Trail Open -
Jen on 04/06/2021 12:47 PM
I am getting back to running and need to map a 6.2 mile trek. I was going to head south out of Neligh on the Cowboy Trail, but recall awhile back there was a sign that the trail was closed just ahead of the golf course. Does anyone know this to still be the case, or could I run that way and back with no issues? Looking to go Neligh to Oakdale at best.
Alex from Lincoln on 04/13/2021 09:14 AM
The bridge over the elkhorn river is still out between Neligh and Oakdale.
See the online map for details.
Ta-Ha-Zouka Park in Norfolk -
Arthur L. "Sam" Foley from Glenwood, Iiwa on 04/10/2021 06:39 PM
A couple of friends of mine, and myself; are planning a trip/Odysee along the "Cowboy Trail" in early May of '21. - and was wondering about possible road construction along the trace? True this might seem last minute, but any help would be helpful? We are intent on starting in Norfork, and then head Wesy.
Until the next . . . .
Art Foley *KB)UWR)
Alex from Lincoln on 04/13/2021 09:13 AM
Not sure about road construction near the trail. You would have to look at NDOT's website to find out. There are some sections of trail that are still damaged from the flood and are marked on the online trail map.
Overnight Parking in Valentine -
dwengs on 04/12/2021 07:35 PM
Hey Everyone -
We are planning to do the Cowboy Trail, starting in Valentine. Is there anywhere to park our car while we are out on the trail? Thanks for any help with this.
Alex from Lincoln on 04/13/2021 09:10 AM
There is a parking lot by the trailhead in Valentine. Additionally I have left a vehicle at the city park on the north edge of town where I camped. There's a good sized hill to climb to get out of the park though.
Gravel bike or mountain bike? -
Justin from Elkhorn, NE on 03/29/2021 06:40 PM
Hi all! I just learned of the Cowboy Trail and am excited to check it out sometime soon. With regards to the surface, is it ridable with a gravel bike or is it rougher and more appropriate to ride a mountain bike?
Alex from Lincoln on 04/06/2021 08:55 AM
A gravel bike would be great. I recommend running a wider tire though and at a lower psi to make the ride more supple. The trail can have some rougher areas but it pretty smooth in most places.
Justin from Elkhorn, NE on 04/06/2021 02:39 PM
Thank you Alex! I can't wait to get out there and ride it!
Neil from Kearney/Plainview on 04/10/2021 07:46 AM
I road from Neligh to Norfolk July 2020. Most areas have well packed gravel that either bike would be fine. Their are a couple of spots with fresh gravel. In those places wider MTB tires would be beneficial.
Panda Transportation in Valentine -
De and Di on 03/28/2021 06:22 PM
Has anyone recently used Panda Transportation from Valentine to Norfolk?
Alex from Lincoln on 04/06/2021 09:00 AM
I haven't but the guy that did this writeup on is Cowboy Trail trip claims he did - https://lethaltri.com/2018/07/03/biking-the-cowboy-trail/
There is also North Fork Outfitting in Norfolk that does shuttle service for the trail.
Mark Bauman from Millville, PA on 03/18/2021 10:00 AM
Looking to ride across Nebraska and include the full length of the Cowboy Trail. A couple questions:
1. Better to ride West to East? Or East to West? For context, this would likely be in June.
2. I know the CT doesn't go across the entire state, so is there a road(s) that's best to ride on after the trails ends on both the West and East sides?
Thanks in advance for any help.
Jess from Omaha on 03/25/2021 02:07 PM
I would ride the shoulder on HWY 20 going westbound from Valentine, I believe there are some small segments completed around Chadron you may want to jump back on to check out.
Going east from Norfolk you could take some small county roads to Stanton and then to Beemer (use google maps). Then after that the paved roads are pretty few and far between and pretty busy.
I would maybe have your phone charged up and do some gravel riding.. It also depends on what your terminus is on the east side.
Cowboy Trail -
Gina from Webster City on 03/14/2021 07:04 AM
Hello, Is the Cowboy Trail paved or gravel? And can you tell me in what town have a camp ground close to the trail.
Ray (webmaster) on 03/15/2021 07:45 PM
Gina a short part of the eastern end of the trail in Norfolk is paved, but the vast majority of the trail is very small gravel.
