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Trail Damage Between Bassett and Newport
 - 
Alex from Lincoln on 09/06/2022 11:40 AM
Unfortunately we had some damage to the trail occur between Bassett and Newport. Someone decided to drive livestock down the trail for about one mile. Use this google map link to see the damaged area. We should be able to clean this up early next week but for the time being the trail is passable here but will be rough from the hoof prints.

https://goo.gl/maps/jeJgkciUyLiDaa6o8


 
Cynthya from Lewis,KS on 09/06/2022 12:15 PM
Sad.... it's been 5 years since we rode. Saw places then where cattle and tractors (not 4 wheelers, but saw those as well) left marks on the trail. Not so bad to impede ride, but...
I hope to ride the trail again. Would love to see it finished to Chadron... but I know take time, $$ and workers. All hard to come by and coordinate.

 
Alex from Lincoln on 09/12/2022 03:49 PM
This segment has been dragged and rolled with a compacter. Note that it will need some rain to harden completely but is in a lot better shape now.

 
opedaler from Ne nerbraska on 09/13/2022 08:38 PM
I hope the necessary party was sent the bill!

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Just finshed the trial 8/1
 - 
Shege from Lincoln on 08/04/2022 04:17 PM
My 11-year-old and I completed the trail from Valentine to Norfolk in two and a half days (7/29-8/1). My son was running on standard 700 X 35 tires with Mr Tuffy tire liners and thorn resistant tubes. I was running 700 X 40 Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires with a thorn resistant tube on the rear, standard tube on the front. Neither of use suffered any flats. Everyone I talked to about the trail told me horror stories about all the flats people get on the trail, but we seemed to have lucked out. We were very conscious about not riding our bikes on grassy (green) areas around the trail. If we needed to leave the trail, we always dismounted our bikes and walked them. Before we remounted the bikes, we inspected the tires for thorns. My son found two thorns this way but removed them before they could do any damage. My wife sagged for us, so we were able to travel light and took a “rest” date in the middle to check out some of the attractions. We also got extremely lucky with the weather. The first day was only in the 80s and the other days were in the low 90s. The day after we finished it was 103 in Norfolk. The winds were not really a factor. We did have a 15 mph side wind on the second day, but that was just a little bit of a nuisance. If it would have been a head wind it would have been a much more difficult ride. Below are my notes on the trail and some of the other things we did. Our main issue was that ground squirrels like to dig holes on the trail and if you aren’t paying attention, you can lose control of your bike.

Day 1 - Valentine to Johnstown. Rode 36 miles in the morning and then went tubing down the Niobrara River in the afternoon. The trail surface was generally in good condition and hard packed.

Day 2 - Johnstown to Ainsworth- surface was generally good with a few light gravel/sandy spots where holes had been filled in. There is about a mile or so of trail in Ainsworth that is paved.
Ainsworth to Long Pine- surface was generally good with a few light gravel/sandy spots where holes had been filled in. The bridge outside of Long Pine is a slightly smaller version of the one in Valentine and is pretty cool.
Long Pine to Bassett – The bridge just outside of Long Pine is out so you will need to detour to the highway for a few miles and then you can get back on the trail. The trail was pretty good the whole way with no issues. We stopped at the Bassett Lodge for lunch. I recommend the chicken fried steak sandwich and my son recommends the bacon cheeseburger and brownie sundae.
Bassett to Stuart – there are long stretches that have a lot of sand/light gravel on them. This was challenging but did not require us to stop. The trail gets better as you get closer to Stuart.
Stuart to Atkinson – trail was pretty good throughout.
Atkinson to Emmett – trail was generally good with a few sandy/light gravel spots.

Day 3 – My son called for a rest day. We went to Ashfall Fossils Beds in the morning. If you are into fossils at all this is a must see. In the evening we went to a chicken dinner at the American Legion hall in Atkinson (last Sunday of every month) and then to dirt track car races in Stuart (every Sunday in the Summer).

