Two years around this time, I was visiting South Dakota, and took a short venture into Nebraska to see a few waterfalls. I’ve posted information about one of them, Snake River Falls. It’s one of three impressive waterfalls in the Valentine area (that are easy to visit). The second one I’ll discuss is Smith Falls, which is known as the tallest of the falls in Nebraska.
I don’t know what to say about Smith Falls except to mention that it’s probably one of the most unique waterfall I’ve ever seen. There wasn’t a wild amount of water flowing over it (compared to Snake River Falls, which had a very high flow in early May), and so the falls took on a bizarre shape. As you might notice, erosion has occurred around the falls, but the water flows over in a central location and then cascades out as the rock below widens. Instead of being “smoothed out” at the crest of the falls, it’s kind of jagged, and then it expands toward the base. I can’t say I’ve seen any other falls with this distinctly unique shape and flow.
It’s not a particularly difficult hike to get to the falls. I showed up and the visitor’s center was not open. Nobody else was even remotely around. I didn’t have any cash, so I wasn’t sure how to deal with the entrance fee. I decided to explore and donate more to other state parks :). The hike leads you downhill toward the Niobara River. You then cross the Niobara River over a pedestrian bridge, and then head toward the falls, which will be to your right. There are some stairs and a wood pathway that lead to the base of the falls.
- In Valentine, head north along N Main Street.
- Turn right onto NE-12 (E 5th Street, which then turns into the Outlaw Trail Scenic Byway).
- Drive 15 miles along NE-12 heading east. You will notice signs for Smith Falls State Park. (Along the way you pass Fort Niobara National Wildlife Refuge, where you’ll find Fort Falls.)
- Turn right onto the road heading toward Smith Falls State Park. Google does not provide a name for this road. Drive 3 miles or so down this road, and continue to follow the signs.
- There may be a left turn required to get to the parking area with visitor’s center.
- From the visitor’s center, head downhill toward the Niobara River, cross the river via bridge, and then veer slightly right along the trail to the falls.
The address shown on the Nebraska state parks website will lead you down some primitive roads if you follow Google’s directions. It’s better to stay on Nebraska Route 12.
Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: 1.2 miles round-trip