Nebraska: Nebraska National Forest

Dunning, Neb.

When you think about central Nebraska, you sure don't think about going to a national forest.

Surprise! Smack dab in the middle of the state, among miles of sand hills, is a sea of green: 20,000 acres worth, to be exact. The odd part is that the giant swath of green—Nebraska National Forest—is entirely man made.

A hundred years ago the pines were planted by hand as an experiment to provide lumber to encourage people to settle there.

A good place to camp is the Bessey campground, adjacent to Middle Loup River. The river allows for tubing in its shallow, steady flow. Bessey is unique in that it has the only swimming pool in the U.S. Forest Service system, as well as places to play volleyball, tennis, basketball, horseshoes and baseball.

If you want to spend a little time fishing, there is a seven-acre stocked pond, with cleaning station and wheelchair-friendly fishing pier.

For a challenge, try the three-mile hike to the Scott Lookout Tower for a fantastic view of the area.

The campground has access to the OHV trails, but there's no riding in the campground.

There are 50-plus miles of trails. Motorcycles and ATVs are restricted to designated trails. To help keep the trails open, please stay on the trails.

As you can imagine, the tall pines and sandy soil make for great trails. As the trails twist and turn, some turn into high-banked fun. Other sections will get whooped out with use and will get you off the seat and standing up to avoid getting bounced around.

As responsible riders, we always wear a helmet and other safety gear. Never carry a passenger, ride the right-size ATV, supervise young riders, don’t ride alone and ride straight.

To find Bessey, locate Dunning, in west-central Nebraska on state Route 2. From Dunning, go west on state Route 2 for 10 miles to Halsey. Continue west for 1.1 miles to the Nebraska Recreation Area sign, which is State Spur 86B, then turn left to the entrance.

The campground is open year-round, but the flush toilets aren't available December 1 through March 31.

There are 39 campsites that cost $8 per day for spots with no electric hookups and $11 with hookups. Picnic tables and water spigots are on site as well. You can make reservations online or call (877) 444-6777.

To get more information on all the fun areas to ride in Nebraska, your best bet is to join the Nebraska Off Highway Vehicle Association. We believe it's a "must join" for every ATV and off-road motorcycle rider in Nebraska and surrounding states.