The highest point in Nebraska, Panorama Point, is located just across the border from both Colorado and Wyoming in the middle of basically nowhere. The elevation at Panorama Point is 5424 feet (1653 m) – higher than I would have expected for a plains state. But one thing differentiates this high point from most of the others we’ve visited, and that is the fact that this one is in no way a summit. It’s simply a spot on the plains that’s very slightly higher than the surrounding landscape. If it wasn’t marked, you’d never even know it was there.
Nonetheless, we’ve now stood on the highest point in Nebraska.
Reaching Panorama Point requires no hiking. In fact, you’re not allowed to hike to it. It’s on private property in the middle of High Point Bison Ranch, and a sign at the entrance gate instructs you to stay in your car until you get to the high point marker. We deposited our $3/person entry fee into the slot and then drove through the gate and up to the high point.
This was the first state high point I’d made it to in nearly three years, the last being Tennessee and North Carolina back in 2018. Ever since we arrived in Colorado, I’ve been meaning to visit a bunch of them. There are quite a few that aren’t too far away. But somehow all these plans never came to fruition. However – spoiler alert – you’re reading this about three months after the fact, and since then I’ve reached four more high points. Maybe I’ll call 2021 the ‘year of the high point.’
Panorama Point sits about 1 mile (1.6 km) away – as the crow flies – from the Wyoming/Nebraska/Colorado tri-state marker, also on High Point Bison Ranch. There is no route through the ranch, so getting there requires about a 10 minute drive out and around.
The marker itself is at the end of something that I guess could be called a road along the Wyoming/Colorado state line. We actually almost didn’t visit this tri-point because, upon arrival at the turnoff, we were met with an open gate into a field… and a ‘No Trespassing’ sign on the adjacent fence. So we decided that meant we probably shouldn’t go.
About a mile further along the highway, we entered back into the realm of phone service and I was able to look it up and verify that the landowners do in fact allow people to visit when the gate is open, despite the sign. So we flipped around and made our way down the “road” – which was basically two parallel ruts – out to the tri-state marker. It’s located just past a windmill, and the path around the windmill was in pretty terrible shape. You’ll need a car with a little bit of clearance to make it out here; between the ruts and the bumps, my Corolla probably would have gotten stuck.
I think it’s safe to say that most Americans have heard of Four Corners – the place where Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado meet. It’s the only point in the US where four states come together. But most people aren’t familiar with the 61 tri-state points in the US; places where 3 states meet. Thirty seven of them are on land and the remaining 24 are in the middle of a body of water. Most of the land-based ones have some sort of monument or marker present. Five of them actually happen to include Colorado, so I just might have to add them to my list of obscure places to visit.
(Which gives me an excuse to make a new list called ‘obscure places to visit’ 🤣)
This particular tri-state marker was placed on August 17, 1869 by surveyor Oliver N. Chaffee at 41°N and approximately 104°W (from 1850-1912, Washington DC was used as the meridian in the US, so the marker is at 27°W of DC). Chaffee actually surveyed much of the western border of Nebraska, placing periodic markers to denote the Wyoming/Nebraska border. Using today’s modern GPS technology, it has been discovered that all of the markers are accurate to within 272 feet (83 m) or less… pretty impressive given the primitive surveying techniques they relied on!
And lastly, this was my first time setting foot in Nebraska making this state #45 for me… only 5 more to go!
The Important Stuff:
- Getting there: our GPS actually didn’t quite get us there, leading us to a house about 0.5 miles past the high-point turnoff; fortunately I’d done some research and recognized the High Point Bison sign and entrance gate. There is almost no phone service out here so be prepared to navigate without your GPS
- Fees and passes: $3/person fee to visit the high point, cash only; visiting the tri-state marker is free
- Hiking: none; as mentioned above, this is an active bison ranch and you’re not allowed to hike
- Other: both the high point and the tri-state marker are on private land and it’s very kind of landowners to allow people to visit. They’re certainly not obligated to do so. Please respect their land and the rules for visitation so these points can continue to remain accessible for all who want to visit.