Bessey Recreation Complex and Campground

Area Status: Open
A family in front of their RV at one of the campsites.

For Reservations call (877) 444-6777 or go to  Here is a flyer that describes what sites are reservable and here is a map of the Bessey Recreation ComplexPlease note that these are subject to change.  

The Bessey Recreation Complex and Campground is home to the world's largest hand-planted forest.  It is located in central Nebraska's Sandhills, adjacent to the Middle Loup River.  It is a popular camping stop for cross-country travelers as well as a local favorite, with many people returning every year to enjoy the scenery, relax, and recreate.  Things to do here are:

  • Trail ride ATVs or side-by-sides
  • Drive or hike to the Scott Lookout Tower
  • Swim in the Middle Loup River
  • Fish at the Bessey Fish Pond
  • Play basketball
  • Ride bicycles
  • Tent or RV Camp
  • Watch birds and other wildlife
  • Have a cookout in the park

A general store with food, camping, and ATV/UTV supplies is located in Halsey, about 1 mile east of the Forest's entrance. Restaurants, gas stations and a grocery store are available in Thedford, Nebraska, 17 miles to the west.

At a Glance

Current Conditions: Camping is available all year.  During winter, the only potable water is at the recreation building. Fire rings are provided. Please burn only local wood to prevent the spread of the emerald ash borer.  
Operational Hours: Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Campsites must be occupied.  Check-out time is 2 pm central time.
Reservations: From the last week of May through the first week of September, about half of the sites are available by reservation.  Reservations are accepted 4 or more days ahead of arrival.  Any other time of the year, or if less than 4 days in advance, sites are first-come, first-served.  The other half of the sites are first-come, first-served. The Group Campground is reservable up to 12 months in advance for the entire year (not just May - September).  So far we haven't had to turn anyone away because we have an overflow area.
Area Amenities: Interpretive Site,Accessible,Tent camping,Camping trailer,Fee charged for some activities,Picnic tables,Toilets,Drinking water,Parking
Fees: Non-electric sites are $15.00 per night. Electric sites are $20.00 per night. The group campground, which has 11 electric hookups, is $125.00 per night.  Picnic shelter is $25 per day.  Day use $5 per day.
Open Season: Year Round
Usage: Medium-Heavy
Busiest Season: Thursday - Monday, April through mid-November
Restrictions: Off-road vehicles may be ridden from campsites to the trailhead, but no cruising around the campground please.  Parking ATVs and side-by-sides in your paid campsite is allowed.  No showers are available during winter, approximately from mid-October to mid-May.
Closest Towns: Halsey (1 mile east); Dunning (10 miles east); Thedford (17 miles west)
Water: Yes
Restroom: Yes, vault toilets all year and flush toilets in summer months
Operated By: Forest Service

General Information


GPS Info. (Latitude, Longitude):
41.90061, -100.29914
41°54'2"N, 100°17'57"W

From Interstate 80, in North Platte, travel north on U.S. Highway 83 for 65 miles to Thedford, Nebraska. Continue east for 17 miles on Nebraska Highway 2. At the national forest sign, turn south onto State Spur 86B.


Accessible fishing access, flush toilets, picnic area, and most campsites.


Parking is available at the main office and in the gravel parking lot south of the office.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Mountain Biking

The main campground serves as a starting point for mountain biking.  Extra fat tire bicycles are recommended if going off pavement.

A mountain biker and a cow wonder about each other on the same trail.

Status: Open
Hours of Operation: Best when the ground is slightly wet or frozen; most challenging when the sand is soft and dry.  
Difficulty Level: Easy to Difficult

Campground Camping

This campground has 40 campsites for tents or RVs. Twenty-nine of them have electric hook-ups with 20, 30, or 50 amp pedestals.  The roads are paved.  Individual water hookups are not available.  Most sites are back-in sites.  Most sites are in full shade.

Reservations can be made by calling 1-877-444-6777 or use the web at


Status: Open
Fees: $15 for nonelectric, $20 for electric sites

RV Camping

This campground has 40 campsites for tents or RVs. Twenty-four of them have electric hook-ups with 20, 30, or 50 amp pedestals. The paved spurs for RVs are from 27 to 40 feet long.  All roads are paved.  Individual water hookups are not available.  Most sites are back-in sites.  Most sites are in full shade.  

Status: Open

Group Camping

The group site has 11 electrical hookups with lots of space for tents.  It has its own picnic shelter and dumpster and is close to the vault toilets.

Bessey Ranger District - Group Shelter

Fees: $75.00 per night

Lake and Pond Fishing

The Bessey fish pond has an accessible pier and a vault toilet.  The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission regularly stocks the pond with various species of fish.

A young man gets his line wet at the fish pond.

Status: Open
Fees: $3.00 parking fee
Difficulty Level: Easy

Day Hiking

From the campground, hike the 3 mile trail to the Scott Lookout Tower, which was renovated in 2011.  From the tower, enjoy a 360-degree view of the grasslands and hand-planted forest.

Day hiking is available anywhere in the forest.

A view looking up the Scott Lookout Tower.

Status: Open
Difficulty Level: Easy to Intermediate

Viewing Wildlife

Status: Open
Difficulty Level: Easy

Viewing Scenery

Status: Open
Difficulty Level: Easy

OHV Camping

All campsites at the Bessey Campground accommodate ATVs, side-by-sides, and motorcycles.  

Side-by-side on Bessey OHV Trail System

Status: Open
Difficulty Level: Easy to Intermediate

OHV Trail Riding

The district has approximately 33 miles of motorized trails for vehicles 64 inches wide or less.

Status: Open
Difficulty Level: Intermediate


There is a $5.00 day use fee per vehicle. Annual passes cost $20 and can be purchased at the main office.

Bessey Ranger District - Picnic

Group Picnicking

Picnic shelter may be reserved for $25.00 per day at  It has lights, tables, and electrical outlets to accommodate your gatherings.



Interpretive Site: Discovery Loup Arboretum
Camping trailer: Check for length of sites
Picnic tables: At each site
Tent camping: All sites have room for tents
Fee charged for some activities: $15.00 non-electric site / $20.00 electric site per night
Toilets: Vault, and flush in summer
Parking: Available, two vehicles per campsite
Accessible: Most sites are accessible
Drinking water: Available, no hookups

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


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