Trail Status -
Bill Pendergraft from Beaufort, SC on 05/25/2014 05:08 AM
Our group just completed the GAP/C and O and are looking for the next trail to bike. What is the status of the Cowboy trail riding east? Thank you.
RR Biker from CO on 05/28/2014 07:23 PM
I'd do the KATY. Loved the GAP/C&O trip, KATY is next best. Planned to do the Cowboy Trail, but have not read anything positive, and the locals/state does not support the trail.
Bucket List -
Anonymous from Omaha on 03/16/2014 10:25 PM
3 of us are contemplating tackling the trail in late Aug or early Sept. How does it compare with the Wabash Trace in Iowa which we knocked out in one day? Is it really that deteriorated or are the people that have actually enjoyed it not giving positive feedback post ride?
Crow from lincoln on 03/22/2014 03:55 PM
The Wabash Trace Trail is so excellent, a wonderful trial to ride. I haven't had a good experience on the Cowboy Trail, but would love to hear if it has improved since I was on it. I thought the Cowboy Trail was pretty awful but maybe it has been worked on since then? Let us all know if you do ride it and tell us about the condition of the trail.
Cleveland Bike and Sport in Norfolk -
stevo from Saint Louis, MO on 03/13/2014 09:30 PM
I went to this bike shop in 2012 as I was riding on the Cowboy and broke some spokes. They said if I left it there it would be ready in 3 days...Yada...Yada...Yada...I ended up going to a bike shop in Lawrence, KS that fixed it the same day and spent the rest of my time riding the Prairie Spirit Trail instead of sitting in a hotel in Norfolk waiting for my bike to be fixed.
Aaron D. Yates from KCMO on 03/16/2014 01:04 AM
Who cares? Stop being a whining infant about something that happened nearly two years ago. This forum is for info, updates and conditions about the Cowboy Trail.
crow from lincoln on 03/22/2014 03:51 PM
Again, I agree with Aaron, we don't care about stevo's bike shop problems!
We need and want updates on trail conditions on the Cowboy Trail.
zbicyclist from Chicago on 08/19/2013 05:21 PM
I've not ridden this trail, but I know from riding other trails (e.g. Great Allegheny Passage, C&O canal towpath) that the right tires can make a substantial difference in the experience. Does this trail require full mountain bike tires due to the soft gravel, or would a faster tire (e.g. 35mm Schwalbe Marathon) be better?
Crow on 09/13/2013 05:01 PM
Again, don't waste precious vacation time on this trail! There are so many well maintained trails to choose from. It doesn't matter what tires you use, you will end up riding the nearby roads.
Aaron D. Yates from KCMO on 03/16/2014 01:12 AM
Sounds like the State should be paving the trail instead of using this lame "crushed crap" on the trail. Half of the trail isn't completed, and the part that is, no one can ride on. I had such high hopes for this trail years back. Why won't the State of Nebraska do something?! They are really missing the boat on this Cowboy Trail. Sad.
Information-Gathering on the Cowboy Trail 2013 -
Matt Steger from Lincoln, NE on 04/17/2013 08:37 PM
I'm not sure if anyone is interested in joining me ...
I'd like to ride from Valentine to Norfolk this summer in order to assess the trail's current conditions. This would simply be an simply information-gathering.trip. The bigger and long-term goals should be obvious.
I would really like additional help and input with this "project" and welcome anyone to join me. My bicycle-touring skills are advanced.
Matt Steger from Lincoln on 04/17/2013 08:39 PM
Sorry about the typos in my post!
chris from St. Louis on 04/18/2013 12:17 PM
Depending on when you plan to go, I may be able to go with you. I really can't make it in June, but if you plan to go let me know when. I have done the Katy Trail six times and the Allegheny/C&O from Pittsburgh to DC once.
schreck on 11/19/2013 12:26 PM
I would be interested
How is the trail now? Any improvements for 2014? -
Patrick L from Independence, MO on 05/29/2013 06:24 PM
A group of us are considering the Cowboy Trail for a trip in May of 2014. All of the comments I am seeing are making me question our choice. Has the trail improved over the last year or so? Is there any work being done to improve it? Where would I find a good resource for information, either in Norfolk or Valentine? Thanks in advance for any help.
