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late season trail ride
Tom from Ft Collins, CO on 11/01/2021 05:21 PM
From Oct,19 to Oct,23 five older guys rode the trail from Valentine to Norfolk. The weather was quite cold to start the days but warmed up as we rode. We stopped in at the L Bow Room as recommended on this forum, it is a fine place for a rest between Valentine and Ainsworth the first day, very friendly people and interesting story on this place. The scenery on that first section is really something special if you think Nebraska is all flat prairie. I used the info on this site to select hotels and restaurants along the way and found the information very helpful. The second day was cold and rainy so we went just to Bassett. That turned out to be a fortunate change of plan since it allowed us to stay at the Bassett Lodge. This is a real piece of mid fifties history, really interesting if you like seeing how things were then. Again the people were super friendly at both the lodge and the Range Cafe. Stayed next in O'Neill and ate a very good Mexican food meal at the Taco and Tequila restaurant. The next day on to Neligh and the Westhill Veiw hotel, again very nice and accommodating hosts, ate at the Imperial II, owned by the same group as the Taco and Tequila, again quite good. The last day on to Norfolk cold with a stiff wind in or face the whole day. All in all we were only able to average around 6-7 MPH on any of the days due to the weather and the trail condition. The trail has several areas where the maintenance seemed a bit behind with lots of vegetation coming through. The surface on 60 percent of the trail is a crushed stone that is not really compacted so the rolling resistance is quite severe. We all have pretty wide tires so that wasn't a problem and those of us with thorn resistant tires did not have much issue with the goat-head thorns. I hope the trial surface can be improved, more like the sections with crushed limestone, in my opinion that would make the trail a lot more enjoyable (I compare this with the more favorable Katy trail which I have ridden on). That said, this forum talked about the surface so I was aware of it and really got what I expected. In all it was a very fine but somewhat exhausting adventure. Really good to see parts of rural Nebraska I have not explored before. We used North Fork Outfitters to get us back to Valentine, they were prompt and efficient and very nice. We had a super celebratory dinner at the Peppermill. Good food and nice people.

Bikeman on 11/11/2021 04:04 PM
Very nice summary, glad you had a good time in Nebraska!

Tiffany Sealock from Bennington, NE on 03/29/2022 12:49 PM
Thank you for sharing your experience. About how many miles did you cover on an average day? Despite the weather?
About how long did it take to shuttle back to the vehicle and what was the final shuttle charge?

SmoovNerd from Lincoln on 04/08/2022 11:05 AM
Yes, thank you for sharing....helps with our planning! CHEERS!

Tony Stuthman from NORFOLK on 05/15/2022 08:46 AM
for is a 3.5 hour drive, and due to skyrocketing fuel costs, we had to raise our price, total(with $50 non-refundable scheduling fee) is $450 for the first 4 riders, and $75 per rider after that. 402-316-0157 is my number if you have any questions!

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Norfolk and Back
Tim from Allen, Texas on 05/12/2022 08:44 PM
We are road bike cyclists and would like to take a two day ride on the Cowboy Trail - We will want to rent gravel friendly bikes so maybe start in Norfolk? We are flexible about the starting point. What recommendations for a starting and overnight location (hotel/motel). We are probably good for about 45 miles a day.

Alex from Lincoln on 05/13/2022 08:39 AM
I believe North Fork Outfitting rents Hybrid style bikes which are fine for the trail. Norfolk to Neligh and back is a good ride. Valentine to Ainsworth and back is also a good ride where you get to cross the big bridge over the Niobrara River - but I don't think Valentine has any bike rental services other than Heartland B-cycle which are great but I wouldn't recommend those bikes for a two day ride. Could rent something in Grand Island, Kearney, or North Platte on the drive up to Valentine. Niobrara Lodge is good in Valentine and Ainsworth has two budget chain hotels.

Tony Stuthman from NORFOLK on 05/15/2022 08:38 AM
Hi Tim, my number at NFO is 402-316-0157. We offer 7 speed, solid tire Specialized "Hybrid" style bikes, very easy to use and NO FLATS.

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Hopefully will ride soon but not sure.
Matthew Trenkamp from Iowa City, Iowa on 05/14/2022 12:32 AM
I noticed on Google Maps that an area on the Elkhorn River has a lot of the trail washed away between Neligh and Clearwater by flooding. Not sure if I need to get on the highway prior to the bridge area or if the trail is up to par. Plan is to the ride the 187 mile trail in one day starting at sunrise and ending at dusk pending on my transportation as well.

