Cowboy Trail Home
The Cowboy Trail of Nebraska
Cowboy Trail Map
Cowboy Trail Map

Cowboy Trail Forum

Share your comments, questions, opinions, and advice on the Cowboy Trail.
FORUM ALERTS: click here to receive an emailed copy each time someone enters a Forum note.
Page: 1 2 ... 19

Multi-night Parking in Valentine?

Kevin R from Twin Cities on 9/27/2018 5:20:36 PM
I've scrolled through many pages of the comment forum here but haven't seen anyone (yet) post anything regarding parking options for multiple nights in Valentine. Anyone out there have suggestions?

Alex from Lincoln on 10/4/2018 8:39:04 AM
Greetings! I have always parked at the city park on the North side of Valentine. It's a great place to camp as well if you are arriving the night before and leaving the next morning. Just a $5 camp site fee and plenty to choose from near a nice creek and a short trail system.

Joel S. from Springfield, MO on 12/13/2018 3:17:49 AM
I agree, the city park was a great place to rest when I rode the trail in October 2017.

Cynthya from Salina on 12/13/2018 9:30:45 AM
We also overnighted in Valentine City Park when we rode The Cowboy Trail in August of 2017. It had bathrooms, which I believe, include showers. Nice, quite place, with plenty of parking the time we were there. If you ride to the Trail Head from there, you will have a steep hill to climb out. The Trail head park would be nice, but I don't know if it is overnight? Would not be a quiet as City Park.

North Fork Outfitting in Norfolk

Dale Coon from GLENDALE HEIGHTS on 12/3/2018 12:52:30 PM
Do you shuttle bikes and people to Valentine to ride east on the trail. Are there services for shuttling baggage from town to town?

Summer Riding with kods

Maria andersson from Stockholm sweden on 11/19/2018 1:34:22 PM
We’e planning a crossUS trip by train and bike for the summernof 2019. Wed like to inkludera Therese cowboy trail in tjis trio. Is it possible to rent bikes and what’s it like ti tyske the trio during juli? We’re radonet tourtiders. Two adults and a 13yr DN a 7yr old

Cynthya from Salina on 11/19/2018 2:41:36 PM
We rode in August 2017. We had heat at time and one day of rain. July will be warm. Hopefully someone will tell about their experience in July. Kids should do fine. Unless things have changed there will be some weeds, stickers and rough spots, but manageable. We did not experience flats. There are some bicycle shops in Norfolk...hopefully one of them will respond. We enjoyed the ride and challenges that came along. I wish you a good ride.

Website updates

Ray (webmaster) on 11/6/2018 9:53:00 PM
Welcome to the updated BikeCowboyTrail website!

If you've been here in the past, you may notice that the website looks different. It actually still has all the same information, forum discussions, and trip-planning tools as before... but now it features:

- An updated look (the site's design had been pretty much unchanged for nearly ten years!)

- Better maps - more fully using the features available in Google Maps

- "Responsive design", which is a web designer's way of saying the website should look good and work well in all different sizes of screens, from a desktop PC down to a cell phone

- A more interactive experience, with the website using cookies to remember the selections you've made and customize

- Improvements and added features to the tools such as the Trip Planner and Interactive map

I developed this new format on the Erie Canal site that I also run, After lots of testing, tweaking, and improving, the new format is ready to apply to the Cowboy Trail site.

Your feedback is welcome and appreciated - please send any comments to

Thanks and happy trails!

Alex from Lincoln on 11/7/2018 9:54:03 AM
Great updates Ray!

Bicycling To Prosperity In Small Town Nebraska

Ray (webmaster) on 10/22/2018 6:05:15 AM
Nebraska’s small, rural communities can bicycle their way to prosperity.

That was the message at a Nebraska Tourism conference breakout, where the Cowboy Trail from Norfolk to Valentine and “gravel grinding” routes around Lincoln were visioned at the intersection of biking and tourism.

Ginny Sullivan of Adventure Cycling said bicycle tourism is a real industry.
Full Article:

Source: Sandhills Express, 10/18/2018

Alex from Lincoln on 10/30/2018 11:27:01 AM
It was a great session! She made a great case that Nebraska has a lot of potential to develop their bicycle tourism industry.