Ray on 05/30/2013 06:31 AM
Your best bet for info is probably the bike shop in Norfolk. Click Norfolk in the map above and you'll see it in the list of businesses.
Rails to Trails on 06/07/2013 11:03 PM
Why spend you time and money where the state and local support is not there ? KATY, GAP/C&O/Erie Canal, ... There are great trails out there. Don't waste your time in Nebraska.
Crow from Lincoln, NE on 08/25/2013 03:06 PM
There are so many wonderful Rails to Trails in SD, Iowa, NE, Kansas and MO. Why waste time and money on the Cowboy Trail, it is not a good trail to bike on. I would not choose the Cowboy Trail for my vacation ride!
gene from Indiana on 08/30/2013 11:16 PM
You can ride it but you'll possibly spend more time on parallel US 20 and US 275. Better get Kevlar tires because of the goathead sandbur. That sandbur is absolutely wicked.
Fl Carrell from Council Bluffs on 10/01/2013 05:56 PM
Wondering if a bunch of strangers could meet up on the cowboy trail in April and kind of start our own mini RAGBAI all the little towns along the way be the support needed. Frank
schreck from hastings,ne on 11/19/2013 12:24 PM
I would be interested in riding the trail in April
State of trail -
Simon Duke from Honthem, Netherlands on 07/28/2013 09:41 PM
The trail running east from valentine crosses the beautiful trestle bridge but soon deteriorates. More specifically, the section eat of Thatcher until almost Arabia was in bad shape. For almost five miles the trail is severely washboarded by agricultural vehicles. Even sections marked 'no motorized vehicles' shows clear signs of ATV and pickup use. In many cases the tire tracks lead into fields, suggesting local rancher traffic is making extensive use of the trail. The surface of the trail can also be challenging since the fine gravel is not compacted and can cause sliding where it has accumulated. I was disappointed after being converted to exploring this part of the world after cycling the marvelous Mickelson trail in SD twice.
crow from Lincoln, NE on 08/25/2013 03:03 PM
I agree, don't bother with the Cowboy Trail. I stick to the Mickelson Trail in SD, The Wabash Trace Trail in Iowa, the Homestead and the Mopac in NE. My favorite is the Paul Bunyan Trail in MN. It is over 100 miles long and paved!
Gene from Indiana on 08/30/2013 11:05 PM
Last year I rode from Bassett to Battle Creek in late September. I spent more miles on US 20 and US 275 than I did the trail. Some of it was closed and other places they were working on it. Several times I had to get off because of new gravel. Good people to meet there though.
May 2013 Trail Update -
Andrew Scheman from Chicago on 05/19/2013 06:15 PM
Nebraska spent a fortune building the longest off-road bike trail in the country. However, it is currently unridable since the gravel is not compacted and it is like riding on sand most of the way. Also, the pink quartzite they have added to certain stretches is a much poorer riding surface than the white limestone on other stretches. It would take a very small additional investment to pay someone to steamroll the trail once a year and it would then be a jewel. It is my hope that this will happen and then be followed by positive comments from riders. If so, it will attract riders and much needed income to the wonderful communities along the route. On our trip, we did not pass one other biker over the 180 mile stretch we were on.
1) Unbelievably friendly and charming communities
2) Beautiful wide open countryside
3) Flat terrain for riding
4) Wonderful steaks (try Golden Steer in Ainsworth and L&B in Clearwater)
5) Wonderful breakfasts (try West End in O’Neill)
1) Pine Valley Resort cabins; outstanding
2) Stuart Village Inn (Stuart), Historic Golden Hotel (O’Neill), West Hill View Motel (Neligh), New Victorian (Norfolk); all clean and comfortable
Thorns and Bike Repair;
1) The western parts of the trail have goat thorns which easily puncture tires. We had no problem using Continental Punctureproof tires and Sunlite Puncture Resistant tubes.
2) We had a broken derailer hanger and found that the only top bicycle shop on the trail is Cleveland Bike and Sport, 407 E. Norfolk Ave, Norfolk. However, this shop was AMAZING and saved our trip. We had a car at each end of each day’s trip and shuttled the cars with us as we proceeded or we would have been in trouble (i.e. we were able to drive to Norfolk for our repair)
Crow from Lincoln, NE on 08/25/2013 03:11 PM
I agree with this comment. The trail communities and the surrounding area have so much to offer and the puzzle is no one seems to care and the trail continues to be useless. Who wants to ride in these conditions, when there are so many other wonderful trails to choose from. Not me.