As you can see in this map: https://bikecowboytrail.com/cowboy-trail-map.aspx
... there are long sections of the trail that run parallel to a highway. Some riders switch to highway shoulder for part of their ride for faster/smoother travel. But of course that's only for people who are comfortable riding on a highway shoulder.
As for camping, here is a trip planner showing all the camping locations that we know of along the trail:
Favorite segment of Segment of Cowboy trail -
DrGus78 from Atlanta, Ga on 03/05/2021 07:19 PM
My buddy and I are returning home in late August via Nebraska and are planning a full day to do part of the Cowboy Trail. We would like to pick out a 60-70 mile segment and cover that in an out and back. Since neither of us have been there any recommendations on favorite parts of the trail, places to see, lodging and places to eat would be appreciated.
Alex from Lincoln on 03/08/2021 08:40 AM
The trail between Valentine and Long Pine is typically considered the most scenic. Valentine to Johnstown and back would be about 72 miles. There's a fun bar in Johnstown called L-Bow-Room to have lunch at. There's lots of great things to do in Valentine as well like tubing/canoeing down the Niobrara.
Wind direction in September/October? -
Isaac Terwilleger from LINCOLN, NE on 02/23/2021 11:40 PM
Thinking of riding the trail in early October. Based on the wind during that time, is there advice on which direction to ride?
opedaler on 02/24/2021 10:43 PM
Since you live in Nebraska you are aware of the prevailing westerlies. They aren't a given though, and sometimes an eastern wind can be brutal. If you aren't tied into a specific time slot, it might be wise to get a 6-10 day forecast and go from there. Having said that, there are other reasons for going from west to east....namely elevation. Although you won't be fighting hills, there is a significant drop from Valentine to Norfolk. West to east is the direction my wife and I plan on going when we go.
Alex from Lincoln on 02/25/2021 10:06 AM
In addition to what was said above - West to East if you have someone that can drop you off in Valentine and leave you a car in Norfolk. It's nice only having a 2 hour drive home vs a 5 hour drive after a trip on the Cowboy Trail.
North Fork Outfitting in Norfolk -
Ed Marino from Eaton, CO on 01/09/2021 09:42 PM
Its January 2021 and I just saw your postings on the 2020 group ride from Valentine to Norfolk. How did it go? Doing it again in 2021? How can I track that next ride? Would love to join up. Thanks!
opedaler on 02/24/2021 10:49 PM
I don't think they went. We signed up, but did not receive further notifications. It's still on our bucket list however. I really hope they include a canoeing trip at Valentine. We haven't done that for years but it is a very good, relaxing time. Probably nothing until the pandemic is over is my guess.
Best Time of Year to Complete the Cowboy Trail -
The Parking Lot People from Bryson City, NC on 02/21/2021 08:43 PM
We are planning to ride the Cowboy Trail this year and are wondering what month would be best time to ride.
Alex from Lincoln on 02/22/2021 08:23 AM
The cowboy trail can be a great experience any time of the year but each season has their pros and cons. Planning for the weather you may experience is the key to having a good experience on the trail IMO. Nebraska's forecasted weather can vary greatly day to day at any time of the year.
Spring - higher potential for rain, but temps are generally pleasant.
Summer - can be windy, can get very hot/humid.
Fall - can get unpredictably cold overnight, rain, hail, snow possible.
Generally I enjoy spring and early fall the most but it helps being local to plan around the weather. If I were to pick, I think the best two months to try and hit the trail are May and September.
Invite to Join in Pedaling the Trail next early July -
Rickonabike from Brooklyn, NYC on 11/24/2020 04:10 PM
Anyone want to join a bunch of folks pedaling the Trail early July (July 5, 6 and part of the 7th) 2021?
I am with a non-profit bicycle touring club (People Cycling) and a group of us (24) are going cross country next year from Seattle to NYC.
On July 4 we go from White River, SD to Valentine so we can pedal the Cowboy Trail.
The fifth of July we pedal from Valentine to Ainsworth (short day, but our overall average is 62~) then on July 6th we continue to O'Neill. Then the next day we will only be on the Trail for about 30-40 miles, because we depart south towards Albion (probably after Clearwater or Neligh).
