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Factoid: When I stayed here I learned that the Nebraska National Forest is manmade! It is the largest hand planted forest in the US. it felt like a green oasis in the “desert" of Western Nebraska!
I spent 3 days hiking in this Forest and enjoyed every minute on each trail. This area has such differing geography. I’d begin the hike in the Forest, climb up to the ridge and catch views all the way into the vast, flat Buffalo National Grasslands area.
My home base was in Chadron State Park where I camped. The park itself has 6 miles of hiking trails which connect with several other trails in the Nebraska National Forest. The video is a section of the Black Hills Overlook Trail in the National Forest. A definite must! There was evidence of old wildfires on the western slopes, but otherwise the lodgepole pine trees were beautiful. Steamboat Butte Trail is another good hike.
Chadron State Park is located in the Nebraska National Forest off Hwy 385 south of the town of Chadron which has a Walmart for supplies.The park has pretty much everything: a fishing pond, A trading post for basic camp supplies and some food, swimming pool, seasonal horseback trail rides, archery range, tennis court, disc golf, sand volleyball, horseshoe pits, softball field, playground, AC/heated cabins, group camping with a group lodge, and campsites with 30 amp HU, no water so fill up at the bathrooms and there’s a dump station on site.
The site I was in was level, but there was no shade. Shade trees are sparse in the area where I was camped. It was quiet and the stars were great at night, and made for a good home base from which to hike in the Nebraska National Forest.
Unlevel asphalt parking, very few trees, pretty close to your neighbors, and incredibly rough (paved) access roads to the campground. Nothing but dead dry grass around you. Highway noise VERY prevalent right behind the camp site. Reserved online and yet they managed to double book my spot.
Located in the Northwest corner of the Nebraska panhandle this 98 year old state park has it all for a great family get-away of road tripping stop. Chadron State park offers 70 electric and 18 primitive camping sites. The bulk of the primitive sites are walk up so be sure to get there early for the sites that have the best shade trees. There are a few non-reservable electric sites but to be safe I’d book online well in advance or call ahead. You can also book cabins at this park and during my stay the cabins looked to be entirely in use. Enjoy miles of hiking and mountain biking trails that range from level to steep inclines through rouged terrain. Activities such as swimming in the well maintained pool, horse back riding have extra fees which are reasonable. There is a great fishing pond and several playgrounds scattered throughout the park. If you plan on horseback riding, and you should it was the highlight of our trip, tours begin at 9am and leave every hour except noon until 3pm. I recommend the 9am or 10am ride to avoid the heat. You register at the visitor center located at the front of the park for this 45 min guided ride. Other features of this park include an archery range, paddle boats, tennis, horseshoe pits, sand volleyballs and outdoor events (check the Nebraska state parks calendar).
On this multi family campout we had 8 kids with us and 6 adults. We camped in sites 16 and 14 which are electric sites. We chose these sites for the plentiful shade trees and proximity to the water pump and the shower building. The sites are deep and mostly flat. We had a little tent city going with large tents and we all found level, shaded ground.
Observations: the grounds are well kept with regular rounds from camp hosts and park staff to check trash and make sure the guests are happy. If you are hoping for some downed wood for fire you’ll be out of luck at this park. You can bring in local wood and find wood for purchase on site and in nearby Chadron just a 12 minute drive North of the park. You may want to bring your bike to the park. Most of the attractions are a quick although hilly ride from the campsite. I would like to see walking and riding paths separate from the roads at this park. When driving be on the look out for pedestrians and bike riders on the road. This was a quite campground with many short stay visitors during our stay. Quite hours start at 10pm and end at 8am. I have to say were were easily the loudest group a bit in violation of the 10pm quite time as we played games around the campfire but we were not visited by any neighbors or the camp host. If you are a fan of view spectacular night skies this a a great park. You can see brilliant stars, planets and the Milky Way. On hikes you’ll see sandstone buttes and valleys. We also saw many bird species and more woodpeckers than I’ve seen in any other location. You’ll also see white tail and mule deer around the park. The camp host told us that in the fall you can observe big horn sheep in the area. On your hike bring binoculars and enjoy a peak at the black hills of South Dakota.
The visitor center offers camping essentials you may have lost of forgotten, souvenirs, ice, wood and a vending machine. You can also visit the trading post on site and order from a small menu of breakfast and lunch/dinner items.
