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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Trail closure east of Valentine -
Jeff From Buffalo from Buffalo on 07/17/2021 02:21 PM
Trail closure map shows red east of the Valentine bridge to the parking lot, but I have read two recent posts of riders that claim they rode from valentine to Wood Lake in 2020/21. Anyone know if this closure is still active? Would hate to miss crossing the bridge, but would hate more to add 3 miles to the ride by doubling back to Valentine.
Greg from Bellevue, NE on 07/17/2021 02:40 PM
Following your question. I'm planning on riding from O'Neill, starting Wednesday. Two days to Valentine. Hopefully it's open, or at least open enough to walk bike around closure.... Looking forward to bridge coming into Valentine.
Jeff From Buffalo from Buffalo on 07/21/2021 03:39 PM
Let us know Greg.
Granny Gear from Green Valley, AZ & Grantsburg, WI on 07/21/2021 04:23 PM
Just rode from Valentine to Neligh (7/16-7/19/21. No detours from Valentine to Wood Lake. Actually looks like a new layer of crushed rock (reddish) has been put down. Mostly hard packed, but sometimes a little loose. Detour after Long Pine on a dirt/gravel road. A couple of short detours between O’Neill and Neligh because of washouts that put you on Hwy275 (nice, wide shoulder)
Greg from Bellevue, NE on 07/25/2021 07:36 AM
Trail is clear going into Valentine.
Wood Lake City Park in Wood Lake -
Granny Gear from Green Valley,AZ & Grantsburg,WI on 07/21/2021 04:59 PM
A little off trail, Hwy 20 at the corner of Chestnut St. is Grandma’s Playhouse and Ice cream Shoppe. Hours are a little random, but Norma is a delightful lady and has great ice cream and cold drinks!
Riverside Park in Neligh -
Granny Gear from Green Valley,AZ & Grantsburg,WI on 07/21/2021 04:51 PM
If you call the sheriff’s office, they will let you park a car on the south end of the park for a few days.
Stuart City Park in Stuart -
Granny Gear from Green Valley,AZ & Grantsburg,WI on 07/21/2021 04:49 PM
Awesome city park! Beautiful soft grass to camp on, clean restrooms and it’s free! One added attraction or warning (depending on your outlook), Sunday nights during the summer, Stuart Raceway (which is 200 yards north of the tent camping area) has short track auto races from 6-10pm. It is loud! But lots of fun to go and watch. For $15 you get tons of entertainment and also get to interact with lots of local people.
Overnight parking in O'Neill -
Greg from Bellevue, NE on 07/20/2021 07:33 AM
Starting in O'Neill Wednesday morning, then 2 days ride to Valentine. Anyone know a good place to leave car in O'Neill? Will be back to car on Saturday.
Granny Gear from Green Valley,AZ & Grantsburg,WI on 07/21/2021 04:27 PM
We parked a car at Shamrock Nursery, 1/2 mile east of town. Called ahead and asked and they said no problem, just come in when you get there and give them your car info and they’ll tell you where to park.
Norfolk to Valentine in 3 days -
Greg from Bellevue, NE on 07/05/2021 01:34 PM
Planning on riding from east to west, 3 days. Riding 40 mm tubeless on gravel bike while pulling a Bob trailer with my camping gear. Planning on riding 70 miles or so 1st day, then maybe 60 the next and remainder the 3rd day. Any tips and suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Alex from Lincoln on 07/06/2021 08:15 AM
If it's possible to switch from the Bob Trailer to panniers it may be worth it. I've pulled a Bob on cowboy trail a few times and also done it with panniers and I find panniers to be easier. The Bob felt like a boat anchor at times. It was probably due to me loading more into the bob since I had more room. The other thing to consider it's one more tube you have to worry about going flat. If you go with the bob, keep it light!
Dougt from Onawa, Ia on 07/06/2021 02:47 PM
I'd agree with Alex about panniers over the Bob. If you get into loose gravel on the south end as some reports have noted it seems like it would be really, really tough. And of course you're carrying more weight than in panniers because you've got the room and you can. My annual trip takes 3 days from the east, an 80 and two 60's, then turning around and going back. But I get a room each night. I ride a mtn bike with panniers, 2" tires. Whatever you decide, it will be an adventure and that's why I like the Cowboy Trail. It's not like riding 200 miles on a paved bike trail. Enjoy the journey, put sealant in your tires to be safe, and carry plenty of water on the west end.
Dougt from Onawa, Ia on 07/06/2021 02:53 PM
When I mentioned sealant I was referring to the BOB tires if you go that route, since you're covered with the tubeless on the bike.
I've done this 4 years and only one year did I not have issues with goat heads. Like I said, it's an adventure.
Greg from Bellevue, NE on 07/06/2021 07:21 PM
Thanks for the tips. I have rear rack with panniers. No rack mounts on front fork. Was just going to put tent, sleeping bag and sleep pad in the trailer, about 15 lbs. Now I'm wondering about trailer... Figured if trail was too soft, I could ride highway for a bit.
Greg from Bellevue, NE on 07/07/2021 10:29 AM
Thinking of maybe 2 days now, O'Neill to Valentine. Then hopefully can fit all my gear on the bike, no trailer.
Dave from Sacramento CA on 07/19/2021 09:05 PM
Two days would be very ambitious. The trail is not in great shape in a lot of spots (I only know about Valentine to Bassett, where I am as I write this). When I planned my trip I thought 65 miles would be a reasonably easy start, but It turned out to be tough thanks to the combination of a little overpacking in the panniers, a lot of loose sandy areas and a detour on the trail, and unrelenting sun. I have some pretty thick tires that hit a lot of goat heads despite my attempts to dodge the
(not really possible), and I ended up with one slow-leak flat that I didn’t discover till I was in a hotel kicking back. In cooler weather and with thicker tires, I might go a little farther.
Greg from Bellevue, NE on 07/20/2021 07:29 AM
Thanks Dave. Planning on leaving from O'Neill tomorrow morning (Wednesday). Still planning to camp in Ainsworth that night and then into Valentine Thursday. Hopefully all goes well. Putting more sealant in tires tonight.