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June 2021 Ride
 - 
Lee from Louisiana on 08/12/2020 07:39 PM
I'm planning to ride from Norfolk to Valentine in June of 2021. Could anyone tell me if this would be a good/bad time of the year to undertake this ride. How are the THORNS this time of year, weather, etc.
Thank you for ANY help with my plans.

 
Alex on 08/13/2020 12:37 PM
June is a fine time of year to ride the trail. Nebraska has a pretty large variance in weather at any time really but I would plan on it being hot/humid, maybe rain. Thorns are a hard thing to plan for but it seems later in the year is when they start causing trouble after things dry up. Using some kind of tube sealant or tubeless tire is recommended in addition to having extra tubes, just in case. Typically if I stay on the trail surface and favor the center I don't have an issue. Go back and read the other forum posts as there is a wealth of information there. Hope you make the trip!


East to West or West to East
 - 
Ace Wickwire from Fruita, CO on 08/11/2020 01:40 PM
Thinking I might like to give this a try in September. Wondering if there is a preference as to East to West or West to East? If windy does it usually come from the West? Prefer to have wind to my back if possible. Status of thorns, a lot or a few? Thanks for any comments. P.S. I'm trying to focus on some of the routes of The Great American Rail-Trail.

 
Dougt from Onawa, Ia. on 08/11/2020 05:29 PM
If you Google it, the prevailing winds in Valentine are from the south until the end of Sept.
My brother and I are doing Norfolk/Valentine and back late Aug so I'll post an update on the thorn and trail situation. I did it two years ago and never saw a thorn, then we did it last year and had a multitude of flats. Thorns always seem to be from Ainsworth to Valentine.


hwy 20 between Chadron and Valentine
 - 
Tim on 08/08/2020 11:14 PM
How is Hwy 20 from Chadron riding east to Valentine in terms of road/shoulder condition and grade? I'm planning a trip but can't decide whether to start in Chadron or Valentine to Norfolk.

 
Alex on 08/10/2020 08:18 AM
For the most part there is little traffic between Chadron and Valentine on HWY 20. The shoulder is nice and wide. Generally it is considered a good road to tour on. Know that there is a surfaced segment of cowboy trail between Rushville and Gordon, NE that is about 15 miles. NDOT has a HWY traffic map that it touts as a bike map if you want specifics: https://dot.nebraska.gov/media/7032/bicycle-map-side-2.pdf


 
Tim from Louisville, Colorado on 08/10/2020 01:24 PM
I'm going to start in Hay Springs, Hay Springs to Rushville via Hwy 20, Rushville to Gordon via the trail, and then Gordon to Valentine back on 20. Then the trail from Valentine to Norfolk. I don't normally like to ride on highway shoulders but I'm not familiar enough with the area to find a gravel only route between Gordon and Valentine. Has anyone ever traveled between Gordon and Valentine on gravel?


Trail Closures?
 - 
Heidi from Northwoods of Wisconsin on 07/31/2020 03:31 PM
It appeared on the state park interactive map that there are trail closures. We're wondering if this is accurate? If there are closures, does anyone know of a good (non-busy road or trail) as an alternative route?

 
Alex on 08/04/2020 08:05 AM
The spot just east of O'Neill has recently been fixed. The other closures still remain and should be marked when to jump off the trail.

 
Alex on 08/04/2020 08:05 AM
The spot just east of O'Neill has recently been fixed. The other closures still remain and should be marked when to jump off the trail.


Advice for a newbie!
 - 
Debbie from Poole (on the Jurassic Coast), Dorset, UK on 07/29/2020 04:24 AM
Hi,
I've only just heard about the Cowboy Trail and it's peaked my interest!Any info from anyone who has ridden part of/all of the trail would be gratefully received! It's something I would love to do as part of my bucket list....defo not this year because of Covid-19 but at some point in the not too distant future. Would the trail be suitable for a couple of English women (47 & 58) to do? Plenty of places to stay en route etc? Can't wait to hear back from any of you!! Thanks!!

 
SherryO on 07/29/2020 06:20 AM
My husband and I rode it out and back parking in Norfolk. You can camp in the campground in Norfolk and make instant friends with the park staff. We camped at city parks and resupplied at grocery and convenience stores. Wonderful locally owned restaurants with awesome food and friendly people. Don’t be surprised if a rancher or a veteran sit down with you to have a cup of coffee. Stay at the bunkhouse, you’ll get your key from the mayor of the town and learn about the area. We found trail conditions good. We rode tubeless with stanz on our tandem. Lots of wildlife. In Valentine, we paddle the Niobrara River, a beautiful wild and scenic, float past the tallest waterfall in Nebraska. You can rent a canoe. We had wind and tornado warnings but that only added to the adventure. Enjoy!

