Nebraska National Forest (140,376 acres) consists of widely separate tracts of land located in central and northwest Nebraska. Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest (115,703 acres) is in the north-central part of the state. These two National Forests are administered together.

The areas include prairie grasslands, rolling sandhills, and scattered stands of hardwoods, with ponderosa pine and cedar. The forests are made up largely of planted trees. Livestock grazing is allowed in both National Forests. Whitetailed and mule deer, antelope, coyote, bobcat, and prairie dog are among the wildlife.

Of special scenic interest is the Pine Ridge region in the northwest part of Nebraska National Forest. It’s notable for a sandstone escarpment with steep ridges which rise over 1,000 feet above surrounding areas.

There are also rugged buttes, canyons, badlands, some streams, a river, and one designated wilderness area: the 8,100-acre Soldier Creek Wilderness Area. Also in the region is the 6,600-acre Pine Ridge National Recreation Area.

Activities: Hiking and backpacking are possible on about 34 miles of trails in the Pine Ridge region, including the 25-mile Pine Ridge Trail, which has two separate segments.

Aside from a couple of other short trails, most foot-travel must either be on old roads or crosscountry, which is very feasible given the relatively open landscape.

Horseback riding is allowed on trails and elsewhere in both National Forests, and some corrals are available. Mountain biking is possible outside of the wilderness area. Canoeing and kayaking are available on the Loup River. Cross-country skiing is a winter option here. Fishing is also feasible, and hunting is permitted in season.

Camping Regulations: Camping is allowed throughout both National Forests, as are campfires, except where posted otherwise. No permits are necessary. Campfires are subject to restriction during dry periods.

For Further Information: Nebraska National Forest and Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest, 270 Pine Street, Chadron, NE 69337; (308)432-3367.

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