Nebraska is one of the Midwest’s most surprising states because most people think it's merely a place of flat farmland pierced by Interstate 80. But venture off the highway and you’ll discover the world’s largest grass-stabilized sand dunes, the rolling Western Foothills and the cool pine forests and badlands of Pine Ridge in the northeast of the state.

Though not always obvious, Nebraska is a great place to hike, bike, fish, boat, and hunt. With eight beautiful state parks and 450 lakes and streams, the state has natural recreation areas all over. Sweat-free exploration is possible via the nine scenic byways that pass by some of Nebraska’s main talking points like the Lewis and Clark Trail and Chimney Rock. Best of all, this state is underrated and uncrowded, even at its most impressive sites.

Nebraska’s Pine Ridge is one of the best areas for hiking. The northwest corner of the state is home to the rugged badlands and refreshing pine forests. You can walk along portions of the Oregon Trail at Scottsbluff National Monument or find great treks right outside big cities like Omaha in the Platte River State Park. If you want to head into the backcountry overnight, try the services of Rocky Ford Camp & Outfitters.

All the flat and rolling countryside makes for ideal cycling conditions. You can cross the entire state on the epic Cowboy Trail, tackle some single-track hills in Plattsmouth State Park or stay in shape on the Steamboat Trace. Tour de Nebraska is a very popular five-day tour that covers amazing rural areas or let Patio Bike Outfitters in Omaha give you some helpful cycling guidance.

There is a lot of water running through Nebraska, creating dozens of truly wonderful rivers for canoeing and kayaking. From day trips to overnight camping excursions, Rocky Ford Outfitters and Graham Canoe Outfitters both cover the Niobrara River, while Calamus Outfitters takes care of the lazy Calamus River. The advantage of using a guide is they do all the heavy lifting while you get to paddle along and enjoy the wildlife and scenery.

From mule deer and whitetails to wild turkeys and geese, Nebraska is one of the Midwest’s most popular destinations for hunting. Thousands of people plan their fall trips with Deer Meadows Outfitters or White Oak Outfitters for bow and rifle excursions. The sheer quantity of wildlife all but ensures a successful hunt.

For visitors who prefer to observe the diverse animal life of Nebraska rather try to catch dinner, bird watching is a huge deal thanks to the influx of migrating species that stop over at Rowe Sanctuary, Grand Isle, and other preservation areas. More than a half-million cranes visit Kearney and the Nebraska Bird Observatory every season, a genuine marvel of nature. Calamus Outfitters is just one of many companies that can get you to the heart of Nebraska wildlife.

Shooting for birdies is also a big deal for the many golfers who come to Nebraska looking for scenic and challenging courses. With over 200 public greens open to anyone, it’s possible to add a few days of golf to any itinerary. Let a company like Play the West arrange one of their popular three-day tours for you.