Day 4 – Emmett to O’Neill – trail was good, there were some washouts at intersections.
O’Neill to Inman - trail was generally good with a few sandy/light gravel spots. There is a long-paved section in O’Neill. We saw a lot of thorn plants but fortunately no thorns.
Inman to Ewing – there was one very sandy/light gravel section right outside of Inman where we had to dismount and walk for a short distance. The remainder of the section was good.
Ewing to Clearwater – trail was generally good.
Clearwater to Neligh – there are two detours, you can jump on the highway and back onto the trail. Other than that the trail is in generally good condition.
Neligh to Oakdale – trail was closed right outside of Neligh. We took the highway all the way to Oakdale
Oakdale to Tilden- a lot of sections with heavy sand/light gravel. We had to dismount and walk on two portions.
Tilden to Meadow Grove– Starts out with heavy sand/light sand. We had to dismount and walk on one section. The trail improves as you go.
Meadow Grove to Norfolk – this portion of the trail is really good. The last few miles into Norfolk are paved.

 
JKann from Iowa on 08/08/2022 09:36 PM
Thank you for your post. We'll be doing the trail later this week and your update is fabulous! Appreciate you taking the time to write it!

 
Estes from Kansas City on 08/17/2022 01:49 PM
Thanks for the great information!!!

 
opedaler from Ne nerbraska on 08/27/2022 04:13 AM
Great post. Thanks! Oh, and congratulations for completing the journey. I bet your son talks about this for a long time.

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Texas Sandbur / Puncturevine
 - 
irish from Macomb, MI on 06/15/2022 03:06 PM
Just curious - I read the Nebraska website and they recommend a puncture resistant or solid tire for the trail. Based on your experiences riding this trail, how bad is the sandbur this time of year and have you ridden the trail with normal tubed bike tires?

Thanks for your insights!













 
Opedaler from NE Ne on 06/18/2022 10:00 AM
I’ve bee told you have two options if you want to ride the trail regardless of timing1) tubeless with slime, or tires with liners AND Thorn resistant tubes with or without slime in the tubes. Where we ride it liners have served us well. This time of year the thorns are less of a problem but still exist.

 
Mmb from South Dakota on 08/14/2022 07:24 AM
If you do need assistance on western end of trail... True Value Hardware in Valentine is great. Apparently they bought out the bike shop.They fixed me up after 2nd flat:fast,friendly, knowledgeable,and cheap!

 
Alex from Lincoln on 08/15/2022 09:21 AM
As the others have stated - use thorn resistant tires, slime tubes, or run tubeless. Goatheads seem to be really prevalent near Ainsworth. Generally if I stay away from the grassy edge and be vigilant at driveway/road crossings to dodge puncture vine plants - I don't have any issue. Also I have had luck leaving the goathead on the tire when running tube sealant or tubeless. It seems to act like a plug giving the sealant a smaller hole to attempt to seal. Still carry at least two additional tubes and have an air source of your choice. YMMV!


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Things to do along the way.
 - 
Vincent from Albuquerque on 08/06/2022 09:48 AM
We will do a self supported ride from west to east starting the 1st or 2nd of September. If anyone has any suggestions for what not to miss along the way or what to miss or avoid, including things on or off the trail, please pass them along.

 
Alex from Lincoln on 08/09/2022 08:59 AM
There's lots of stuff to see if you are willing to explore the towns a bit. Many have small museums that refer to local history, but some are open by appointment only so do some research. Some of my favorite sites are the L-Bow-Room in Johnstown, Newport Pool Hall, Long Pine SRA, Bassett Lodge and Range Cafe, Brush Creek Brewing Co in Atkinson, and Neligh Mill. If you can make it up to Ashfall Fossil Beds it is definitely worth a visit - you need a state park permit to access FYI.

 
SherryO y on 08/09/2022 02:59 PM
We came across a rodeo, car racing and an outside movie showing. We met people along the way at small restaurants that made our trip. The people in the communities make the trip. We YoYo’d so we saw many of the same people on our way back.

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 - 
RVgirl from Memphis TN on 08/01/2022 04:22 PM
I'm planning a cross country SOLO Rv trip intending to bike in several areas. The Cedar Valley trail in IA, the Heartland/P Bunyan in MN, returning to the Mickelson Tr in SD, and the High Trestle Trail in IA.. I was going to stop and ride part of the Cowboy Trail but after reading the comments I have about lost any enthusiasm for it. I was planning on staying in Valentine and riding a bit but being by myself I'm concerned about the spurs and the surface. (I've got an Ebike (assist). and don't want to be changing a flat or flats. Too bad. I wanted to be able to say that I'd ridden a rails to trails in NE.to add to my collection ( I've done the Katy, the Silver Comet, the Minute Men, ... Washington DC/Alexandria, Memphis of course, the Great American Tobacco Trail, the Little Miami Trail). fun!