Cynthya from Salina on 10/30/2018 12:55:42 PM
We were not able to attend, but excited to see the post. Hopefully folks will come on board. We rode The Cowboy Trail from one end to the other and back in 2017. We stayed true to the trail except for the detour and a very short piece in front of coop at Ainsworth. They have a gem they need to develop.

BIKER4 from PAPILLION on 10/30/2018 3:05:27 PM

Alex from Lincoln on 11/1/2018 9:23:45 AM
If you ever see damage of any kind on the trail please note the GPS coordinates and take pictures (if possible) of the damage and send them to me at so I can address the damage. This will ensure the best turnaround time in fixing the damage as we will know exactly where it is and what we will need. Feel free to give me a call anytime at 402-471-5443. This website is a great resource, as are the forums here but for anyone looking for a brief overview on the trail check out

BIKER4 from PAPILLION on 11/1/2018 10:33:55 AM
Alex, Glad o see someone from the Game and Parks Department monitoring the forum. I have ridden all kinds of trails throughout the US and I was very pleased with the trails I have ridden except for two. The Steamboat Trace is one and needs a lot of work since I rode it last spring. I will ride the Cowboy Trail next spring and report any damage to the trail to you but I feel a lot of the damage is caused in the late fall from harvesting crops. I will try and work with you more in the future to promote the Cowboy Trail for Nebraska. At 68 I do not ride for long distances as well as I used to but I will keep Cycling as long as I am able.

dougt from Onawa, Ia on 11/1/2018 12:04:32 PM
It's good to have an email address and contact # for information Alex. If I do this again next year I'll see if you respond. I had no luck at all this year before my trip when I was trying to get status on trail conditions but I didn't have your information. As I stated in my post, it was a great adventure!

Norfolk to Valentine and back

Dougt from Onawa, Ia on 10/22/2018 11:31:51 AM
I rode Norfolk to Valentine and back on Sept 16-21. Weather ranged from 90's the first 2 days to misty and progressively cooler after that. Last day was in the 50's, which surprised me for Sept. Trail conditions varied from nicely packed on the eastern side to rougher as I got past O'Neill and started getting closer to Valentine. If anyone has any illusions about no motorized vehicles ever using the trail they'll be disappointed because there will be tire tracks, cow tracks and manure in various places out west. That said, I expected an adventure and that's what I got. Not a sterile paved bike path running through a residential neighborhood. I left my truck at the trailhead in Norfolk and it was fine for 6 days. Stayed in O'Neill, Long Pine, and Valentine. Long Pine has The Bunkhouse which consists of a small sleeping room with shared bath and a day room with tv and kitchen. Not a 5 star hotel by any means but cheap and fairly clean. There is a bar in town with the smallest grilled chicken sandwich that I've ever seen(so maybe order something else) and a grocery store. Beautiful bridge right outside of town. You'll want to refill water bottles every chance you have if it's hot because as you venture west there don't seem to be services in some of the towns. My only real problem was that I carried all of my gear in a 35# backpack. That seems like nothing, but I wore the skin off under one of my sit bones on the first 80 mile day and for the next 5 days had to get out of the saddle every 30-60 peddle strokes to ease the pain,so I wouldn't recommend a backpack. That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger, right?? All in all a great adventure and I might do it again next year.

dougt from Onawa, Ia on 10/22/2018 11:39:42 AM
I forgot to mention that I'd read about thorns and put heavy tires and liners on my Mtn bike, but never saw any goats head thorns and only picked up some cockleburs in about 2 places, which weren't going to bother those tires.

The detour for the bridge out was well marked and is only for a couple of miles on the highway. That highway has an awesome wide shoulder with rumbles separating the traffic from the shoulder and even at that people were moving to the opposite lane for me. I'm normally a road rider and have never encountered great riding like that.

