Nebraska National Forest at Halsey
There are two distinct areas of the Nebraska National Forest. One section is situated in the northwest panhandle south and west of Chadron, while the other is located near Halsey in central Nebraska. Both offer unique recreation opportunities in the wide open spaces of Nebraska.
The Halsey portion of the Nebraska National Forest is managed by the Bessey Ranger District. This unique area encompassed by the Nebraska Sandhills. The Sandhills region is one of the largest contiguous and least-disturbed prairies in all of the United States. The Sandhills are home to a large complement of wildlife: birds, bugs, reptiles, and mammals
Sites to visit include the Bessey Nursery, Scott Lookout Tower, the Middle Loup River, the Dismal River OHV Trail, campgrounds for horses and OHV users, the beautiful Bessey Recreation Area, and acres of wide open spaces.
At a Glance
|Operational Hours:||Campgrounds are open year-round. Water is not available in winter months.|
|Area Amenities:||Interpretive Site,Accessible,Tent camping,Camping trailer,Fee charged for some activities,Picnic tables,Toilets,Drinking water,Parking|
|Busiest Season:||Weekends, May through November|
|Closest Towns:||Halsey, NE; Thedford, NE|
|Operated By:||Forest Service|
|Information Center:||Bessey Ranger District
40637 River Loop Rd
Halsey, NE 69142
Parking in the main parking lot at the Bessey Recreation Complex costs $5.00 per day, or purchase an annual pass for $20 per year.
Parking at the Dismal and Powerline Trailheads is free.
Parking out in the forest is also free; however, vehicles must be parked within 30 feet of a road designated on the motor vehicle use map.
Map showing recreational areas. Map Information
Mountain bikers have discovered the sandhills, which have miles of rolling terrain and long views. The mountain biking is best after a rain or in colder weather, when the sand is firm or frozen. The soft sand can be managed by using extra-fat tires.
|Fees:||$5.00 parking fee in the main lot or annual pass for $20 / year|
|Best Season:||Any time but very dry conditions|
Areas for Mountain Biking at Nebraska National Forest at Halsey
The Bessey Recreation Complex consists of 3 camping loops (Hardwood, Cedar, and River) and a group campground. Natick Campground has no electric hookups, 20 horse corrals, and potable water. Whitetail Campground is located on the Dismal River, has 10 horse corrals, is near ATV trails, and has potable water.
Areas for Campground Camping at Nebraska National Forest at Halsey
Areas for RV Camping at Nebraska National Forest at Halsey
The group campground has 11 electrical hook-ups, a picnic shelter, a group fire ring, picnic tables, and a vault toilet nearby.
|Fees:||$125 / night|
|Reservation info:||Reservations are advised weekends April through November.|
|Usage:||Use is heavy on weekends beginning in April and lasting through November.|
Areas for Group Camping at Nebraska National Forest at Halsey
Dispersed camping is allowed anywhere on the forest. Vehicles, however, must camp within 300 feet of either side of a road designated on the motor vehicle use map. Always Leave No Trace.
|Usage:||Generally light, except during rifle deer season when use is heavy.|
Lake and Pond Fishing
Areas for Lake and Pond Fishing at Nebraska National Forest at Halsey
The Scott Tower National Recreation Trail is a 3-mile trail that connects the main recreation complex with the Scott Lookout Tower. The tower is open all year. Hiking and backpacking is open anywhere on the forest. Always know before you go, plan ahead and prepare.
|Difficulty Desc.||Climbing the tower is tough if you are not in shape - take it slow.|
|Fees:||None, unless parking in the main lot which is $3.00 per day.|
|Usage:||If you are afraid of heights, climbing the tower is probably not for you.|
|Hours of Operation:||Trails and the tower are open all the time unless otherwise posted.|
Areas for Day Hiking at Nebraska National Forest at Halsey
Areas for Horse Camping at Nebraska National Forest at Halsey
Areas for Horse Riding at Nebraska National Forest at Halsey
Big Game Hunting
Small Game Hunting
Prairie grouse populations are on the rise. Here is one near a watering hole, captured on film by the biologist's wildlife camera.
|Reservation info:||Reservations to camp in the main campground can be made here.|
|Permit:||Information on hunting licenses is here|
The sandhills are home to a large complement of wildlife: birds, bugs, reptiles, and mammals. Here a biologist observes a spadefoot toad.
Areas for Viewing Wildlife at Nebraska National Forest at Halsey
- Bessey Recreation Complex and Campground
- Grouse Viewing Blinds - Bessey
- Natick Campground
- Whitetail Campground
Areas for OHV Camping at Nebraska National Forest at Halsey
OHV Open Area Riding
Areas for OHV Open Area Riding at Nebraska National Forest at Halsey
OHV Trail Riding
The district has approximately 36 miles of trails for vehicles measuring 64 inches wide or less.
|Fees:||$5.00 parking fee in the main lot; annual pass for $20 / year|
|Reservation info:||None required.|
|Usage:||The trails are narrow, only accommodating a single ATV in most places. Traffic goes both directions, so use caution around blind curves.|
Areas for OHV Trail Riding at Nebraska National Forest at Halsey
Areas for Interpretive Areas at Nebraska National Forest at Halsey
Areas for Picnicking at Nebraska National Forest at Halsey
The Bessey Picnic Day Use area is adjacent to the Cedar Loop Camping Area in the main campground.
Areas for Group Picnicking at Nebraska National Forest at Halsey
Boating - Non-Motorized
|Fee charged for some activities:|