 
RVgirl from Memphis TN on 08/01/2022 04:23 PM
And Natchez Trace too!

 
Shege from Lincoln on 08/04/2022 04:14 PM
We just road from Valentine to Johnstown and didn't have any issues with thorns. As long as you don't ride on the green spaces around the trail you should be okay. You should definetly check out the railroad bridge just outside of Valentine.

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shuttle
 - 
Brendon from Omaha on 07/25/2022 01:11 PM
Does anyone know if there are shuttles that go along the trail? we are starting in stuart and hiking 4 days to valentine. need to know if we can take a shuttle back, or should we just leave a car in stuart and in valentine.

 
Alex from Lincoln on 07/25/2022 03:25 PM
The only shuttle service I know of along the Cowboy Trail is North Fork Outfitting in Norfolk. Leaving a car in Stuart and Valentine is good a good alternative if you are not wanting to pay for shuttle service.

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Looking for fellow peddle pal
 - 
Tom Wolfe from Columbus Ne on 07/23/2022 06:50 PM
Looking for co peddler to do sections of the trail on bicycles..I am open to suggestions??you can text me at 402 710 9876

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Cowboy Trail Closures
 - 
JT on 07/10/2022 08:46 PM
My girlfriend and I are planning to the hike the trail in early September and we would like to know if there are any current closures along the trail as of 7-10-22.

If any closures, are there detours that can be taken to get back on the trail?

 
Alex from Lincoln on 07/11/2022 08:17 AM
Yes.
- A large bridge over the Elkhorn River between Oakdale and Neligh is still out so you will need to take the highway shoulder between Oakdale and Neligh for about 4 miles.
- Just west of Neligh there is a short stretch next to the river that has been eroded severely. You will be able to see some construction cones on the trail, you will need to walk adjacent highway shoulder for roughly 1/4mile and then can jump back on. Or if comfortable you can probably hike through the damaged section, stay away from the edge though.
- Between Neligh and Clearwater there is a section of trail that is permanently closed due the river reclaiming the trail in this section. You will need to take 519th ave back to the highway and ride around on the highway for about 3 miles. You can take 517th ave and head south to get back on to the cowboy trail. About a 2.5 mile detour for this one.
- The next closed spot is on the east edge of Long Pine. A large section of the trail embankment was washed out due to a culvert failure from the flood. To detour around, take 440th rd to the highway and then come back in to Long Pine and find the trail by the park on the main road, about 2.5 miles.

On NGPC's online trail map it will show a closure just east of the Niobrara River trail bridge, it is passable at the moment but exercise caution. These detours are likely to remain the same for the remainder of 2022.

 
Nicole from Springfield, MO on 07/21/2022 10:09 AM
This was extremely through and helpful, thank you!!

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Time record
 - 
Brendon from Omaha on 07/18/2022 10:42 PM
Does anyone know of any hiking time records from Norfolk to Valentine?

 
Alex from Lincoln on 07/20/2022 08:14 AM
I'm not aware of a record for hiking the trail. I think most folks hiking the trail do 15-20 miles per day. Strava or other fitness tracker sites might have some hiking trips recorded there.

 
Brendon from Omaha on 07/20/2022 07:36 PM
Thank you! A few friends and I are going to do a test hike in October. Next year we are going to try to do the whole thing in 7 days.

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Greetings to my friend Andi from germany
 - 
Dirk from Lorsch / Germany on 07/14/2022 12:02 PM
Hallo Andi, tolle Strecke hast du dir da rausgesucht. Ich verfolge dich mit dem Finger auf der Landkarte. Lass‘ es dir gutgehen. Ride on. Herzliche Grüße Dirk

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Closures
 - 
Mogie from Waterloo, IA on 05/17/2022 04:12 PM
The Nebraska state trails interactive map shows a few closures between Clearwater and Neligh. Can anyone confirm these are current closures? We’re looking at riding mid August. From what I have found on this forum, these closures have been on the map for quite some time. Appreciate any info! Thanks

