Barry from Minneapolis on 06/28/2011 05:11 PM
We tried to do the trail starting June 19 in Valentine, but after 2 days called it because of pouring rain, hail and tornado warnings. These things happen, so that's not a gripe about the trail. We made it about 80 miles before being rained out.
But the trail, at least the parts we were on, has "issues". I have ridden hundreds of miles of "rails to trails" in the last few years. Crushed limestone is a good surface material for these kinds of trails, even in wet weather. But the Cowboy trail is not crushed limestone - it is small gravel (not "crushed gravel" as stated on this site)that, especially when wet, your wheels sink in and it feels like you're riding in 2 inches of peanut butter. We were doing 7mph on the trail and, when we switched to the road, were doing 13 mph - that's just not an acceptable variation - we quickly made the trip a road trip, which was fine, but not why we came, we wanted a trail ride. Even when dry, there was a significant speed loss on the trail, way more than with limestone. I think this was a pretty significant design flaw when they built this trail.
The trail is supposed to be off limits to vehicles, but at least on the 80 miles we covered, there were some adjacent ranchers that apparently used the trail like farm roads, which created a lot of ruts and washboarding in the trail, again we had to switch to the road to move at more than a couple of mph.
The Cowboy Trail is through pretty country but the part we were on was almost entirely right next to the highway, useful since we ended up riding most of the way on the highway, but it would have been nice to have the trail farther away on occasion.
Finally, a comment about this site. It fails to note a lot of facilities along the trail. Ainsworth in particular shows no facilities on this site, but it is one of the larger towns on the Trail, with several large chain motels and a number of restaurants, bars and other facilities. I'm not sure if this