Tony Stuthman from NORFOLK on 05/15/2022 08:34 AM
There has been SOME work done on the washed out areas, but still about a half mile you will have to use the highway. The shoulder is 10' paved, and the detour is well marked on the trail. Also, give me a call at 402-316-0157 for shuttle assistance, or any other questions.

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most scenic sections?
Rocco from Timnath, CO on 05/11/2022 03:11 PM
Plan on doing several "out and backs" along the route, generally 30 to 50 miles total per day.
What are the most scenic sections?
Thanks in advance!

Alex from Lincoln on 05/13/2022 10:44 AM
Valentine to Ainsworth is nice if you want a more rural setting. It's also closer to you for the return trip. Otherwise Norfolk to Neligh and back is a good out and back as well. Neligh has a public pool memorial day to labor day which is nice to cool off after the day's ride.

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Electric Assist Bikes
Cindy L Siems from Mesa on 05/08/2022 01:19 AM
Are electric assist bikes allowed on the trail?

Alex from Lincoln on 05/12/2022 11:53 AM
Technically no. In reality yes, as long as it is e-assist (class 1) and is operated in similar manner to a regular bicycle.

Cynthya from Lewis,KS on 05/12/2022 01:54 PM
I wondered what others might say. For my part, at least, it is a bicycle. When we rode the Cowboy Trail 5 years ago (can it be that long ago?) I saw evidence of big tractor tracks at least crossing the trail. Definitely saw a four wheeler coming up behind us on the trail. Another time a person on a four wheeler was approaching the trail. Obviously preparing to get on the trail. When they saw us riding down the trail, they turned and went the other way. So E-Assist bicycle on The Cowboy Trail? Not a problem for me.

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Cowboy Trail direction preference
Afoll from Vermont on 04/27/2022 02:36 PM
I am planning to ride the trail mid-to-late August and wondered about the prevailing wind direction that time of year. Based on the prevailing winds, do most people go west or east?

Alex from Lincoln on 04/28/2022 09:57 AM
Ride whatever is logistically easier is what I recommend to most people. Ending in Valentine is great if you plan to stick around and paddle the Niobrara and see the area.

Afoll from Vermont on 04/28/2022 07:59 PM
Additionally, I am considering riding to Chadron and beyond. Do the towns west of Valentine have similar services and municipal/private camping?

Alex from Lincoln on 05/03/2022 09:13 AM
The trail west of Valentine has not been developed yet except for 15 miles between Gordon and Rushville, NE. I recommend utilizing the HWY 20 shoulder which is generally wide and has little traffic to go west of Valentine. But do use the Gordon to Rushville section! The towns generally are smaller and services will be limited. Some have parks with camping but not all. Just be prepared and carry lots of water and some food to tie you between towns. Cody, Gordon, and Rushville will have the usual array of services. Outside that it'll likely be hit or miss.

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Valentine to Chadron Trail
AP from Lincoln on 05/01/2022 04:59 PM
For those who are familiar with it, how is the trail from Valentine to Chadron? I know the easement runs all the way through, but I haven’t been on any of the uncompleted parts. I am contemplating doing a Thru-Hike of it either later this year or next year, though I thought I would ask about how the uncompleted parts are.

Alex from Lincoln on 05/03/2022 08:30 AM
Valentine to Gordon and Rushville to Chadron has not been developed and is not operated as an open trail. Gordon to Rushville (15mi) is developed and opened in 2019.

In general I can't recommend utilizing the undeveloped segments as many of the bridges do not have decking or railings and the corridor is not maintained for public use.

Alex from Lincoln on 05/03/2022 08:30 AM
Valentine to Gordon and Rushville to Chadron has not been developed and is not operated as an open trail. Gordon to Rushville (15mi) is developed and opened in 2019.

In general I can't recommend utilizing the undeveloped segments as many of the bridges do not have decking or railings and the corridor is not maintained for public use.

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Long Pine Days
SandraM on 04/23/2022 02:08 PM
Is their a craft fair like the one you had in 2019

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Hiking the Trail with Kids - Multi-day
AM from WY on 04/17/2022 06:20 PM
We are looking at hiking the trail starting in Valentine in mid-to-late May. It will be 3 kids and 2 adults, with the intention of using it as a beginner backpacking trip for the kids (ages 7-9). The kids are active and hike a lot, but this will be their first 'backpacking' experience. We are a little concerned about the long distances between some of the campgrounds for hiking (for instance, the 25 miles from Valentine to Wood Lake for campgrounds). Are there any options for camping near the trail in between those? I don't see any on the trip planner, but hoping others might have some advice. Thanks so much!