 
Cynthya from Lewis,KS on 07/29/2020 08:06 AM
My husband and I rode the trail in 2017 at ages over 60. There is camping available in all of the towns along the trail that we stopped in. We traveled in an RV so that was our place of residence though we have camped along other trails. Motels out West maybe more sparse; closer to Norfolk you'll have more. That said it has been 3 years since we've ridden and they have had flooding which is cause some problems along the trail. Somebody that's more recently ridden can clarify that information. We did have a great ride, met nice people and got through the rough spots in the trail just fine.

 
Brad Hayward from Bolivar Missouri on 07/29/2020 11:24 AM
My buddy and I rode the western half from Atkinson to Valentine and back first week of October 2017. Here are a few of our take wasys: The Nebraskans we met were the most hospitable and friendliest people we'd ever been around. Run tubeless system on tires. It will drastically reduce likelihood of flats. Be aware of the "goathead" puncture vine thorns that you might run across occasionally on the trail. If they show up in your tires, DO NOT PULL THEM OUT!!, just leave them. The camping was really great in the towns of Atkinson, Ainsworth, and Valentine, mostly we stayed in city parks. The scenery and country is AMAZING!!We had an outstaning trip and are going to do the eastern half this fall.

 
Lynn L from Eugene, Oregon on 07/29/2020 10:00 PM
We (two ladies in our mid-50s) are planning to do this trip, hopefully in 2021.

Can anyone tell us about their experiences riding from Valentine to Chadron? We'd love to do the ENTIRE trail, not just the Norfolk to Valentine section. Specifically, will we be walking our bikes? Are there locked gates? Will water be available? We have hybrid tires (1.75").

Thanks to all!


Trail washed out west of Neligh
 - 
Brad Hayward from Bolivar Missouri on 07/29/2020 11:36 AM
Just got word that there is still a part of the trail washed out just west of Neligh. Can anyone confirm that and speak to how a detour may work out there?

 
Todd from Lincoln on 07/29/2020 06:11 PM
It is still washed out Brad. Just looked at my ride stats, we had to ride the highway all the way to Clear Water. The shoulder is nice and wide and pretty clean. The highway parallels the trail there maybe 20 yards on your right. We got on just after 522nd ave. via a driveway/field entrance. Probably 5 miles of hwy riding.

Any trail closures are pretty obvious as the trail is just gone from the flooding just beyond any sign. Exiting the trail is easy as the sign is always at an intersection of a driveway or similar method of exit.

Google maps in satellite mode gives a good view of its relationship to hwy and other features.


ride report - week of July 20
 - 
Todd from Lincoln on 07/25/2020 10:59 PM
Just finished Norfolk to Valentine. It's an awesome ride. Chose direction for reward of bridge at end and prevailing winds mostly to our backs. Rode w/ 2 of my buddies. They had road bikes w/ 15mm Gatorskin tires and slime, me single speed w/ 35mm touring with mr. Tuffy liners and sticker flickers. None of us had flats or issues. Trail closures are as advertised on State of NE's site except there doesn't seem to be a closure by Valentine anymore.

Only real issue are the large holes from rodents digging into the trail. At speed the holes are hard to see until you're nearly on them. Periodic thick gravel can slow or stop skinny tires, but I view that as an equipment/rider issue.

Stayed at locally owned/operated motels which were very clean and friendly.

I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

 
Jess from Omaha on 07/27/2020 10:25 AM
Nice to hear more good reports. Did you see anyone else riding when you were out?

 
Brad Hayward from Bolivar Missouri on 07/27/2020 02:50 PM
Did your theory of prevailing wind prove true going east to west? I would be curious what the prevailing winds might be about mid September there as that may affect what direction we ride it. Any ideas?

 
Todd from Lincoln on 07/27/2020 07:03 PM
Jess,
We met 2 - 4 people each day coming from the west.

Brad,
Prevailing wind theory worked great. For summer I'd noted mostly south-southeast winds. The trail oveall is northwest direction, so even with a southern wind at worst it's a crosswind, towards the end it was almost totally tail wind. I haven't looked at historical data for September. Might try looking at weatherunderground.com for that detail.


Tent camping in Ewing
 - 
Brad Hayward from Bolivar Missouri on 07/27/2020 03:44 PM
We are looking for informantion from anyone regarding the best option for tent camping in Ewing? Any ideas?