 
Alex from Lincoln on 05/18/2022 01:31 PM
Yes.
- A large bridge over the Elkhorn River between Oakdale and Neligh is still out so you will need to take the highway shoulder between Oakdale and Neligh for about 4 miles.
- Just west of Neligh there is a short stretch next to the river that has been eroded severely. You will be able to see some construction cones on the trail, you will need to walk adjacent highway shoulder for roughly 1/4mile and then can jump back on. Or if comfortable you can probably hike through the damaged section, stay away from the edge though.
- Between Neligh and Clearwater there is a section of trail that is permanently closed due the river reclaiming the trail in this section. You will need to take 519th ave back to the highway and ride around on the highway for about 3 miles. You can take 517th ave and head south to get back on to the cowboy trail. About a 2.5 mile detour for this one.
- The next closed spot is on the east edge of Long Pine. A large section of the trail embankment was washed out due to a culvert failure from the flood. To detour around, take 440th rd to the highway and then come back in to Long Pine and find the trail by the park on the main road, about 2.5 miles.


We are working on repairs for the sites except clearwater. They involve FEMA and are taking time to get feasible repairs approved.

 
Al from Colorado Springs on 05/23/2022 02:14 PM
I am sure happy that I decided to check the Forum. I will be hiking the trail in June and had no idea that there were trail closures. This saved me miles of hiking! Thank you for the information. If there are any updates to these trail closures, please update on forum. I will be hiking June 7 - June 15.

Just found the interactive trail map. The map indicates that there is a closure just outside of Valentine. Does anyone know if this is correct?

 
Alex from Lincoln on 05/23/2022 02:46 PM
There is a spot of significant hillside erosion due to a failed culvert from the 2019 flood which has yet to be repaired as well. It is passable at the moment but is being monitored.

 
Mogie from Waterloo,IA on 05/25/2022 07:28 AM
Thank you for the information, Alex!

 
Shege from Lincoln on 07/10/2022 06:28 PM
We plan on riding the trail in a few weeks. Thanks for the update on trail conditions! The interactive NGP map shows that the trail is closed going East from Valentive just past the large bridge. Does anyone know if this is still closed? If it is closed, is there a detour or do you have to go back to Valentine and get on Highway 20?

Thanks!

 
Alex from Lincoln on 07/11/2022 08:15 AM
Trail is still passable by Valentine, see comment above. Have a good trip!

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Tire size
 - 
Greg from Topeka on 07/09/2022 07:30 AM
What size tire would be best for the trail? My options are 29x2.2 or 29x3.0.

Thanks!

 
Alex from Lincoln on 07/10/2022 02:35 PM
Both would be great - personally I'd run 3.0 at a nice supple low psi.


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Trikes on the Cowboy Trail
 - 
Pat from Kansas City on 07/07/2022 07:39 PM
Curious if anyone has experience riding a trike on the Cowboy...

I ride a lot and mostly crushed limestone trails. I have been on a lot of the great ones, including KATY and the Mickelson (600+ miles on the Mickelson).

I have read here about the burs, etc--just wanting some opinions...I have an ICE Sprint with E-assist--willing to make any tire changes I need to.

Any thoughts, advice?

Pat

 
Alex from Lincoln on 07/08/2022 08:29 AM
Not riding a trike personally but I know of people that have on the Cowboy Trail - goatheads are most prevalent between Ainsworth and Johnstown. I recommend using a thorn resistant tire and running slime (or other sealant) in your tubes. This has worked well for me and in my experience leaving goatheads in the tire acts like a plug so the slime can seal a smaller hole vs if you pull them out. Be sure to carry multiple extra tubes - in your case with multiple tires sizes id bring 2 extra for each wheel, pre packed with slime, and tube changing tools/air/knowledge. While some stores carry common tubes in the larger towns, the more specialized sizes will be difficult to find outside of Cleveland Bike and Sport in Norfolk.

The Cowboy Trail can be great, but you do have to be prepared, have backup plans, and be flexible as flats, severe weather, wind, heat, etc. can ruin a ride pretty quick due to the remoteness of the area. That being said you are often along a highway and friendly locals are usually willing to help someone in need, if you don't have a sag.


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Trail conditions
 - 
Beth from Michigan on 03/10/2019 01:34 PM
Husband and I enjoy tandem biking. What are the trail conditions and what is the surface of the trail made of? Asphalt? Dirt? Chipped stone? Thanks in advance for your input.