Dougt from Onawa, Ia on 04/17/2022 10:58 PM
You know your kids and their capabilities, but that sounds rough. There isn't even a spot to get water between Wood Lake and Valentine. That stretch is the sole reason that I went to 3 water bottles on the bike. As you apparently know, Arabia is just a sign on the trail. I don't know why it's even on the map, b/c it was a real disappointment when I was expecting to water up there my first trip my first year. There are no camping spots until you get to Wood Lake unless you pirate along the trail. It would be better to start at Norfolk so you'll have services in towns along the route if you could make that work as you check out how the kids are going to handle it. Keep us apprised of your progress, and good luck!

AM from WY on 04/18/2022 09:35 AM
Thanks Doug T. That info helps a lot. We're thinking we might skip the Valentine to Wood Lake section with the info we've been finding, and maybe just do a day hike from Valentine to enjoy the bridge and that section without having to deal with the 25 miler. I really appreciate your input!

Dougt from Onawa, Ia on 04/18/2022 02:05 PM
If you do that, there's not much to see from Valentine east 2-3 miles to the bridge, which is a must-see. If you drive maybe a mile or two east of the bridge on the highway there's a parking lot and you can walk west to the bridge, then back east for an out-and-back for as long as you guys want to hike and the terrain is way more interesting so the kids would have more fun and you'd get a decent hike out of the day. Just a thought.....

AM from WY on 04/18/2022 02:28 PM
You rock, Dougt! I really appreciate your help with this. We're coming in a little blind on this, and just relying on what we find online. Thank you!

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Newport Pool Hall in Newport
Anonymous from Mesa AZ on 04/12/2022 12:45 AM
Cute town, the pool hall has snacks and a beverage vending machine

Cynthya from Lewis,KS on 04/12/2022 07:47 AM
Newport is a nice stop. The 1st time we passed through there we did not realize you could go into that little pool hall. On our return trip we bumped into a local who told us about it. We went in, looked around, had a drink and a snack. Especially nice on a hot Nebraska day!

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Shuttle sharing
pacrfan from Colorado Springs on 01/17/2022 11:27 AM
I will be hiking the Cowboy Trail this June. I plan on leaving my car in Valentine and hiking the trail ending in Norfolk. So I need transportation back to Valentine. I am looking for people to share shuttle service on 17 June from Norfolk to Valentine. Or other affordable transportation.

Norfolk Area Visitors Bureau from Norfolk on 01/19/2022 01:36 PM
North Fork Outfitting in Norfolk offers shuttle rides. Their number is 402-316-0157. If you need anything else, you can contact us at 402-371-2932 or

Tiffany Sealock from Bennington, NE on 03/29/2022 12:41 PM
Wow I envy you for hiking on foot the entire trail! How many days are you anticipating it to take and will you be tent camping? I'm interested in taking the bike on the trail but its the getting back to the car issue also. Nice to know there is a shuttle available but with gas prices going up, I wonder how pricey it'll be by this summer?!

pacrfan from Colorado Springs on 03/29/2022 06:21 PM
I will be hiking the trail for 9 days, tent camping at the various towns along the way. The shuttle service was to expensive, so my wife will be dropping me off in Valentine and I will return home via Greyhound and Amtrak. Looking forward to this hike!

Cynthya from Lewis,KS on 03/30/2022 06:01 PM
My husband and I rode and camped August 2017.
We would pick a spot and ride east one day and west the next. Then leap frog down the trail and repeat until we ended in Norfolk. That worked out well and we could say we rode Valentine to Norfolk and back.????

SmoovNerd from Lincoln on 04/08/2022 10:29 AM
WOW, hiking that takes determination, I applaud you! My brother-in-law and I are planning to bikepack the trail this late summer. Still a plan in progress. Hope the trail stays open and is ridable throughout the summer! CHEERS!