Mark from Leavenworth Kansas on 07/25/2013 06:11 PM
Rode the trail east 10 miles out and back from valentine, on road bike , trail was great! Wish I could go more but got dark on me.
Mark from Leavenworth Kansas on 07/25/2013 06:23 PM
Don't forget that valentine has the best river in Nebraska for canoe, kayak, and floating. several outfitters in town for shuttles and rentals. The bridge over the Niobrara is awesome!
Cowboy Trail -
Chris from Springfield, IL on 05/04/2013 10:19 AM
I have biked several trails in the US. Five of us will be biking from Crazy Horse, SD on the Mickelson Trail south to Edgemont, (South end of traill) and then on to the Cowboy Trail starting in Chadron, NE to the end at Nolfolk, NE. After reading all the reports of the Cowboy, do any of you suggest that we stay on the highway? Chris
Jim from Indianapolis on 07/15/2013 02:17 PM
The trail is fine. I rode 60 miles of it last September. The surface is hard enough; I disagree with those who say it is too soft. It is a wonderful ride. You're missing out if you don't take it. I'm going back this fall.
Recent use -
Anonymous on 07/02/2013 04:30 PM
Has anyone been on this bike trail recently. I'm thinking of doing a bike ride in memory of my grandson.
Cowboy Trail - Valentine and Beyond -
Kelly Sleeper from St Louis, Mo on 05/08/2013 10:04 AM
We have a group of about 10 folks heading that way the first of June.
As an out an back it looked fun and interesting and affordable. I see the incomplete section from Valentine to Chadron and was wondering if it is rideable even if not built up yet. We all ride larger tires 700x40's being the smallest of the group so single track and such is doable so long as we aren't walking for miles ... any knowledge of those areas as we could shuttle out and ride the entire 300 plus miles that way instead of an out and back.
Michele from Omaha on 06/01/2013 02:18 PM
You are probably already on your trip. I know it's in the 30's in Chadron today, so good luck. I do not believe you can bike from Valentine to Chadron, even without the trail build-up. We rode last year around the Norfolk area heading west and the trail was terrible. There were also bridges out from flooding a few years back and with the state's financial situation, I doubt they will be replaced.
Rails to Trails on 06/07/2013 11:01 PM
From the state park website, the funding for the flood repairs was coming from federal resources.
Cross country need sggestion -
Light Chang from Taiwan on 06/07/2013 10:12 PM
Hi, I am cross country by bicycle now, and here I am in Des Morines now, predict will arrive Norfolk about a week, I would like to consider thhe trail to lead to to Rapid city, my bike is road bike with 700X25C tire, is it possible to ride to Rapid city by the trail?
welcome to my blog: wutang1106.wordpress.com
Allen’s Pizza Place in Bassett -
Tanya Sybrant Cole from Bassett, NE on 05/28/2013 11:25 AM
Best darn food in the country. You will never leave hungry!
David Clancy from Washington on 03/11/2013 07:12 PM
My father and I are interested in doing the entire trail this June. How much of the Cowboy Trail has been finished? If I were to arrive in Omaha what would be the easiest way to get to trail. How could we get back to Omaha from the finish line? Thank you for the support?
Bike with a Passion on 03/26/2013 06:19 PM
There are much better trails, that are supported by the State and local communities. Trails that are maintained and unauthorized vehicles kept off. The KATY in Missouri is fantastic. The GAP/C&O Canal is another one. The Mickelson trail in South Dakota. Don't waste your valuable time and money that are adverse to the cycling community.
Crow from Lincoln, NE on 05/01/2013 05:28 AM
I agree with the reply. I would not waste the money or time on the Cowboy Trail The Katy Trail in MO, the Mickelson Trail in SD are so awesome and well maintained.
Conditions on the cowboy trail this year -
Linda from Chicago on 04/10/2013 12:05 PM
We are planning to ride the full length of the Cowboy Trail in May. Has anyone been riding on it yet this year? If so, what are the conditions? Are there still parts of the trail that are closed? Appreciate any information you can give us.
Carriage House Motel in O'Neill -
Lorenzo from Calistoga on 03/11/2013 10:41 AM
The friendliest place in town. Both receptionists were helpfull and considerate. I was made to feel very comfortable. You must stop here for your night.Great restaurant around the corner.
