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.
Valentine to Omaha -
ENRIQUE from Houston on 12/09/2021 02:40 AM
Hi, flying into Omaha and will be starting from Norfolk. Once I get to Valentine, any shuttle services available from Valentine to Norfolk or Omaha? Thanks
Alex from Lincoln on 12/09/2021 01:32 PM
Look up North Fork Outfitting - https://www.nforkoutfitting.com/
Tony can likely help you out.
ENRIQUE from Houston on 12/09/2021 10:43 PM
Tony Stuthman from NORFOLK on 12/22/2021 12:52 PM
Hi, give us a call at 402-316-0157
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.
tire size -
opedaler from Ne nerbraska on 12/01/2021 11:36 AM
I have to eat a little crow from a post I made earlier. It deals with tire size on the cowboy trail. While it is true that we have ridden the trail many times with smaller tires, an experience has led me to believe the best AND SAFEST way to enjoy the trail is with wider tires. This year we have enjoyed the trail primarily with our gravel bikes (40 mm tires), but I wanted to try out a new seat that I installed on another bike that I was going to use on a road ride. The tires I use on this bike are not thin (32mm) but the bike which my wife rides when I use this bike are 30mm wide. We were near Battle Creek and I was slightly ahead of my wife so I didn't see the incident, but she got caught on the side of the trail in some soft gravel. Long story short she ended up with a concussion (still can't remember what happened), a broken collarbone (requiring a plate), and a short stint in the hospital. So if anyone took notice of my suggestion that narrower tires are alright on the cowboy trail, I'd suggest you forget it. Also wear a helmet (which my wife had), and don't be lulled into false security because you're on a limestone trail. Safer than hard surface, but not hazard free.
Dougt from Onawa, Ia on 12/01/2021 01:22 PM
This could happen to anyone on any trail, but it speaks to an issue that I've noticed every time I ride the trail(4x out and back for a total of 8x) and that is trail maintenance. I'll continue to ride it each year because it's an adventure, but when people talk about it being a big draw like the Katy Trail that's a pipe dream until Ne. steps up its game and maintains the trail. I realize that flooding is an issue and some problems are unavoidable. I rode it in '11 when it got something like 11" of rain over 2 nights and not only was the trail flooded in entire areas but the highway was as well. That's unavoidable. What I would think could be done, however it to step up mowing, spraying, and packing of the trail. There are always sections of trail that are overgrown with weeds, and if that's happening you're going to have goat heads in there. I've seem goatheads growing inside city limits which should be the last place that you see them. I rode the Katy Trail out and back last year and there is no comparison. And you can see the equipment that they use parked in places, something like a big roller to compact the surface when they add rock, which would be a big help on the Cowboy. We read about the trail being finished to Chadron at some point. That would be awesome, but perhaps more effort at doing a decent job of maintaining what is already there would be a good start. I've run into people on more than one occasion from Omaha that came out to ride and were quiting because they were expecting something well maintained like the Wabash and weren't prepared for the Cowboy. Just my two cents.....
opedaler from Ne nerbraska on 12/01/2021 02:24 PM
You make a good point Dougt. We have ridden several trails this year (Katy, Hiawatha, Cour d'Alene, Centennial, Mickelson, among others). On every single one I've been asked about the Cowboy, and I don't really know how to answer. I would like for people to use it, but I'm hesitant to recommend it for fear once they use it, they won't like it and will fail to return.
Any permits or reservations required? -
Rob from Frisco, CO on 11/15/2021 06:00 PM
I am interested in doing the trail in spring of 2022. Any permits or reservations required or do you just show up and start riding? Thanks
Alex from Lincoln on 11/17/2021 09:38 AM
Show up and start riding! If you plan on camping, the trail relies on adjacent campgrounds in communities along the way as camping is not allowed on the trail. Generally they are free or just a couple bucks. If you plan on spending a night at Long Pine State Recreation Area, which I do recommend, there is a day park permit and camp fee. I think the opportunity to cool off in Long Pine Creek is worth it.
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!
Best Time of the year? -
Ted from Salt Lake City on 09/26/2021 10:34 PM
I am planning to ride the trail next year 2022 and I am interested in knowing the best time of the year to make the trip.
Alex from Lincoln on 09/27/2021 08:49 AM
I typically like tackling the trail in the spring and fall to avoid the heat in the summer time. Just have to be prepared for some potentially cool nights if you intend to camp.