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Trail conditions
Trev from Kearney on 09/12/2021 06:05 PM
My family and I did the cowboy trail over Labor Day weekend we started in valentine and went to Norfolk we were lucky to have a camper to use and stayed in basset the first night, used the fairgrounds in basset as they had hookups, we continued to O’Neil for the 2nd night and stayed at carney park, the last night we stayed in Norfolk at Ta Ha zouka park. Every place we stayed at night was great. We were lucky to have great weather, I felt like the trail was pretty well maintained. I would say the mopac trail by Lincoln/Omaha is a pretty similar trail to compare the cowboy trail too. To me The worst part of the trail was going from Johnstown to ainsworth we all got a few flats in this section, which really made the day difficult. Would def recommend using tubes with slime in them and make sure you check the insides of your tires for thorns breaking off inside your tires. Bring extra tubes, if I do the trail again I would honestly bring prob 6 extra tubes just for my bike alone. I would also get tubes with some sort of thorn resistance and get a tire liner. The bikes we used were mostly trek hybrids and mountain bikes. I think using a road bike would be pretty challenging on this trail. My family really enjoyed riding this trail and had an excellent time would def recommend to anybody considering it!

Alex from Lincoln on 09/13/2021 09:57 AM
Thanks for the trip report, glad you and your crew enjoyed the trail. Sorry to hear about your goathead woes, that has been a difficult area of the trail to keep those under control. I recommend tubeless if you can, or using a slime filled tube. If you do pick up some goatheads, leave them alone and keep riding. I find the thorn will act as a plug and help seal the puncture with the aid of sealant. YMMV.

Tiffany Sealock from Bennington, NE on 03/29/2022 12:57 PM
With so many issue with the thorns, can't the trail maintenance folks find a permanent solution to the goat head thorn problem? Spray them in spring or detour them from going over the trail somehow? Certainly there is something to get rid of these problem thorns so people aren't stranded with a flat if they come unprepared or can't fix the flat. In googling how to get rid of goathead, it looks like you can attack them with a post-emergent herbicide, but burning them is also effective enough to kill the plant and seeds, also tilling the land to prevent the seeds from germinating in the future. I think the trail maintenance folks should consider doing something along the stretch of trail where they are the worst.

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Patrick Healy from South Dakota on 09/02/2021 02:19 PM
I see a lot of the websites related to the Cowboy Trail are geared towards cycling. Do people hike this trail as well? Im contemplating segment hiking it this fall/winter. Any input appreciated. Thanks

Alex from Lincoln on 09/02/2021 03:27 PM
Yes people absolutely hike the trail. There's an annual Ultra Marathon on the trail too. Fall/winter would be a good time to do that since it would be cool. In the winter, if it does snow, the trail is not plowed or groomed. In some areas it has a good tendency to create large snow drifts that can be difficult to get through. The trail is technically open all year long but unfortunately we don't have regular maintenance staff November - March.

Hiker on 11/26/2021 05:27 PM
Which is the best segment to hike if you were just going to do a day hike (either out & back or parking two vehicles at separate trailheads)? I'm guessing crossing the Niobrara on the bridge but that's just a guess.

Alex from Lincoln on 11/29/2021 10:51 AM
Don't know what your definition of a day hike is but Valentine to Arabia Ranch is about 15.7 miles and is pretty scenic. It's flat though so a decent pace can be made.

pacrfan from Colorado Springs on 12/02/2021 10:55 AM
I am also thinking about hiking the trail June 2022. From what I have read, I believe that there is no stealth camping on the trail. Is this correct? Is there any place to replenish water on the trail or do you have to rely on the towns for that?

Alex from Lincoln on 12/03/2021 11:23 AM
Camping is technically not permitted on the trail ROW. The towns along the trail all have a campground of some sort available to travelers on the trail, many are free or have a small fee. Services vary but the larger towns tend to have hydrants, bathrooms, etc. I haven't ever had difficulty finding water - usually the gas station, park, library, or bar are willing to accommodate.

Tiffany Sealock from Bennington, NE on 03/29/2022 12:45 PM
Would like to know from those who have rode the trail from point to point- - is it easier from Norfolk to Valentine or Valentine to Norfolk?

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200-mile ultramarathon planned on Nebraska's Cowboy Trail
Ray (webmaster) on 03/23/2022 06:06 AM
The Cowboy 200 will be an unprecedented race for runners in Nebraska.

The Cowboy 200 ultramarathon will start in Norfolk and end in Valentine via the historic Cowboy Trail, which spans around 195 miles.

“It's the first 200-mile race in Nebraska that we’re aware of,” said Chase Hammond, one of the directors of the race.

The race is set to begin Nov. 5 in Norfolk.


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