Trail musings -
Crow from Lincoln, Ne on 11/21/2012 11:35 AM
I am wondering if the less than stellar conditions on the Cowboy Trail are accidental or a plan to eventually discontinue this trail? I know the ranchers and farmers in the area use the trail as a farm road for animals and equipment and would probably cheer if the trail was abandoned. If people like me don't ride the trail because of the poor condition of the trail, does that give everyone involved reasons to stop funds for the trail? It seems a mystery to me that those responsible for this trail don't see the economic advantages to surrounding communities. Just look at the success of the Katy, the Mickelson and the Wabash Trace trails. Just wondering. Anyone have any thoughts on this?
Anonymous on 12/11/2012 07:15 PM
What sections are really bad? I was thinking about trying to ride the whole trail as an out and back this summer starting in Norfolk.
Crow on 12/16/2012 02:37 PM
Hi Anonymous, Perhaps the question might be what trail sections are good? As you can read, others attempting to ride this trail usually end up riding the roads instead of the trail. The trail is paved from Norfolk for a few miles and that is nice but other than that it is not too good. I haven't been back to the trail since the Spring 2012, so maybe there have been improvements. I had a goal of cycling the entire trail but now will focus on the other Rails to Trails. Good luck and let others know of your experiences on the trail next summer.
DD from Colorado on 01/15/2013 10:32 PM
Same. I was planning to do the trail end-to-end last summer, but it doesn't seem that the trail has the support. I'm not looking for a paved trail, but do not want to trip where I'm not wanted. Did the GAP-C&O Canal ride - what an experience! And the people I met were great. Looking at the Erie Canal trail this year. Everyone, there are many other trails to go on.
Russ from Indiana on 01/17/2013 11:09 PM
It is a good trail but I rode on and off US 20 and Us 275 for better speed. The state was working on the trail near O'Neill with that red gravel. It is flat but you better have kevlar tires. I had Bontrager Hard Case tires on my bike but got a flat on my Burley Bugger from the Texas Sandburr--even with kevlar tires on it. There's good people there and good camping. You might want to ride a short distance
Dave Kohrell from Lincoln on 03/03/2013 01:23 PM
Working on blog article while my son wraps up a slide deck from our June 2012 adventure. A group of 14, 11 on bike completed the whole trail in June for Boyscout Troop 7.
The trail was very rough from Valentine to Ainsworth - we changed about 12 flats that day - many on the same bikes. There were only 2 bikes that made it w/out a flat over our 4 and 1/2 days.
The communities and ranchers were very accomodating. We camped over night at Ainsworth, Atkinson, Ewing and Battle Creek. It was an outstanding experience. In our group were five boys ages 11-12 - they held up well. A couple got some sag wagon support on Day 2-4.
My son and I are planning a repeat next summer - this time w/ Kevlar, Double Tubed, Guard tires. While choppy, Valentine to Ainsworth can be done. Plus you won't need chiropractic care for awhile! ;-)
Neligh Fred Penn Park -
Anonymous on 01/28/2013 11:43 PM
The Neligh website also indicates primitive camping is available at Fred Penn Park.
trail conditions -
Toecutter from Norfolk on 08/27/2012 05:59 PM
The thorns are really bad on the trail right now. It has limited my riding of late. Does anybody know what sections of the trail are concrete other than Norfolk?
russ from Indiana on 11/17/2012 06:17 PM
O'Neill has a segment in town that is concrete or asphalt and probably about 1/4 mile. Other than than that, it's crushed limestone. Good luck.
Richard Welch from Shawnee, OK on 10/08/2012 08:19 AM
If I wanted to bike the entire length of the trail, is there a return shuttle, or bus connections?
Jimmy K from St Charles, MO on 11/13/2012 08:55 PM
I would like this info as well.
Russ from Indiana on 11/16/2012 12:24 AM
Not that I know of. I was lucky that I got someone to take me from Battle Creek to Bassett. Unlike the Katy, this trail parallels US 20 and US 275. Most of the time it is less than 100 yards. The Texas sandburr is really wicked so get kevlar tires. Check with the bicycle shop in Norfolk.