Nearby Chadron State park you can visit the Nebraska state forest and grasslands, Agate fossil beds, fur trading museum, Box Butte state recreation area/lake, Black Hills of South Dakota, and Fort Robinson state park. All in all this is a must see state park for a short or long stay with family, friends, or a solo trip. 5 stars in my book.
Ranger Review, Wenzel Portico 6 tent:
As a ranger for The Dyrt I have the opportunity from time to time to review camping products. I was fortunate to be able to review the Wenzel Portico 6 tent on this multifamily 3 night, 2 day campout.
The Portico 6 is a 74” heigh dome style tent using 3 lightweight shock corded poles. The footprint is 10’x9’ and advertised as a 6 person tent. I’d cut that in half for occupancy in reality. I’m 6’2” and my sons are 6’ and 5’6”. I’d say with sleeping bags and a couple of back packs we would consume the entire floor space. We tested this tent with 2 cots and two 12 year old boys for 3 nights. The tent was intuitive and easy to set up from the box without looking at directions. Total set up time was roughly 17 minutes from initial unboxing to completion. This is definitely a two person job in order to get the poles upright but not difficult. The Portico has some great highlights including a dry entry awning although a bit short, plastic pole holders at the corners, and a large D shape entry. The door zipper worked very well with no snagging which was a very pleasant thing as tents go. The Portico also has 3 very useful storage pockets on the outside of the tent. The boys used the pockets to hang their wet swim trunks. I can see these pockets being useful for storage of bug spray, sun screen and other like items. It is curious why the storage pockets aren’t located on the inside of the ten however where I can see them being more useful. There is ample head room in the tent and with the rain fly off the tent if very breathable while offering a view of the sky. There is good privacy with the mesh starting a bit higher on the tent which I think is a great feature. You’ll also enjoy the pre-attached guy lines on the rainfly. Speaking of the rainfly, this may be the tent’s best feature. We did see a good amount of rain during this campout with a long lasting low wind thunderstorm. The rainfly held up great and keep the boys dry the hole time.
Before I go in to the concerns it should be noted that this is not a tent designed for outback and rouged camping. This is a tent for the back yard or well established camp sites. If that is where you keep this tent then I think you’ll really enjoy the tent for a long time. Potential concerns come from the light weight fiberglass poles, thin floor, plastic pole holder corners and plastic tent stakes. We layed down a second tarp in the tent and used cot foot prints to help protect the floor. I’d defiantly never use this tent without a good think tarp under the tent to protect from puncture. I’d upgrade the tent stakes if you plan on camping on hard ground or ground with any rocks. These yellow low end stakes will not last long. Much care is also needed when pounding in the stakes to the plastic tent pole holders. One missed swing could potentially break the corners or the stake. The awning did do it’s job keeping some small camp chairs dry but I’d like to see a bit deeper awning. The only complaint the boys had about the tent was that it didn’t move air very well with the rainfly on. The tent didn’t have any condensation in it however. All in all this is a nice backyard camping tent for a maximum of 2 people with cots or 3 people in sleeping backs with a couple of packs. It is light weight and easy to store. Set up with two people and tear down with one will take around 15 minutes both ways. Check out more here: https://wenzelco.com/portico-6/
This was our first time here and we are already planning our next trip. The park is nestled inside the Nebraska National Forest and provides breathtaking views all around. We stayed in a small cabin for this trip, but next trip will be bringing our camper. There are so many activities here including archery, horseback riding, hiking, and fishing just to name a few. The scenic drive or hike to see the large buttes is really something. I highly recommend this state park for anyone!
We have camped here for years…it’s a small camp ground but it has low traffic so makes for a nice place to go to and relax and do some fishing.
Chadron State Park is such a beautiful area. The scenic drives are amazing. The campground is a nice campground. The sites are a little close together and it was challenging to back our 38' camper into our site, but once we were in we had a great time. Everyone was friendly and campground and restrooms and showers were clean. The sites were Electric only. Each site had a fire ring and picnic table. We were able to get cell service most of the time.
The park had tennis courts, a pond for fishing and paddle boats, a swimming pool, horse riding, and hiking trails. We stayed here a night than moved on to Fort Robinson and will definitely come again.
This is a beautiful area in Northwest Nebraska. The bathrooms are clean and well maintained. There's a couple good hikes and a swimming pool. We were there in September 2017 and pretty much had the place to ourselves! The view is great if you stay in the even # sites 38-48.