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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 enjoyed a quiet, albeit buggy visit. The Fort is fun to see and read about the place it holds in Western History.
There is plenty to do and even great hiking right within the state park (the buttes).
The showers are inexpensive and clean. Food was $$$.
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!
This private campground directly overlooks Carhenge and is not too far from (small) downtown Alliance. Although tent prices were listed, I’m not sure it would appeal to tenters. Prices range from $17 for tents to $27 for water to $35 for full hookups. 50% off after the third day. Weekly and monthly rates listed and it appears that credit cards are accepted. I believe there were four full hookup sites. The day we were there, there were only two RVs there and I didn’t see anyone to talk to. (There was a phone number prominently displayed to call but I did not). Pit toilet. No shade at all. If you are passing through, it might be good for an overnight stay but other than Carhenge, not much to do in this area. Was suggested that it might be a good stop on the way to Sturgis (tent camping?)
You must really want to go here as the access is via 12-13 miles of dirt road from either the north or the south. Our low-clearance van had no problem so unless it is muddy from the rain, I would think any car could handle the roads. There are six sites spaced a good distance apart; each has a covered picnic table (essential in the summer sun), bbq grate, fire pit, and garbage AND recycling bins. The only relief from the harsh sun (aside from the covered picnic tables) was a strong breeze. Summer is likely not the best time to camp here! There is no water available and the pit toilets were reasonably clean (but no hand sanitizer). There is a one-mile self-guided interpretive trail, which was very interesting and there are a couple of other hiking trails, which we did not explore. We met a couple who had honeymooned here 42 years ago! The only annoyance was the biting flies! You can't beat the price - $5 ($2.50 with senior pass) but it was posted that there is a proposed price increase to $15.