Best Places to Stay and/or Eat -
Jimmy K from St Charles, MO on 11/13/2012 08:53 PM
I am a Missourian, and I was fortunate enough to ride the entire Katy Trail RTT this year. Now I want to do other RTTs! I am wondering how good the camping, lodging, dining, and night life is along the trail. On the Katy, we were able to find some great B&Bs, restaurants, and even a few pubs that were very fun.
Russ from Indiana on 11/16/2012 12:13 AM
Rode from Bassett to Battle Creek in late September. 20 to 28 miles per day pulling a burley trailer. Best place I camped was the city parks in Stuart, Neligh and Battle Creek. O'Neill has shut the hot water off at Carney Park. Each small town has some place to eat and drink. Carry snack packs with you for mornings. Get Kevlar tires because of the Texas "goathead" sandbur. Wicked. I bought Bontrager Hard Case for the trip. Ride this trail next year because they're working on some segments. US 20 and Us 275 parallel the trail so I rode that most of the time. For info, call the bicycle shop in Norfolk
Wood Lake Campground in Wood Lake -
Bob Clark from Bellevue, NE on 10/21/2012 09:07 PM
Great stopping place! Has electricity, water and shelters. There are bathrooms open seasonally. They were locked Oct 18th for winter. Be sure to sign the guestbook!
status of entire traile - just this week -
Paul from Lincoln, NE on 06/03/2012 02:28 PM
I sent in a post earlier last week asking for status of trail. Well I found out first hand. myself with 6 other guys started in Valentine. Best part of trip was the bridge just outside of Valentine. Trail then went to "heck" three words to describe the trail conditins....terrible...terrible...terrible. Bumpy, washboard, tractor tire ruts, animal tracks destroyed the trail. Keep in mind we are 7 guys that bike a lot, so we are not new to trails. we all had slime, I had tire liners and slime and most of us still got multiple flat tires. We had lunch in Johnstown. Trail was so bad we road highway most of the time. First night we stayed in Basset. Great campground right in the Fairgrounds, with a donation box. We were all so happy for a hot shower we gave extra donations. Road to Newport for breakfast at Sunny's second morning. Road then to Atkinson for lunch on second day. STOP AT RHONDA'S FOR LUNCH. very best food EVER..we didn't want to leave. Road on to O'neil and stayed night. Camped at part just south of trail. Had somewhat of a hot shower there. Third day- kept riding, and outside of Ewing exactly sure where but there will be a sign that says Trail Closed to the Public. Believe this sign....you keep riding and there is no trail....we had to turn around and head back and get on the highway. Had lunch in Tilden. Now on to Norfolk, saw another sign that said Trail Closed to Public. We believed it this time, we asked some locals and they gave us directions around the bridge that the Lincoln Journal Star says was put in and operational. We got to Norfolk, and that was it. I will add more as I think of it. But pretty dissappointed on how and why the state or whom ever let the trail get into such bad shape. All along the trail, there was not reallyk a town that "welcomed" bikers or tried to cator to cyclists. Again, big opportunities missed here by the state and the small towns along the way. But as I finish this, we had a great time, hangin
Levi from New York, NY on 06/12/2012 09:11 AM
I am biking the country right now and am in Omaha. I want to go to Deadwood, SD so was thinking of taking the Cowboy Trail. I hear everything you are saying about the trail conditions, but how are the roads nearby the trail. I am guessing you were on 20. Is that okay to ride on. Any advice you have would be helpful as I am on my own and thousands of miles from home
Rob from Lincoln on 06/14/2012 04:17 PM
I just got back from the Cowboy Trail a couple weeks ago. I did end up taking Highway 20 from Valentine to Bassett. The highway is great. Minimal hills and good to great shoulders. Definitely recommended. The trail pretty much runs parrallel with the highway so you could bounce back and fourth if you feel one or the other is not to your liking.
Denver on 06/20/2012 11:20 PM
Thanks for confirming. Was planning an end-to-end Cowboy trip this summer, did KATY last year. Due to little feedback on the trail, and discouraging reports of conditions, did the Allegheny-C&O trail instead. Amazing journey. If Nebraska doesn't want the visitors, other states are very successful in gaining support.