Norfolk Area Visitors Bureau from Norfolk on 11/11/2021 11:02 AM
We'd love to help you plan your trip! Get a free visitors guide at www.VisitNorfolkNE.com.
Trail etiquette? -
Jim from Overland Park, KS on 10/02/2021 06:37 PM
I apologize for a potentially weird question. What is the appropriate trail etiquette for "bathroom breaks (specifically #2)" along the trail? I get the sense from my research that not every campsite has public restrooms available or open during the off-season. I know the backwoods etiquette ... find a secluded patch of trees or privacy off-trail & away from water, dig 6-8" cathole, complete business, bury and leave no trace. This is just a different type of trail than I've hiked before. Thanks.
What's the wisdom of doing the Cowboy by yourself -
Isaac T from Lincoln on 09/30/2021 05:10 PM
With no bike shops along the route, limited cell service (Sprint), tons of goat heads being present, and this biker not being incredibly good with bike maintenance (I can change a flat but that's about it), I'm a bit skeptical about riding the trail myself. Concerned about getting stranded. What's the wisdom (My first tour was the Katy last year and was with friends). I'd be going this Sunday-Tuesday and doing the entire trail (not sure which direction yet). Anyone else riding during those days?
Bill Heistermann from Fort Collins on 09/26/2021 09:54 AM
Just returned from riding from Valentine to Bassett and back. did it over 6 days at a nice relaxed pace. Rode a gravel bike with 700x35s and a BOB trailer. On the advice from Ruth at the L Bow Room I rode the highway between Johnstown and Ainsworth to avoid the goatheads. Wood Lake park is great for camping, Lone Pine not so much. Stayed overnight at the Bassett Lodge instead of camping, what cool funky little hotel. Met some great people, took in a high school football game and enjoyed the heartland. AND didn't get a flat till 2 miles from the finish!!!
Alex from Lincoln on 09/27/2021 08:52 AM
Thanks for the ride report! The goatheads are prevalent this year in that Johnstown to Ainsworth area. Did you check out Long Pine State Recreation Area? I've found that to be an excellent place to camp. Glad you checked out Bassett Lodge, it is a neat place to stay.
Riding Entire Trail -
Therese Bauer from Oregon State on 08/27/2021 11:05 AM
Two of us will be riding the entire trail, one way, in late September. We haven’t decided on a starting point. What would you all do? Start in Norfolk or Valentine? We’ll need a shuttle back to our car! Any new ideas out there?
Alex from Lincoln on 08/27/2021 01:27 PM
I usually recommend whichever way that works logistically best for you. If you're coming from the west, drive to Valentine and take a shuttle to start in Norfolk. That will shave a few hours off your return home drive. Reverse that scenario if you are coming from the east such as Lincoln or Omaha (if you're flying in).
Therese Bauer from Oregon State on 08/27/2021 01:38 PM
Thank you! We will be driving from the west. What shuttle do you recommend? I see two options, panda and North Fork outfitting.
Alex from Lincoln on 08/27/2021 02:41 PM
Unsure if Panda is still in operation, Tony with North Fork Outfitting is good. Give him a call.
Therese Bauer from Oregon State on 08/27/2021 03:50 PM
Tony Stuthman from NORFOLK on 09/22/2021 12:54 PM
North Fork Outfitting LLC, 402-316-0157 for info! Please call asap as a couple discount options are available.
New informational signs from Norfolk, to Valentine! -
Tony Stuthman from NORFOLK on 09/22/2021 12:45 PM
Hey folks, just FYI....there are new signs with info and distances from town to town all along the trail from Norfolk, to Valentine! I cant seem to post a picture, so check out my page for the one at the trailhead in Norfolk! Great time of year for an adventure! Call 402-316-0157 for shuttle and bike rental info!
opedaler from Ne nerbraska on 08/13/2021 03:13 PM
Coming back from a trip up north riding some trails up there we turned on 275 at O'neill and noticed the trail looks updated. We also noticed several riders. Has the trail gotten a much needed facelift? If so we're looking for some riding time.
Maynard from Dallas on 08/19/2021 09:31 AM
Rode last week. Clearwater to Inman was in pretty good shape. Inman to O'Neill was not too bad except where hay was bailed between the highway and the trail. The hay rake was ran over the trail creating a washboard effect. At Atkinson east and west from town the trail was looking neglected and overgrown. Noticed goat head thorns and sandburs. Tire liners would be a good idea.
