When thinking of Nebraska, many people don’t think of riding in the forest. But you can do that in the Nebraska National Forest near Dunning in the middle of the state.
The 20,000-acre forest is manmade. The pine trees were planted more than 100 years ago in an effort to get people to move to the Cornhusker State.
Some 50 miles of trail wind through tall pines and sandy soil. The designated trails allow motorcycles and ATVs. All motorized travel on Nebraska national forests and grasslands is restricted to designated roads or trails and these routes are officially designated “open” or “closed” for motorized travel on the Motor Vehicle Use Map. The maps are the primary tool to determine where you can ride on the forests and grasslands and are available online at fs.usda.gov/detail/nebraska/maps-pubs/?cid=stelprdb5097502.
As the trails twist and turn, some turn into some real high-banked fun. Other sections get whooped out with use, requiring you to get up on the pegs to keep from getting bounced around.
The Bessey OHV Trail System has about 36 miles of trails and includes two open areas, the Hill Climb and the Dismal. The trail system can be accessed from the main parking lot of the Bessey Recreation Complex, the Dismal Trailhead at the end of the Scenic road, Whitetail Campground, or the Powerline Trailhead.
It costs $5 per vehicle to park in the main lot. For example, it is $5 to park a pickup truck hauling a trailer with three bikes. If camping at Whitetail or the Main Campground, no additional fee is required to ride the trails. No fee is charged at the Powerline or Dismal Trailheads. Annual passes are available for $20 at the main office.
A good place to camp is the Bessey campground, adjacent to the Middle Loup River. The river allows for tubing in its shallow, steady flow. About half the 40 campsites in the Bessey Campground at the Bessey Recreation Complex can be reserved at recreation.gov. Cost: $8 per night for nonelectric sites and $11 a night for electric sites.
Directions: From I-80 at North Platte, Neb., take Highway 83 north for 65 miles to Thedford. At Thedford, go east on Highway 2 for 17 miles. At the national forest sign, turn south (right). Cross the railroad tracks and the Middle Loup River, and continue straight to the main parking area at the Bessey Recreation Complex.
Info: Bessey Ranger District (Nebraska and Samuel R. McKelvie National Forests), 40637 River Loop Road, P.O. Box 39, Halsey, NE, 69142. Phone: (308) 533-2257.
For more info, go to fs.usda.gov/nebraska.