In the very heart of America lies Nebraska, an often-underrated state filled with possibilities. Vast, flat, endless prairies cover most of the state, but that doesn’t mean camping in Nebraska is lacking whatsoever. To the contrary, this “nice” state offers a wealth of activities–some of which you might not expect to find in a Midwestern state. After finding camping in Nebraska, you can also kayak and canoe, jet ski and windsurf, fish and hike.
Some of Nebraska’s most popular camping spots can be found near Lake McConaughy. As the largest reservoir in the state, this lake is a state recreation area that attracts thousands of visitors each year. Beautiful sand beaches line its shores, while the calm water invites you to come kayaking, jet skiing, and even scuba diving. In terms of camping in Nebraska, it doesn’t get much better than Lake McConaughy. Simply pitch your tent right on the beach and enjoy.
Nebraska also has its fair share of historic, archaeological, pioneer, and Native American sites. Consider camping near Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park or Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, both locations where you can easily pick up shark teeth and ancient fossils.
Another unbeatable attractions is Scotts Bluff National Monument. Home to marvelous rock formations high above the Platte River, the landmark is an important monument to Native Americans and settlers who have crossed the Oregon, California, and Mormon Trails. After appreciating the beauty of Scotts Bluff, make your way to Chimney Rock in Bayard. This remarkable rock spire is one of Nebraska’s main natural attractions and historical sites, having played an important role in both Native American and pioneering history.
There is no shortage of activities to enjoy in Nebraska. Lace up your boots for a hike at the Pine Ridge National Recreation Area, go boating on the beautiful Niobrara River, or drive the highlight-filled Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway. Camping in Nebraska is an experience different from any other, thanks to small crowds and big views.
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We're in the midst of a week in our 26' travel trailer along this beautiful 1.5 mile-long dirt Forest Service road 714-A, directly above Chadron State Park. We're guessing that most folks who stay in the State Park campground below are unaware that dispersed camping is indeed permitted within 300 feet of the center line of this road, for even though the popular State Park campground remains closed for another day due to a delayed COVID-19 opening, and is booked solid thereafter, there's absolutely no one else camping up here!
You actually have to drive through the State Park to access FR-714-A, and the park does not lock their gate overnight so access remains unrestricted. The road is in excellent shape and negotiable by any trailer or motorhome, but is only a single lane wide. We're 700 feet of elevation above the plains below, with stunning views stretching off to the horizon. Much of this area has burned in the past, but the area where we're camping is lush and grassy with some stately pines around. This isn't the Nebraska that you know!
Cell service on Verizon is a solid 3+ bars - 54ms ping, 13.6 Mbps down, 3.5 Mbps up. The Verizon tower is visible about 5 miles to the south of our campsite.
There are numerous hiking trails that depart from either end of FR-714-A, including some in the State Park. Fresh water, an RV dump and a camp store are all located within the park, along with an archery range, sledding hill, fishing pond, playgrounds, picnic areas and more.
One star is deducted only because:
- There are only a couple of sites that would work with a vehicle, for there's a well-hidden drainage ditch dug on each side of the road; and
- There's a bit of daytime traffic due to people accessing the hiking trailhead at the end of the road. Vehicles are forced to camp right along the road, as any side spurs visible on satellite imagery have been marked "No motor vehicles" by the Forest Service. For tent campers, though, it's a short walk right to the rim of Pine Ridge for even more spectacular views.
The phone number provided is for the Nebraska National Forest Pine Hill Ranger District in Chadron, in whose jurisdiction this road resides.
We stayed her the last night it was open before they shut down for the corona virus. Glad we even made it because most parks had already closed and the last thing we wanted to do was stay in an empty town in a hotel room. So, we made it to this place just in time for sunset, only one other camper was there, so we had the place and al the privacy to ourselves. We found a spot down by the river, and slept with the jumping fish and hoot owls just outside our rooftent. I’ll probably make this a stop on my ways back and forth from Colorado to Georgia every chance of season. Hopefully things get back to normal so we can enjoy beautiful places like this. Oh, there’s also plenty of activities and trails to enjoy while you’re here.
Area Five campground is a little camping loop tucked away from the main Area three camp site across the lake, there are many lake front camping spots with fire pits and picknic tables at each spot.
There is no paved pads however you can park anywhere on the grass and make it home with a pull behind or rv, or simply set up a tent as you like.
The lake itself was full of birds and a cool view of old landscape that the water has overtaken.
I went a a particular windy weekend and was still able to find a spot with enough trees to act as a wind block.
There is a paper fee station at the entrance which was $16 per night, they also sell daily resident and non resident park passes for an additional fee for each night of stay.
The bad: Restrooms are pretty bad, plywood floors with a drop pit toilet. (Bring your own toilet paper for the restrooms on site didnt have any) spider Webb's and age have taken over.
Other than that, if your looking for a more rustic camping experience with no power on site and lots of nature this isn't a bad primitive camping spot.