 
Cynthya from Lewis,KS on 07/27/2020 04:24 PM
We stayed in an RV park north of the trail. Not too far. I don't know if other options, but that would be a possibility. At the time we stayed August 2017 there were lots of goatheads.

 
Cynthya from Lewis,KS on 07/27/2020 04:24 PM
We stayed in an RV park north of the trail. Not too far. I don't know if other options, but that would be a possibility. At the time we stayed August 2017 there were lots of goatheads.


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,

Renée


Ride Report
 - 
Jess from Omaha on 07/12/2020 03:47 PM
Just completed the full length this weekend from Valentine to Norfolk starting last Thursday afternoon. We stayed in Ainsworth, Atkinson, and Neligh in each towns camping areas and had a great experience.

We road two hard tail 29’s and a fat bike with 4.8” tires all set-up tubeless. During the third day we has a side wall puncture on one of the hardtails that we were able to get sealed by laying bike on side so sealant could get to side wall but had no other tire issues.

We had a really good time and with the right equipment this trail is really fun. It is a shame it isn’t utilized more.

 
Cynthya from Lewis,KS on 07/12/2020 04:23 PM
I am so thrilled to hear you had a great ride,despite a few difficulties.

We rode Valentine to Norfolk and back in 2017. We had no flats, we had a great time and met wonderful people.

In complete agreement with you. This is a great treasure and it needs to be utilized more.

Would be nice if it were totally finished from Chadron to Norfolk, but even so, I would ride it again.


Glad you has a good ride.

Thanks for posting your positive experience. Maybe it will encourage others to get out and ride!

 
Dougt from Onawa, Ia. on 07/13/2020 02:12 PM
Good ride report Jess, although I've got to say that your original post saying from Chadron to Norfolk got my attention before it was corrected. I do it out and back each year and am planning on late Aug. Were you able to stay on the trail for the entire ride other than the detour between Neligh and Oakdale? Did you pick up a lot of goatshead thorns, even though only one caused a problem? I had none in '18 but LOTS in '19. Just wondered what to expect this year. Thanks!

 
Don from Des Moines IA on 07/14/2020 02:47 PM
I also completed the CBoy Trail last month. I rode from Norfolk to Valentine 6/21-6/24. I continued to Hot Springs SD using highway 20 in NE. Highway 20 was VERY quite and I never felt uncomfortable off the trail. I loved the 6 foot wide shoulders on all the highways I rode in NE. Nice to see taxes being used on roads!! I did ride the additional 15 mile stretch that was added outside Gordon. I lucked out on weather. Only had a storm burst just outside O'Neil where I flew into a garage ASAP. I rode tubeless 650x47 tires and amazingly had zero flats/punctures. I alternated camping with a motel option and called bars and grocery stores ahead of time in towns I planned to stay-in or eat a meal in. I brought 3 freeze dried dinners just in case and ended up using only one of them because I just wanted to. So no issues with finding water, food (or beer). There were a couple of times I had to exit the trail due to bridge outs but was able to ride 95% of the trail (yah!). Folks I met were fabulous. I did take a mask and hand cleaner and for what it's worth I found most grocery store employees masked and customer not so much. As I went west the amount of Covid was slim to nil but I still did not want to take chances. When I hit Valentine I tried to find a Cowboy jersey or shirt to reward myself but found nothing. Even stopped at Chamber of Commerce and struck out. I agree it's a shame that this trail is not utilized more (I never saw another person on the trail) or marketed better. I do hope to come back and with friends!!

 
Jess from Omaha on 07/15/2020 10:04 AM
The outages on the Cowboy trail are marked at this website: https://maps.outdoornebraska.gov/Trails/

And were accurate when we road 7/9/20 to 7/12/20. HWY 20 was a nice option for the outages.

We probably ran over a few goat heads evidenced by some slime residue on our tires, but we never had another tire go flat during the ride. The one mountain bike tire that went flat was easily sealed when we found the hole and turned rim sideways so slime could get to the hole.

The aggregate seemed a little heavier from Atkinson to the west. The trail from Oakdale to Meadow Grove had some pockets that were pretty rough but passible.



Current Trail Conditions
 - 
Amanda on 07/14/2020 12:32 PM
We are planning to bike the trail from Clearwater to Valentine, starting this weekend. Has anyone been on that section recently and know the condition of the trail? I've done other sections in years prior that had small distances that were so soft you had to walk your bike through them. Not sure how common that is on other parts or if there is anything else to be aware of. Thanks for your insight!

