassland and wetland birds to waterfowl and raptors. Crossing over the byway, the North American Central Flyway hosts more than 14 million ducks and geese and staggering numbers of migratory birds every spring and fall. This includes more than 500,000 sandhill cranes that stop to rest and refuel in the Platte River Valley near Grand Island in what has been called one of the greatest migration spectacles in the world.

The byway is rated among the top 100 scenic routes in the United States and listed as one of the highways to drive in 1,000 Places to See in the U.S. and Canada Before You Die. There are local rodeos, county fairs, tanking trips, golf getaways, bird-viewing parties, hiking excursions, festivals, and star-gazing opportunities all along the byway. People looking for a unique afternoon adventure can experience “tanking”—a leisurely float down the Middle Loup River in a metal livestock tank.

Or experience the night sky as it was meant to be. In the Sandhills the skies are still dark and the nights are still quiet. As one of the areas with the least amount of light pollution in the entire country, the stars shine in the Sandhills. “I’ve never seen the Milky Way stretch so far across the sky before,” says a visitor relating her visit to the Sandhills.

So make plans now for a memorable day trip or week-long vacation along the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway! See why the late Charles Kuralt called Nebraska Highway 2 one of America’s ten most beautiful highways, exclaiming, “This road will take you to one of the last unexplored frontiers where vast treasures can be found!”

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