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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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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.

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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.

Sylvia from Needville, Texas on 06/12/2022 12:31 PM
Someone had made inquiry about the prevailing wind direction on the Cowboy Trail; however, it did not get answered. I, too, would like an answer to this question. My starting point on trail would be based on prevailing wind direction. My guess would be winds coming out of the west, generally. Please advise.

opedaler from Ne nerbraska on 06/12/2022 08:41 PM
There are several sites that give prevailing wind directions so a quick search might give you one you like. I think you will find prevailing winds in NE and North Central Ne, to be westerlies.....mostly southwesterlies, but this is not a given and if the ride takes 3-5 days you could easily find yourself with an easterly wind during a portion of the ride. Your best bet is to wait as long a possible to make your direction determination if wind is important to you. The strongest winds in northern Nebraska often happening in the spring. Elevation also drops from Valentine to Norfolk to the tune of about 2753 ft. It is a long gradual drop (or gain depending on direction) so you won't notice it much, but the overall effect most likely has some bearing on energy expenditure.

Don't overlook the suggestion to kayak the Niobrara at Valantine. It's a lot of fun, regardless of traveling direction

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Anyone interested in riding over fathers day?
Anthony from Fort Calhoun on 05/31/2022 03:59 PM
I know this is a shot in the dark but would anyone be interested in "teaming up" and riding this trail over a long fathers day weekend? Thursday or Friday to Sunday? It'd be the third weekend in June.

Even if you're hiking it, I'd love to share the bus ride from Norfolk to Valentine. Going solo would be super expensive (400+); chartering with two people would be just expensive (200+); and chartering with 3 or 4 people would be a great deal (about 100 each). Im not knocking the charter companies, its a long drive and they use those big cargo vans. Gas isn't cheap, so the more we can spread the cost, the more reasonable it'll be per person.

If you're planning to go out to Valentine in June, particularly over that 3rd weekend, and want to share the charter bus cost, let me know. Also, if you're riding the trail and would like some company, I've never ridden it and would be thrilled to have someone around.


ho_carlos133 from Aurora NE on 06/08/2022 11:09 PM
Hi, are you still planning to bike over Father’s Day Weekend? I was planning to go around July 1 but sooner would be great as well!

Anthony from Fort Calhoun on 06/09/2022 09:47 AM
Good Morning - Thanks for reaching out. Yes, I would still like to bike the trail and fathers day seems like an ideal time to go. That said, I am not opposed to going 7/1 either - nothing set in stone on my end. The biggest obstacle to it, for me, is transportation between Norfolk and Valentine. I'd sure like to split a charter out to Valentine. :). Obviously having a "partner" around would be mentally comforting as well, as I dont have a ton of experience out in that area of NE, or with bike-packing really. If your still considering riding the trail though, I'd love to link up and get your thoughts. Thanks again for reaching out!

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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!

Anthony from Fort Calhoun on 06/01/2022 09:00 AM
PACRFAN! I posted above about this very issue and missed your thread....Indeed I would be interested in sharing a ride from Norfolk to Valentine on the 17th! In fact, it's exactly what I asked the community. Are you still looking for someone to share the cost of a charter?


Al from Colorado Springs on 06/01/2022 02:18 PM
I will not be shuttling. Decided to return home via Greyhound and Amtrak. Sorry

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Shuttle Service/How Does it Work and Do All Towns Participate?
Chef Spencer from Memphis on 05/27/2022 01:20 PM

My wife and I are wanting to ride the Cowboy Trail this June and are wondering about how the shuttle service (if there is even such an animal) works. Do all towns on the line participate? Who should I call to check? Thank you!

Alex from Lincoln on 05/27/2022 02:14 PM
Greetings and thanks for your interest in the Cowboy Trail. North Fork Outfitting in Norfolk, NE offers shuttle service along the trail. (402) 316-0157

There is not any kind of public transportation between towns, though. If you get in a pinch a friendly local may help you to the next town.

Chef Spencer from Memphis on 05/27/2022 02:57 PM
Awesome! Thank you.

Anthony from Fort Calhoun on 06/01/2022 08:40 AM
Greetings, Chef!

I would like to ride the trail this June as well. I called the outfitters yesterday and was shocked about the price to charter a bus from Norfolk to Valentine. I believe it was in the $400-$450 range. For some reason I naively thought it'd be like getting a taxi across town - haha. I didn't account for the fact that they are not exactly driving a Prius, how far it actually is for them to drive, nor how those big vans don't get great gas milage. Gas is expensive and they've got to make some money in the deal, so I get it.

The gentleman I spoke to was very reasonable though and the cost can be shared by multiple people up to 4, then 75 per person afterwards (if I remember correctly). Basically, $400+ for me is pretty expensive, but $400 spread out over a few of us gets increasingly more affordable.

Would you guys be interested in seeing if we're going at the same time(ish) and sharing the charter? I'd ideally like to go over fathers day weekend, or as an alternative, on a Thursday or Friday (due to work and pto).

Im also not sure if your driving over here from Memphis....but if so, we could probably scheme to get my wife to help us. I've got a Thule hitch rack for (4) and two additional Thule roof racks; so 6 bike capacity total. You could park at long term parking in Norfolk, we could load your bikes on my Jeep Cherokee, then beg my wife to drive us all the way out to Valentine. We'd ride back to your vehicle and you could bring me home (I live 1.5 hours SE of Norfolk / just south of Blair, NE). Just an alternative solution to throw out there.

Simplest remains buying the charter and splitting the cost among us. :)

Thanks for any consideration! ~Anthony

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Sunrise Park in Tilden
Paul V on 05/25/2022 05:20 PM
Do they allow car parking at Sunrise Park?

Alex from Lincoln on 05/26/2022 03:45 PM
Not sure - give the Tilden Clerk a call - 402-368-2232. I'm sure they could tell you or give you a location to park a vehicle for an extended period of time.

opedaler from Ne nerbraska on 05/26/2022 09:02 PM
I'd be glad to check for you. There are few campers there now. It's a very small park that I park in often......I never thought to pay. It used to be free for all, including campers, but the service was abused by a few so they started to charge a minimal amount for campers (RVs)....not sure about cars. A few questions.....Any services that you would use or require? How many days would you need? It's right on the trail, but so is a mid-town park...and one on the southern end of town that is connected by a trail that runs through it and eventually connects to the cowboy trail as well. These two parks might have some sports activities going on though. As Alex suggested the clerk might be your safest bet, but I'd be glad to lend a hand. I might add that most towns have nice parks. Neligh has a very nice one, as well as one at the trail head in Norfolk. Both will have several campers (RVs) as well as tents up.

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Tagged: Sunrise Park

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
- 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!

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Mogie from Waterloo, IA on 05/17/2022 02:21 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

Al from Colorado Springs on 05/23/2022 02:11 PM
By any chance do you have a link to the Nebraska state trails interactive map that you mentioned? I will be hiking, starting June 7, from Valentine to Norfolk and I want to verify all trail closure etc.
Thank you

found the link!!!

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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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