Anyone who wants to pedal along with us for any of what I mention above let me know. We are using indoor lodging and have a luggage truck (no SAG). And we ALWAYS have an evening happy hour (as long as you are nice we will give you a free beer!).
Regards, Rick of Bicycle Habitat, NYC
RobinG from Lincoln, Nebraska on 11/29/2020 07:27 PM
Myself and friends would be interested in riding with you on July 7.
Norfolk Area Visitors Bureau from Norfolk,NE on 01/07/2021 03:08 PM
Please contact us to help plan this trip! Visit www.visitnorfolkne.com or call 402-371-2932. We'd love to help.
MP from Hillsboro, OR on 02/17/2021 06:18 PM
I'm planning a similar solo trip about that time. When do you plan to leave Seattle? I'm trying to ride as many rail trails as I can manage going across the country. It would be fun to ride with you for a bit.
Robert Rose from Grapevine, TX on 02/18/2021 04:47 PM
I'm riding Seattle to DC (June thru Aug 2021). Looks like your group will be about a 2 weeks ahead of me as I anticipate riding thru Valentine on 7/19. Enjoy the ride!!
S. Colvin from Ruston, LA on 01/06/2021 11:28 PM
Does anyone know where the detours are that require riding on a highway?
Norfolk Area Visitors Bureau from Norfolk, NE on 01/07/2021 03:01 PM
The Norfolk Area Visitors Bureau can help you plan your trip! Visit our website at www.visitnorfolkne.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!
Neil from Kearney/Plainview on 02/01/2021 05:39 PM
The detours are around Neligh. I road from Neligh to Norfolk last July. You can ride a couple of miles from Neligh before being moved to the road because a couple of bridges are out. You return to the trail at the eduge of Oakdale. I know thier is another bridge out by Clearwater but I didn't ride that section.
travel to valentine ne -
Anonymous on 11/25/2020 09:37 AM
Are there any bus routes or shuttles to Valentine nebraska
Pepper from Grant NE on 12/10/2020 08:44 AM
Yes, I believe there Is a shuttle that runs from Norfolk to Valentine. Sorry, I don’t have details. ?? The Cowboy Trail!
Neil from Kearney/Plainview on 01/18/2021 12:35 PM
Thier is a place out of Norfolk NE that does shuttles. here is their website. I have never used them but have had friends who used them for a float trip.
Maps to order? -
Ruth from Westminster Colorado on 11/01/2020 12:36 PM
We are thinking to explore our neighboring state and would like to come ride the Cowboy Trail in Spring of 2021. It looks beautiful!
We have road bikes and need to be on pavement or hard compacted surface for most of ride. We go at mid leisure pace and average 30-50 miles per day. Is there a hard copy map we can order? Any suggestions for routes and schedules?
Cynthya from Lewis,KS on 11/01/2020 01:05 PM
We rode The Cowboy Trail in 2017 on Ranz recumbents with 1 1/2 tires. The only time we got off trail was for a detour near Clearwater and a short strip by coop at Ainsworth. A local said bad stickers there.
I'm not sure if there are maps.. other than what you can see when you look up The Cowboy Trail online. After the fact, I ordered a book, The Cowboy Trail off Amazon. It has some information and trail...but it is not recent...I liked it...I'm a book hound
It is a good ride from our perspective...they have had flood damage again since we rode, so there might be that to contend with.
Paul from North Platte on 11/24/2020 07:42 AM
I plan to ride the trail in 2021 as well. I'm making my own map using a Delorme Nebraska Detailed Topographic Map. Then add the symbols of what's available in the towns I'm interested in for refueling and camping purposes. You can find the symbols for each town on the route planner. Hope this helps!
sschnitker from Council Bluffs, IA on 12/02/2020 09:12 AM
Here's a link to Chuck Haney's article in October's Adventure Cyclist mag on a Valentine Loop ride. https://www.adventurecycling.org/sites/default/assets/resources/20200901_Nebraska_Haney.pdf It's a combination of road and trail riding that might suit your needs.