Dougt from Onawa, Ia on 08/19/2021 01:04 PM
Two of us did Norfolk-Valentine-Norfolk a couple of weeks ago. At that time the trail from Norfolk-O'Neill was in pretty decent shape, with the exception of a couple of hundred yards of really thick, loose rock just as we approached the east side of Inman. As always, it's a crapshoot once you get west of O'Neill. For the most part the trail itself is solid but maintenance such as spraying and mowing is sadly lacking in many spots. Esp. near Atkinson and Ainsworth. We were riding on a lot of vegetation, and there were a lot of goat heads in that vegetation. Most of them hadn't really dried out yet so weren't as dangerous, but we picked dozens out of our tires from O'Neill on. As you ride the trail through the town of Bassett we found plenty of them within the city limits. It seems to be a ground-hugging plant that produces yellow flowers when it's producing goat heads. We each had Tuffy strips and tube sealer in our tubes and got through our 400 miles w/o flats. The section from Long Pine to Valentine was pretty good and is always the best part of the ride. I'm doing the Katy Trail out and back in a couple of weeks and we'll see how they compare. The Cowboy Trail is always an adventure!
neddieO on 09/16/2021 07:08 AM
Planning same out and back from Norfolk to Valentine.
For your out and back trip...what was your planned total days on the trail?...did you accomplish that timeframe goal? and, what kind of distance per day were you averaging or attempting to average.
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.
Bike riding trip -
Kathy Dobbelaere from Shawnee, Kansas on 09/05/2021 06:00 PM
We are planning a ride on the Cowboy Trail about the third week of Oct. since we don’t have a lot of time we wondered what parts of the trail are the most scenic?
We didn’t know if we should stay in a central pkace and leave from there each day or stay in a coupke if different spots overnight.
Alex from Lincoln on 09/07/2021 12:00 PM
If you can complete about 60 miles per day you can complete the entire trail in 3 days - two overnights, not including travel to and from. Especially if you have a support vehicle and don't have to shuttle back to the start to get your car.
Generally the section from Valentine to Long Pine is considered the most scenic so I would suggest planning a trip around that area if you are short on time. That area also has some other interesting places near by that can also be checked out such as Smith Falls State Park, Valentine National Wildlife Refuge, or Merritt Reservoir.
Kathy Dobbelaere from Shawnee,Kansas on 09/11/2021 10:04 AM
Thank you for the info Alex.
Jim from Kearney, Nebraska on 08/29/2021 06:37 AM
Lat year the trail from Wood Lake to Arabia was very thick and loose. Has this area been packed? Gonna ride it anyway. Just wondering.
Experience trail highlights? -
Cowgirl Liz from Omaha on 08/21/2021 03:25 PM
A friend and I are interested in biking part of the trail over Labor Day weekend. If we just want to do an out and back trip (no shuttle), what do you all recommend? If we drive out on Saturday, we'll have time for an afternoon ride that day and a longer ride on Sunday before heading home on Monday.
Alex from Lincoln on 08/23/2021 12:15 PM
If you're comfortable riding on a highway for part of the trip you could do a loop from valentine to ainsworth (overnight) on the trail. Then head up to springview and back to valentine on HWY 12.
Otherwise ride on the trail to wood lake (Overnight). Then ride to Long Pine State Recreation area, spend some time there and then head back to Valentine. There's tons of other things to do around Valentine as well if you wish to shorten that trip up and spend some time at Smith Falls or Mckelvie NF
Curt H Moore from Iowa City. Iowa on 08/03/2021 02:35 PM
Rode from valentine east middle of June 2021
Valentine to river bridge was nice and packed. It took us 3 hours to go 16 miles. Trail has a rock surface that does not pack. We rode the rest of trail on the hiway. Nice wide shoulders and all vehicles gave us extra wide clearance. The high light of ride was L Bow Room in Johnstown. Ruth the owner is special and truly is an ambassador for the trail and Nebraska. Not much open in the other towns. And in most cases not open. I can say in try ode the cowboy trail but won’t be back
The historic hotel cafe in basset is worth seeing if it’s open
If I do it will go see Ruth at the l bOw
Maybe someday it will be similar to Katy Trail
Cynthya from Lewis,KS on 08/03/2021 03:19 PM
You are so right about the L Bow Saloon. Glad to hear they are still there. We ate there twice on our ride. Definitely a place well worth the stop!
