For the westward traveler, Highway 2, the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway, heads northwest from Grand Island, passes the Nebraska National Forest at Halsey, crosses the lake country of the western Sandhills, then exits the region near Alliance and turns north toward the Pine Ridge. This byway is rated in the top 10 scenic routes in the United States and is listed as one of the highways to drive in 1000 Places to See Before You Die.
The Bessey Ranger District of the Nebraska National Forest covers more than 90,000 acres of the Nebraska Sandhills, and it is the largest hand-planted forest in the world. It is a favorite place for camping, ATV-ing, horseback riding, hiking, picnicking, birdwatching, fishing and backpacking. Hunting for mule deer, whitetail deer, turkey and grouse are also allowed. Local volunteers have created a handicapped accessible Discovery Loup walking trail and are continually sprucing-up an arboretum of 59 tree species. The forest’s Scott Lookout Tower offers a panoramic view of the surrounding forest and undulating hills of sand. Forest rangers have watched for wildfires from this very spot since 1944. The tower may not be open to the public at all times. Call (308) 533-2257 for information or to schedule a tour. The forest is open year-round.