Norfolk Area Visitors Bureau from Norfolk,NE on 01/07/2021 03:02 PM
We can provide you with more information and help plan your trip! The Trailhead is located in Norfolk. Visit www.visitnorfolkne.com for more information.
Trail Report late August -
Dougt from Onawa, Ia. on 09/08/2020 04:40 PM
Two of us did Norfolk to Valentine and back Aug 24-29 and I thought I'd give a trail report since I never got responses to some of my queries. This may be helpful to the Parkinsons group taking off in a few days.
Best maintained area of the trail is Norfolk to Battle Creek, so enjoy that. On both sides of Tilden we ran into areas of thick, loose gravel that is rough to ride. My brother floated over it with 4" tires but I had to put a foot down a few times with my 2" mtn bike tires. One detour to the highway between Oakdale and Neligh, two between Neligh and Clearwater.
After leaving O'Neill we started running into goatheads and started checking every 6-10 miles and removing them. Seriously, we removed DOZENS of them over the 400 miles of riding. I had new tires, Tuffy strips, and x-heavy tubes and never actually had a flat but had slow leaks in both tires the last day and a half. I'll probably look into slime before next year. There's a detour just outside of Long Pine on a gravel road.
It was very hot and very windy for 2 or 3 of our days and two water bottles just didn't do it so water up every chance you have. Long Pine/Valentine is short on water stops. 8 miles outside of Valentine we saw a windmill pumping and watered up with cold water, not even knowing whether it was good water or not, nor caring that much in the moment. The trail is open all the way to Valentine.
In 6 days of riding we met one couple doing the trail and one guy riding solo, and in O'Neill we met 2 couples from Omaha who had decided that this was a lot tougher than the Wabash Trail(correctly) and were calling it quits and heading home.
I always say that this ride the way we do it isn't an easy, fun ride, but more of an adventure. It's addictive but come prepared. Good luck!
Tim on 09/09/2020 10:42 AM
Yes, I rode the trail from Valentine to Norfolk 9/3-9/5 as well as Hwy 20 from Hay Springs to Valentine 9/1-9/2. I rode part of the trail from Rushville to Gordon but it was loose and somewhat difficult. I ride a 29er hardtail tubeless so thorns weren't a concern. The trail is in good shape there but not enough riders to pack down the loose rock and create a hard trail. Lots of local riders between Norfolk and Battle Creek on my last day. I only saw one other cyclist between Valentine and Ewing. I did Valentine to Bassett, Bassett to Ewing, and Ewing to Norfolk. I wish they could get the entire trail done to Chadron, but it was an amazing ride between Valentine and Norfolk.
Rickonabike from Brooklyn, NYC on 11/24/2020 03:54 PM
DougT: Thanks for the update - very nice of you! I am with a non-profit bicycle touring club (People Cycling) (free to join) and a group of us (24) are going cross country next year from Seattle to NYC. On July 4 we go from White River, SD to Valentine so we can pedal the Cowboy Trail. The fifth of July we will go from Valentine to Ainsworth (short day) then the 6th we go to O'Neill. Then the next day, after a half day on the Trail we depart south towards Albion. Your posting was very helpful - - and I am going to start another (new) thread to post up our x-c and to invite anyone who wanted to pedal along with us for any of what I mention above but wanted to invite you since you are doing the right thing by giving such an awesome trail report. Regards, rick of Bicycle Habitat, NYC
Dougt from Onawa, Ia. on 12/01/2020 11:29 AM
Rick, thanks for the invite but I wouldn't be available in July to ride w/you guys. Sounds like an interesting ride across country, and I hope you can leave an update on this site after riding the trail. Conditions vary from year to year as to trail maintenance and the dreaded goatheads so I'm always curious before I ride it in Aug or Sept. Enjoy and stay safe, bud!
Rickonabike from Brooklyn, NYC on 12/09/2020 09:39 PM
Will do - - and will report back after next July
Biker4 from Papillion, NE on 12/10/2020 12:14 PM
Thanks everyone for your information on trail conditions and the issues in areas of concern.
I do not understand why the state of Nebraska cannot see the diamond in the rough and take more care of the cowboy trail.
Nebraska Game & Parks should look at making repairs to the trail like packing the loose gravel areas and spraying for the goatheads so groups like yours can enjoy the ride and promote Nebraska's Outdoors so others will come and ride the trail.