Cynthya from Salina on 10/22/2018 1:26:17 PM
Doug, Thanks for sharing about your ride. Enjoyed hearing about your experience. Sounds much like or experience, though we rode August 2017. Days were warm, got caught in heavy rain at Inman. Even though there are some though spots it is a GREAT ride. People need to get out and ride. I would like to ride again. Maybe we will try again next year.

Alex from Lincoln on 10/30/2018 11:20:25 AM
Thanks for sharing your trip! Great tips for future CBT visitors.


Greg from Michigan on 10/23/2018 7:05:08 PM
Two of us are looking at riding the Cowboy Trail in May (probably west to east), would like to leave car at one end and shuttle to the other end. Looking for others to share shuttle, reducing the per person cost. We are somewhat flexible on dates.

Not Optimal

Robert Hale from Port Matilda, Pennsylvania on 9/13/2018 10:32:43 AM
I rode parts of the Cowboy Trail and the highway from Valentine to Norfolk from September 8-10th, 2018. My impression of the trail is that it could be a gem, but is too poorly maintained to really be usable. The scenery around Valentine is beautiful. However the gravel is not packed and I sunk and slid even on 40mm tires. Near Wood Lake there were sections where it appeared that weeds had grown so tall and thick on the trail that they were simply mowed, leaving stumps. At Johnstown, I sunk and slid, and being clipped in, took a spill. It was at that point that I decided to ride the parallel highway. To the best of my ability, I calculated that using the same effort on the trail was costing me about 4 miles an hour. My first day, I rode from Valentine to Bassett. I camped in the Bassett city park. There was water and electricity available, and the restroom doors at the swimming pool were open, but no water to flush the single toilet. You can imagine the condition. On the second day I rode from Bassett to Inman. Several times I ventured onto the trail for a mile, only to return to the highway. Typically the highway and trail are so close together your scenery doesn't change, only the effort in peddling. The shoulder or berm on the highway is excellent. It is wide and smooth, and the traffic is courteous. In Atkinson, I was invited to lunch by Pastor Linda and the Methodists. They were wonderful people and a picnic lunch was a great break from peddling with the south breeze cross wind. I also waved and shouted at the only other long distance cyclist I encountered on the trip. He was on the highway and shouted back that he was headed to California. Camping in the Inman city park was an adventure - no water, no electricity and no restrooms. On the third day I stuck to the highway from Inman to Norfolk. The only hill, and it was a small one, that I encountered on the entire trip was in Neligh. I was riding a fully packed Kona Sutra bicycle. My tubes had sealent, and I never had a flat although at one point riding on the trail, I had thrown enough sandburs up on the front panniers that they were difficult to open without getting stuck several times. I truly enjoyed the ride. The people I met were great. The highway was pleasant. The scenery especially near Valentine was excellent. The trail needs to be maintained. My advice to other riders would be to ride the trail from Valentine to Wood Lake (where I had a lovely break in their park)and think about the highway for the remainder of the ride.

Dougt from Onawa, Ia on 9/15/2018 9:08:44 AM
That's depressing news. I'm looking forward to a trail ride,not a road ride after a summer of road riding. It's too bad that there isn't more trail condition information/upkeep on this gem, because the Cowboy Trail is famous in the biking community. I've emailed the Ne. government contact listed somewhere in the form for trail information and never got a response. I appreciate your posting and will post my experiences when done. I was planning on making this an annual fall trip.

Jim in Baltimore from Baltimore on 9/26/2018 5:45:39 AM
Rode the trail that same week. I found the trail conditions to be good, much better than I was led to believe from reading some of the posts on here. The trail does have more gravel than is needed, some weeds, a few washouts and cross roads and believe it or not huge ant mounds. But slow down, ride the tire tracks where the gravel isn’t as deep and don’t overcorrect when you do hit loose spots. It took me a day or so to get used to the heavy bike and loose conditions but once I did I found the trail exhilarating. Slowing down isn’t a bad thing, stopping and walking through some of the more scenic areas is even better. The trail near Valentine is truly spectacular. I brought a folding camp chair and took frequent breaks. Highly recommended, especially near ONeil where there are trees chock full of big beautiful Monarchs this time of year.

The highway is faster but not anywhere near as enjoyable or as close to nature as the trail. 70 mph semis are no fun.