 
Don from Des Moines IA on 07/14/2020 02:58 PM
Amanda, I rode this section on 6/25. The trail is fine. I recall a short section before Long Pine where you need to exit and ride a gravel road but you are able to hop back on and appreciate the bridge in Long Pine.


trail progress or condition west from Valentine to Chadron
 - 
Brad Hayward from Bolivar Missouri on 07/14/2020 11:10 AM
We rode the trail a few years back but stopped at Valentine. I was curious about the trail condition or progress on west from Valentine to Chadron. Is it rideable?


Parking in Valentine
 - 
Bill Heistermann from Fort Collins on 05/25/2020 10:46 PM
Thinking about doing the trail out and back over the course of a week starting in Valentine. Is there a place to safely and securely park for a week? Thanks

 
Greg Lanning from Omaha, NE on 06/17/2020 12:56 PM
You will have no problems parking for a week. Just ask someone and they will be glad to keep an eye on your vehicle. Nebraska nice!

 
BIKER4 from PAPILLION, NE on 06/18/2020 08:35 PM
YOU SHOULD LET THE POLICE DEPARTMENT KNOW AND THEY WILL KEEP AN EYE IT.

 
Bill Heistermann from Fort Collins on 07/14/2020 09:19 AM
Thanks for the info. Looks like it will be a very chill and wonderful trip


Trail damage
 - 
Ean from Omaha on 07/07/2020 08:37 PM
My family is planning a trip up near valentine. I am riding gravel from lincoln to Norfolk and then the trail from Norfolk to valentine. I’d like to know what sections of the trail are damaged? How long are the damaged parts? And are the any of the damaged parts hike a bike accessible? I would like to stay off the highway as much as possible.

Other than the trail damage from the flood, how is the condition of the rest of the trail?

Thank you all in advance.

 
Neil from Kearney/Plainview on 07/09/2020 05:56 PM
July 5th I rode from Neligh to Norfolk. The bridge between Neligh and Oakdale is out so you will have about 4 miles on the highway. THe detour is well marked. Leave the trail at Oakdale and get back on about 2 miles east of Neligh.
That piece is fairly packed but some sections have had new gravel put on so their are soft spots.


Road bikes
 - 
Brett from Omaha on 07/06/2020 06:56 AM
I need to do a 150 miles for an MS ride in August but I only have a road bike. Roads around Omaha aren't really safe and our longest trail is about 18 miles so prefer to find a better stretch of trail. Is there a good long stretch on this trail that you can ride a road bike?

 
Alex from Lincoln on 07/06/2020 09:04 AM
While I do not recommend using a road bike on the trail, it is possible. My recommendation would be to use the largest size tire that fits in the frame if you want to attempt it. This will make your bike a little more supple as there will be some soft/rough spots that may give you a hard time though. The nice thing about Cowboy Trail though is if the trail is not your cup of tea, HWY 275 is right there with a nice wide shoulder to ride on. Another option if you haven't checked out the Wabash Trace in Iowa, that might be another good spot to do this as that trail is pretty hard packed.

 
Brenda from Texas on 07/06/2020 02:48 PM
Just rode the 35 miles from Norfolk to Neligh and there were some parts that would be easy on a road bike and some areas of dense gravel that would be tricky. Just stay on the tracks and you will do okay.


Lodging between Valentine and Chaldron
 - 
LD from Carlsbad, CA on 07/05/2020 04:22 PM
We’d like to extended our bike trip West past Valentine. Any lodging recommendations along highway 20 between Valentine and Chaldron? Thanks!


September/October ride Norfolk to Valentine (and beyond?)
 - 
gtojr from Papillion on 06/29/2020 08:39 PM
Considering a full length ride on the trail just to do something off the TO DO list this year. most of our riders are advanced, I am mediocre at best. Did about 10 miles of the trail last near near Norfolk and it was spongy (it was the day after a storm to be fair). My question is this: most of the crew is thinking 60-70 miles a day. I am wondering if this is biting off too much since this is not a hard pack trail. I know we can ride the shoulder of the road but prefer to stay on the trail if I can

 
Alex from Lincoln on 06/29/2020 09:36 PM
The trail hardness does depend on how much recent precipitation the surface has had. That being said it does take more energy to ride on the trail vs pavement. 60-70 miles per day on the trail can be a challenge, especially if it is windy. If you can do 70 miles on pavement you can probably do the trail but it will be more difficult. Also there are still segments of trail surfacing that hasn't been fully repaired from the 2019 flood so there will be some rougher segments still present. Using a suitable bike for the trail is key, I don't recommend road bikes on the trail, or really anything with tires 35c or 1.5" width or less. The surfaced trail currently ends in Valentine, the trail west of there is closed except for a segment between Gordon and Rushville. Hope this helps!