Bike Trails bring in dollars to small communities along the trails like the Katy Trail, Mickelson Trail, Wabash Trace and others.
I hope this will improve by 2021.
WEST of Valentine -
Ted Wuebben from omaha on 07/14/2020 11:18 PM
looking to ride WEST of Valentine.. The trail Is "undeveloped"
Is there a trail really there? but hard to ride? or should I just count on taking the highways instead.
Renée from Cape Cod, MA on 07/21/2020 08:23 PM
Hi, You can pick up the trail again heading west in Gordon ( on the right) to around Rushville ( maybe not all the way there). Between Gordon and Valentine it looks like there could be a very undeveloped trail.
Hope that helps,
MP from Valentine on 10/10/2020 09:04 PM
West of Valentine is mainly a grassy trail. Areas closer to communities do have more of a dirt trail from what I've noticed driving Hwy 20. A few weeks ago as I walked the trail, I met a biker using the grassy trail west of Valentine, so it's possible.
Chad from papillion NE on 11/08/2020 12:02 PM
I talked to the Nebraska Game and Parks about the trail west of Valentine. They are responsible for the whole trail. They said it is not developed but they do spray for weeds there. On google maps you can see the railroad line with railroad ties next to it. That looks to be the worst part of it. Plus, it is only 17 miles long. Or, you can just take HWY 20 for that part. I am planning on doing hiking the whole trail until Chadron in 2021. I also found the railroad map for all railways in
nebraska, in the library of congress, or on-line https://www.loc.gov/collections/railroad-maps-1828-to-1900/?fa=subject:nebraska
Look for the map from 1889. It shows the length between towns and the name of the towns Along with the topography to show river, creeks, and ect..
Veda from ND on 11/11/2020 01:02 AM
Chad,do you have an itenary mapped out for your 2021 hike of Cow oy Trail? I would be intrested in seeing it, if your willing to share. A friend of mine and I have been discusssing hiking this for a year or so. 5
Robert from Long Beach Ca on 10/09/2020 10:58 PM
I have a fear of heights. Is this a problem on the Cowboy Trail?
Bob Clark from Topeka on 10/14/2020 01:20 AM
Several bridges are VERY high, so not sure if it's for you.
Cynthya from Lewis,KS on 10/14/2020 05:18 AM
My first thought was the first bridge east of Valentine. It is high and crosses a long span. The view is fabulous. My husband is not one who likes heights.... but he made it. It's a sight worth seeing...but??? It's 3 miles east of Valentine. You could ride to.. look see and ride back.
There are other bridges... that first stands out in my mind. To my memory none of the others are quite as long...not nearly that high... I mainly enjoyed the view. I'm not bothered by heights, but have to say the first bridge out of Valentine is high abd long, but it is a sight to behold
Robert from Long Beach Ca on 10/09/2020 10:58 PM
I have a fear of heights. Is this a problem on the Cowboy Trail?
tire size -
Kathleen from Cincinnati OH on 10/09/2020 07:25 AM
Thanks for responses to my previous questions, now I have a few more.
Can you use 28 mm tires on the trail? Or do you need bigger ones?
Alex from Lincoln on 10/09/2020 03:17 PM
While it is possible with 28c tires, your experience will be better on the trail with at least a 35c. Ideally stuff the widest tire you can in your bike frame and run a lower psi to make your bike more supple. Running tubeless with sealant is best as well in case goatheads are present or at least tubes with some sealant in them.
from Norfolk to Omaha -
Kathleen from Cincinnati OH on 10/09/2020 07:27 AM
So the NDOT map suggests using 275 to get back to Omaha from the eastern end of the trail but that road has trucks traveling at 75 mph! Any other ideas about how to get back on county roads (far less traveled)?
Alex from Lincoln on 10/09/2020 03:04 PM
The NDOT map is not recommending using 275, the map shows the traffic volumes of the road and marks 275 as red which is a high traffic roadway and thus should be avoided. Utilize roadways that are either purple or green which are lower traffic routes according to the map. Note that the width of the line indicates whether or not the road has a shoulder and also the width of that road shoulder.