Nebraska National Forest Guide

When American schoolchildren study Nebraska, the impression is of an undulating region of plains, with a few trees dotted here and there, interrupting rows upon rows of corn; it is unimaginable Nebraska has a forest. So, why does the 141,864-acre Nebraska National Forest exist? The answer lies in the designation of two areas, 200 miles apart, as forest lands that combined and became the national forest in 1907. Pine Ridge Ranger District, which occupies 89,864 acres in northwest Nebraska near Chadron, includes a natural forest dominated by native ponderosa trees. In Nebraska's center is the Bessey Ranger District, the brainchild of Dr. Charles E. Bessey, who petitioned President Theodore Roosevelt in 1902 to create a forest in Nebraska near Halsey to develop a supply of wood, stabilize the land, and provide a sanctuary for wildlife. The result of his petition is the largest human-planted forest in the United States, where ponderosa pine, red cedar, and jack pine compete for space in a 20,000-acre area with the rest of the 52,000 acres dedicated to the preservation of wildlife.

Where to Camp

Camping in Nebraska National Forest

When a family explores Nebraska's wide-open spaces and the Nebraska National Forest, the ideal choice for camping is in an RV that is easy to move from one place to another. An RV is particularly helpful when traveling long distances between camps like you do when traveling from one section of the Nebraska National Forest to another. To find an RV to rent close to the Nebraska National Forest, check out one of the RVshare sites above.

RV Rentals Near Nebraska National Forest

Shape Hiking Trails

Nebraska National Forest Hiking Trails

Outrider Trail

Things to Do

Activities in Nebraska National Forest

Nebraska National Forest is a laboratory for classes from local high schools, colleges, and universities that use it as a plant and animal identification facility. The plethora of wildlife and plant varieties draws visitors curious about the wild habitat. Bird watching comes a close second to those who enjoy watching the game of life as it plays out on the plains.

map-marker-alt-regular How to Get There

How to get to Nebraska National Forest

Address: 125 North Main Street, Chadron, NE 69337

Fee: Entry fee $0

Spending a family vacation at the Nebraska National Forest exposes you and the family to the vast expanses of the Great Plains. Visiting the two ranger districts gives you a complete perspective of this environment's beauty and complexity. A vacation here in an RV brings memories that will last a lifetime.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions About Nebraska National Forest

Is there a fee to get into Nebraska National Forest?

No, there is no fee to get into the Nebraska National Forest. However, there may be permits or fees required for certain recreational activities, or to use certain areas of the forest.

Does Nebraska National Forest offer free camping sites?

Yes, Nebraska National Forest offers free camping sites. Dispersed camping is allowed throughout the forest. There are no amenities with dispersed camping - campers bring all their own water and food, and must pack everything including trash back out with them.

Is Nebraska National Forest open all year round?

Yes, Nebraska National Forest is open year-round. Some services and water may not be available at forest sites during winter, however. Visitors can still enjoy the area in winter, with snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and other outdoor activities.

Do you need a permit to fish or hunt in Nebraska National Forest?

Yes, you need a permit to hunt in Nebraska National Forest. Hunting permits are managed by the Nebraska Game and Parks Dept. You are required to have a fishing license to fish in the Nebraska National Forest if you are aged 16 or older.

What type of wildlife lives in Nebraska National Forest?

Wildlife that lives in Nebraska National Forest includes prairie dogs, badgers, coyotes, rattlesnakes, and owls. A variety of other raptors and different birds also live in the forest, along with other small animals.