Michele from Omaha on 07/01/2012 05:35 PM
My two cents about the trail. We arrived in Norfolk on a Saturday afternoon, hoping to ride to Battle Creek and back for a short ride. Not possible, there is a bridge out so our ride was less than 12 miles round trip. Very disappointed and unfortunately, it didn't get much better. The next day we decided to start in Tilden, thinking we would head west to Clearwater and back, and if we wanted to go longer we would keep going east toward Meadow Grove and back. That didn't happen either! You can't get to Clearwater from Neligh and probably never will again. The bridge was washed out and if you look at an aerial map, you'll see that about 5 miles of the trail was also washed out. Our total mileage that day was 36 miles and for me, that was plenty. The trail was rough and not maintained at all. In the Oakdale area, there is pink crushed rock on a long stretch that made biking extremely difficult. Next to the trail is a concrete / crushed rock dealer, so I guess he has used the trail for his waste? Not sure, but hated it.
The Cowboy Trail could be a real jewel through the state but I fear it will simply be left to deteriorate until there's nothing left. Our Governor and legislators will NEVER make it a priority and I find it sad that such a great tourist attraction is going to waste.
I just wish the Cowboy Trail would not be represented as this long continuous trail across Nebraska, because it's not, and I feel sorry for bikers who plan their vacations around riding the entire trail. You can't do it and if I was coming from out of state, I would be extremely disappointed.
Colorado riders from Fruita Colorado on 07/02/2012 09:00 PM
We sit enjoying the beautiful Nebraska sunset at Neligh and find ourselves in full agreement. Nebraska needs to develop their diamond in the rough. The folks along the Katy and the Gap have it dialed in. Let's not just talk to each other at this forum, but also make contacts to any town and state official and rail trail organization that will listen. We get what we are willing to work hard for and support.
Crow from Lincoln, Ne on 08/14/2012 08:17 AM
Thank you for all your comments. I was on the trail in early spring and it was terrible. Then I saw numerous articles that the trail was open, the surface redone and the bridges finished. I guess not! I was also planning a long trip on the Cowboy Trail and now will do the Katy or the Wabash in Iowa. What a sad waste of a what could be a beautiful trail and a boon to the small towns along the trail. What a waste!
Carriage House Motel in O'Neill -
saw from lake tahoe,nv on 07/15/2012 02:24 AM
unfriendly owners rooms need some serious cleaning.Wouldn't recommend this motel to any one,drive on travelers.
Crow on 08/14/2012 08:10 AM
Thank you for the heads up! I was thinking of staying there. :) I will pass this motel up.
Trail conditions - June 2-5 -
Dave from Lincoln, NE on 06/07/2012 05:50 AM
Here's a synopsis of our trip report.
The trail is very rough from Valentine to Johnstown (our Day 1 and 8.2 mph average, keep in mind we couldn't crank it due to some of the boy's bikes/conditioning). I rode with seven Boy Scouts (ages 12-17) and another adult leader. We were fortunate to have sag support from two others (Day 2 on). Am blogging about the 5 day journey and will post a link (50, 50, 43, 46, 11).
Slime your time, thorn resistant tubes double tube them (cut a tube and place it around your tire), buy slime guard, replace tires. With that you'll have a shot on the Valentine to Johnstown segment. That 40 mile plus stretch blows.
About 7 miles East of Valentine the surface turns to a washboard / ribbon. Watch for snakes (don't worry they're not just jumping all the time, but be careful). The washboard is nasty. Our group had 8 mountain bikes from good (Trek/Giant) to a couple of Wal-mart models (ruggized though) and my older Specialized Hybrid (1998 vintage). I was ok but bouncing a lot. Only 1 flat from Valentine to Arabia - mine. Looked like a possible snake bite
From Arabia to Wood Lake the sand burs were awful. 9 more flats across 2 bikes (2 on mine). At that point we slimed, double tube every bike. We feared only 3 might make it. We had only 4 more flats the rest of the way - some due to older tire and slime build up.
The final pain from Wood Lake to Johnstown was cow paths/holes. It was as choppy as the wasboard junk. Not fun.
From about 4 miles East of Johnston to the end the trail was pretty good. Some loose spots. When you get ride if of the crushed red rock to and see limestone - you're in a good trail.
We camped in Ainsworth, Atkinson (Day 2), Ewing (Day 3) and Battle Creek (Day 4). All were awesome towns/villages. We were impressed with every town / village as well. Some great city parks that allow camping and state recreation areas.
The trail does improv