Happy Trails.


Backpacking on the Cowboy Trail
 - 
Wazo from Phoenix, AZ on 06/22/2020 05:13 PM
I am looking at the Cowboy Trail as potentially being a very cool way to have a "non-wilderness" backpacking trip. It looks like most of the towns are very doable milage-wise. So, I do have a few questions:
What is the weather like in August/Early Sept? It could not be worse than Phoenix!
Do many people backpack the trail?
How available is water?

A woman I know who has backpacked all the major national scenic trails suggested this as a different type of backpacking experience. It could be a lot of fun.

Is there a way to get from one end of the trail back to the starting point?

Thanks.
Wazo

 
Alex from Lincoln on 06/25/2020 11:11 AM
Nebraska always has the potential for weird weather but during that time I would prepare for wind and rain. Average high in August is 85F and low is 59F. Nebraska always has potential for extreme cold or heat in August though so just check the forecast frequently, as it can change quickly. People do backpack on the trail as the towns, like you said, are close enough and offer services needed to re-supply. Water can easily be found at each town, usually at a restaurant, city office, bar, or library. Most of the towns have city parks which will have a spigot for water. There is an outfitter in Norfolk called North Fork Outfitting that offers shuttle services on the trail. https://www.nforkoutfitting.com/

Happy Trails.


Shade
 - 
EKG from Spearfish SD on 06/21/2020 10:05 AM
We are thinking of just a day ride- out and back- from Valentine. Is there much shade along the way, about ten miles?

 
Alex from Lincoln on 06/22/2020 08:58 AM
Not really much shade to be found on the western part of the trail. Depending on the time of day you might be able to find some shade from a pine tree close to the trail but but that's about it.



Biking and camping from Valentine
 - 
Peg from Denver on 05/06/2020 08:57 AM
Four of us are planning to bike the Cowboy trail from Valentine to Norfolk starting May 16. Anyone know the status of traveling to Nebraska from out of state and also if campgrounds or town parks for camping are open? Any trail conditions we need to know about?
Thank you for any advice.

 
Alex from Lincoln on 05/07/2020 08:55 AM
Hi Peg,

The trail is open but does have some closures still from the flood sustained last year. You will have to detour around the areas marked as they are impassable for the most part, most use the highway shoulder to get around the detours.

https://maps.outdoornebraska.gov/Trails/

As far as camping, the towns along the trail have city parks available for camping but as to their open status, you will have to call ahead.

Enjoy your trip!

 
LMorf from Leigh on 05/08/2020 04:44 PM
We have this same question! Three of us were planning on walking the trail this month/June. Are the detours troublesome and really out of the way? (I'm not sure how close the highways are to the trail.)

 
Greg Lanning from Omaha, NE on 06/17/2020 01:05 PM
The detours are easy. Highway 20 parallels the trail most of the way. No problem!

 
Jess from Omaha on 06/18/2020 09:33 AM
Greg, Thanks for the updates. Hitting the trail the weekend of 7/11 and looking forward to it.


Camping
 - 
The Pretender from Colorado Springs on 05/17/2020 02:28 PM
Can you camp along the side of the trail or do you have to use the campgrounds?

 
Brenton Lammers from Lincoln, NE on 05/18/2020 10:36 AM
You can camp in almost all of the small towns along the trail. You are not allowed to camp along side the trails.

 
Greg Lanning from Omaha, NE on 06/17/2020 01:02 PM
As mentioned already, every town along the trail has a campsite you can use. If you are not into public campsites and want to do dispersed camping just ride down a gravel road and/or find public land to camp on. Using Google Maps or other camping apps can help you find these out of the way spots too. Cheers!


Article for Adventure Cyclist Magazine
 - 
Chuck Haney from Whitefish, MT on 05/28/2020 09:21 AM
I'm coming over to ride from Valentine- Inman (looping down from Hwy 12) and writing/ photographing an article for Adventure Cyclist Magazine the first week of June. Are there parts of the trail that are closed on this section? Thanks.

 
Greg Lanning from Omaha, NE on 06/17/2020 12:54 PM
Yes. There are a few sections of trail closed as a result of 2019 floods. They are short and easily detoured by riding on the adjacent highway. Still worth the trip for sure. Please post your article! Cheers!

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