Stephen W McGregor from Hannibal, on 08/04/2021 12:50 PM
I must Say, on our way from Valentine, we LOVED the L-Bow Room, and were there on the day of the big rodeo, and had so much fun. A local rancher, Joe O'Keif, took us over the fairgrounds and we spent a hot afternoon watching the Rodeo, waiting for it to cool down so we could head on out to Ainsworth.. We loved everyone we met in Johnstown....
Trail washed out near Neligh -
Brad Hayward from Bolivar Missouri on 07/14/2021 02:31 PM
We are planning a ride from Atkinson to Norfolk and back. Can anyone give me info on the trail being washed out near Neligh or anywhere else for that matter. And if it is can we detour around on the highway?
Alex from Lincoln on 07/14/2021 02:41 PM
Please use NGPC's online trail map to see closed sections of trails and determine the best detour for you.
Granny Gear from Green Valley,AZ & Grantsburg,WI on 07/21/2021 04:32 PM
Wash out detour was not a big deal. Had to ride on Hwy 275 for about a mile. Nice, wide shoulder.
Dave from Sacramento CA on 08/01/2021 01:58 PM
As someone who HATES riding near vehicle traffic (hence the trip from California to ride this trail), I was really dreading this detour, but as the previous post said, it wasn’t bad. The shoulder is very clean and wide, and the cars and trucks were very good about giving a wide berth. There iis a spot where signs warn of a “soft shoulder ahead,” but the shoulder was actually paved and in great condition at that spot. I was traveling eastbound.
I would guesstimate that I was on the highway for two or three miles. You can see the trail from the highway, for the most part.. Don’t try to return to the trail until after you see a couple of large orange traffic barrels that mark one of the washed out sections. If you accidentally get back on the trail too early, like I did, you will end up at a dead end where there is a washout, snd will either have to backtrack a little bit for a trail crossing, or trample through some thick weeds and walk your bike to the highway about 20 feet away. I did the trampling and it wasn’t bad, but in wet conditions it might have been a problem.
Mile markers -
Dave from Sacramento CA on 07/19/2021 09:18 PM
One major improvement that seems like it wouldn’t be too difficult would be to add mile markers and some signage about what city you are passing through. It would be nice to be able to know how far you have gone without having to check GPS. I had to check on my phone every once in a while, and would have to wait for a good stretch of reasonably packed gravel and no potholes so I could check while riding.
Alex from Lincoln on 07/26/2021 11:01 AM
Thanks for the improvement suggestion. We actually just received the signs we had made to mark the towns and will have them put up this fall. Mile markers are also on the list.
Dave from Sacramento CA on 08/01/2021 01:43 PM
That’s great news. I noticed that signage got better as I got closer to Norfolk, mostly because the “welcome to ___” signs for the highway were also visible from the trail.
On the subject of signage, I also would recommend taking a look at the detour signs. It seemed like the beginnings of the detours were marked, but after that I just had to take educated guesses about where to go and when to try to get back on to the trail.
What's the goat head situation? -
Doug t from Onawa Iowa on 07/28/2021 02:03 PM
Two of us taking off Saturday from Norfolk to Valentine and back. What is the goat head situation this year?
There were earlier reports of the trail being pretty nasty on the East end with lots of soft spots. Is that better now?
Greg from Bellevue, NE on 07/29/2021 07:53 PM
I started in Atkinson last week. Some soft spots between Stuart and Bassett. Trail got much better after Long Pine. I didn't have any problems with goatheads.
Riverside Park in Neligh -
Jeff from Buffalo from Buffalo on 07/28/2021 02:49 PM
As an addendum, the location of the tent section is hard to find, so here it is.
There is a fence line along the horseshoe pits where there are electrical outlets spaced about every ten feet.
Riverside Park in Neligh -
Jeff from Buffalo from Buffalo on 07/28/2021 01:22 PM
The tent area has absolutely no shade. 5$ to roast in the sun.
Bassett City Park in Bassett -
Jeff from Buffalo from Buffalo on 07/26/2021 03:59 PM
That location is wrong. These are the GPS coordinates:
Water faucet, a number of electrical hookups, and bathrooms/showers in the adjacent fairgrounds. Just look behind the band stage.
Ray (webmaster) on 07/26/2021 05:12 PM
Thank you for the heads-up on that; I have updated the location.