I bought 2.25x26 Swalbe Marathon Plus MTB tires with standard tubes just for this trail based upon reports from the forums. These tires proved to be too much. The only thorns I picked up were from riding through grassy areas in campgrounds and cutting to and from minimarts. Stay on the gravel and you will see less thorns (and don’t walk the campgrounds barefoot!!). The Swalbes proved impervious to the few thorns I did pick up, no flats in 4 days of riding. The big issue with the tires was the deep tread is not good for gravel and they were much wider than need be. Next fall will ride the trail again with 32-40 cc tires on my gravel bike. Fast handling bikes or a twitchy riding style are not good for loose gravel.

The cowboy is not an easy or fast ride, but it is an extremely satisfying one. What I think the trail needs most is more traffic to wear the gravel in better. I think letting people know what to expect will help in this regard.

Kevin R from Twin Cities on 9/27/2018 4:59:47 PM
Anyone find a decent place in Valentine to leave your car? I can't find any "official" recommendation online. I'll call the city office tomorrow, but Old West Days are underway and I may not get anyone on the phone.

Alex from Lincoln on 10/4/2018 8:50:10 AM
Thank you both for your comments on your trip! Both good reads. For anyone camping in Inman in the future the bar (Harte's Pub) in town is happy to fill your water bottle.

Cynthya Billinger from Salina, KS on 10/22/2018 8:10:59 AM
Was excited to see the post this morning on the tourism post regarding The Cowboy Trail. Very much enjoyed these latest posts regarding The Trail and ride experiences. We rode The Trail August 2017. We rode entirely on The Cowboy Trail except for the detour at Clearwater and a short detour by The Coop at Ainsworth. This trail is a diamond in the rough, but well worth the ride. Would make the trip again and after reading these posts ready to hit The Trail another year in September. Nebraska....people will come, ride and bring good things for your state!

Riding in March/April

BobbyJ from Stockton, Utah on 9/23/2018 6:32:03 PM
Hello! I'm thinking of coming out in March or April. What kind of weather and trail conditions will I have. I'll adjust my bike to gravel (usually go road) with wide tires and a couple of packs....

Alex from Lincoln on 10/4/2018 9:13:18 AM
Sweet! That'd be a good time of year. It'll be towards the end of calving season so you might see lots of young ones in the pasture on the western end of the trail. Nebraska can be pretty unpredictable with regard to weather - it will be chilly overnight still so bring a warm bag if you're camping. Snow is a possibility this early in the year too so stay on top of the weather forecast. Definitely go with the widest tire you can fit in your bike, and don't be afraid to run them at a lower psi - I prefer about 35psi in a 40c tire on my gravel bike. The trail conditions will vary across the trail from looser gravel sections in the west to hardpacked limestone on the eastern portion. There shouldn't be many goatheads that early in the year but be prepared for flats just in case. There will be some washboard sections but it's not bad in my opinion. There is a 3ish mile detour east of Clearwater where a bridge is out. There will be a sign that directs you out to the highway and then meet back up with the trail by heading south on 517ave or 519ave depending on what direction you are going.

Backcountry camping

Chris from Omaha on 9/17/2018 1:43:37 PM
Most of the towns are close, but some are a little to much for a day hike. Does anyone know the rules for backcountry camping on the trail?

steve from Saint Louis on 9/17/2018 2:31:53 PM
Camping is only allowed along the Cowboy Trail in designated camping areas, which are generally located in towns along the trail. I camped in Norfolk, O'Neill, and Valentine while doing some biking on the Cowboy and have no complaints about those locations. Valentine City Park was maybe a mile off the trail, but the others were right along the trail.

The cowboy has no shade and scenery that does not seem to change for miles so not sure why someone would want to spend a lot time hiking on this trail.

Jim in Baltimore from Baltimore on 9/26/2018 5:50:32 AM
Most of the small towns allow camping in the city parks, some with a nominal fee. The park in Atkinson is particularly nice with hot showers and electric hook ups. I met enough people in minimarts that there is little question one could get an invite to camp on local land.

Page: 1 2 ... 19