 
Cynthya from Salina on 03/10/2019 01:53 PM
The trail is a combination of all those surfaces. That and Sandy or lose gravel. It might be a real challenge for tandem riders. Be interesting to hear other thoughts.

 
Dougt from Onawa, Ia. on 03/10/2019 06:30 PM
Depending upon your tire choice it could be very challenging. Trail conditions get rougher on the western portion. I rode from Norfolk to Valentine and back last Sept and wrote a short review of the trip talking about accommodations and trail conditions. I did it on a mtn bike with tire liners and had no problems.

 
opedaler from Northeast Nebraska on 03/24/2019 04:42 PM
Just to add to what Cynthia posted....we have met several tandems on rides. Didn't stop and ask how it was going, but it appeared to me that they were leaving fairly deep tracks.

 
opedaler from Northeast Ne on 03/29/2019 06:51 PM
This is really sad as it was getting in good shape. In fact I preferred it over other limestone trails....the Wabash for example. I'm guessing it is going to be awhile now.

 
opedaler from Ne nerbraska on 06/30/2022 07:22 PM
I had the opportunity to talk with a lady recently who has done the cowboy trail several times, and seems to have a real fondness for it. One thing she said that did stick with me....."You are not very far from a good highway with shoulders. Don't let your ego get the best of you. If you see deep soft gravel covered with goat head thorns ahead, hit the road and come back on a little later. You'll enjoy the ride much more."

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trail closures
 - 
Laurel on 06/29/2022 07:56 PM
Can anyone tell me if the trail is open all the way from Norfolk to Valentine? The maps show several places the trail is closed.

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Not a golfer
 - 
Jen from Fremont, NE on 06/26/2022 01:56 AM
I'm going to be at the Prairie Club for a meeting. I'm not a golfer so thought about bringing my bike up and do part of the Cowboy Trail for an afternoon from Valentine. Is the Trestle Bridge South of Valentine and is it open? For an afternoon ride is that a short distance or a long distance? Thanks!

 
Alex from Lincoln on 06/27/2022 08:47 AM
Yes the Cowboy Trail bridge over the Niobrara River is currently open. Not sure what kind of bike you have but a gravel, hybrid, or mountain bike is recommended...something with a wider tire. The bridge is only 2 miles from the trailhead in Valentine. Enjoy the trip! Prairie Club is a neat place too.

 
Alex from Lincoln on 06/27/2022 08:47 AM
Yes the Cowboy Trail bridge over the Niobrara River is currently open. Not sure what kind of bike you have but a gravel, hybrid, or mountain bike is recommended...something with a wider tire. The bridge is only 2 miles from the trailhead in Valentine. Enjoy the trip! Prairie Club is a neat place too.

 
Jen from Fremont, NE on 06/30/2022 07:56 AM
Thanks Alex. I have a hybrid bike so I should be ok. Just need to air up the tires.

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Two Rivers Motel in Ewing
 - 
Dennis M from Maple Grove, MN on 06/27/2022 08:09 AM
My room was very clean, very quiet. I recommend it for all travelers.

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Trail conditions
 - 
Carl from OMAHA on 06/19/2022 09:45 PM
Thursday Jun 16, 2022 I rode the trail from Valentine to Ainsworth on my mountain / commuter conversion bike. I was pleasantly surprised at the condition of the trail. It was firm and lightly gravel covered. The edges had been mowed in most places.

This trail is not getting enough traffic. I encountered 1 rider in the 47 miles I was on the trail. I saw bike tracks, but none that were fresh.

The part of the trail that leaves the highway 20 path was my favorite part. There was nothing to hear but the birds. This area has a lot of sub irrigated meadow land where deer, turkeys, ducks, prairie chickens, and songbirds abound.

If you want to explore the sandhills of Nebraska this is the trail for you.

I plan to ride the rest of the trail from Ainsworth to Norfolk in stages over the next few months.

I hope to see you there.....

 
opedaler from Ne nerbraska on 06/20/2022 10:27 AM
Really glad to hear this. We ride spots but have never done the whole thing. If the trail is in good condition I hope someone starts a sagged ride. I'd love to join in. Just finished a ride put on by the South Dakota game and parks on the Mickelson trail (actually done several of them), and it really encourages interest for the trail. In lieu of that we'll probably give the entire trail a go when we can organize some logistics, and after we finish some sagged road rides we have booked. So yeah, we just might see you.

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