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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


 - 
Darrell from Jefferson City, MO. on 12/07/2011 10:16 PM
From what I am reading on the trail conditions for the past months of 2011, the trail is a bit rough. Is that a normal and ongoing condition?

The reason I ask, it sound like I would want to ride my loaded hybrid and not the touring bike. Would like to spend 3 or 4 days on the trail next Spring, late April, 2012. Any advice or tips concerning a multi-day ride and camping would be appreciated.

Would be wanting to ride the trail with little or no hwy riding if possible so are there segments of the trail to avoid?

 
Russ from Indiana on 12/09/2011 01:25 AM
This is a good ride but not like the Katy Trail near you in Missouri. It is fairly level and mostly in the open. While they've used crushed limestone, they also throw in some pink granite ballast from the CNW RR in some sections. I had to walk my bike and trailer for a ways.
You need to take snack food with you for the mornings and maybe noon meal. You can camp at the City Park at Battle Creek and Neligh ($5). Ride the center of the trail because they have this "goathead" sandbur that loves bicycle tires. Some listed restaurants have been closed for years. You could call Cleveland Bicycle next Spring for advice. (402-371-3325) Even though the trail slowed me down pulling a Burley, I think I'll be back next September. Great people there.

 
Anonymous on 12/12/2011 05:28 AM
Thanks for the information Russ!

 
Pat from Lincoln, Ne on 03/31/2012 04:02 PM
I rode on March 24th, 2012 from Norfolk trailhead to Oakdale. The bridge just out of Norfolk is still not completed. But is was a short ride on the road to a place where I could access the trail again. There are no signs explaining how to do this, so ask someone first. The trail is soft with sand in many places. It was a fun ride but tough cycling. I agree not as nice as the Katy Trail in Missouri but still a good trail to ride.

 
Dave from Lincoln on 04/24/2012 04:42 PM
Pat and Darrell,

I'm going with a boyscout troop the first week of June. We had an expert mechanic along for the ride. We're planning the full ride from Valentine east to Norfolk with SAG support (two vehicles). Thanks for the insights. Also the bridge near Norfolk - any GPS or directions? Thx!

 
Susan G. from Omaha, NE on 04/29/2012 07:08 PM
Hi, All,
My husband, brother and I, all in early 50s, plan to ride the trail west to east, starting in Valentine, and 20 to 50 miles per day. Can anyone tell me the condition of the trail from Valentine to Neligh? We plan to sleep in hotels and eat in restaurants on the way. We'll do this in the middle of May. Thanks!

 
Abby from Fort Collins,CO on 05/30/2012 12:18 PM
Did you make the ride? How was it? Any hints, things to notice along the way? We are leaving June 21 to ride from Valentine to Neligh.

 
Steve from Lincoln on 06/04/2012 11:22 PM
The trail is in bad shape from Valentine to Johnstown. Just take the highway shoulder for that section. Johnstown to Neligh is in better shape. Some bumpy sections and soft sections, but to be expected over 200 miles. Jump on the highway for a bit if you get tired of the trail. Be comfortable with changing a flat tire or two. I had slime tubes and was fortunate not to have a flat. I had touring tires which was a mistake as I sunk into the soft sections easily. Cross tires with small knobs would have been a better choice. The bridge outside of Norfolk was not open yet, but a county black top is close and connects back to the trail just before Norfolk.

 
Abby from Fort Collins,CO on 06/06/2012 11:31 AM
Thanks for the update!

 
Dave Kohrell from Lincoln on 06/07/2012 05:43 AM
Abby, agree with Steve's assessment. The trail is very rough from Valentine to Johnstown. I rode with seven BoyScouts (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, Ewing and Battle Creek. 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.


Status of bridge between Norfolk and Battle Creek
 - 
Bauer from Norfolk, NE on 06/01/2012 03:49 PM
Hey everyone, first time on the site. I just got off the phone with Duane Westerholdt and he said that they are probably going to pull the barricades on the new bridge next week, and that right now you can ride about two miles west but the contractor is still doing pavement work out there so be wary of newly poured roadwork.
So good news, sounds like it'll be up and running around this time next week.

 
Pat from Lincoln, Ne on 06/02/2012 07:13 PM
Great news! I was there in March and had to wander a bit to find the trail, because the bridge was still out. Yeah! :) Thank you so much for the update.
Pat

 
Paul from Lincoln, NE on 06/03/2012 02:12 PM
We were just there yesterday.....don't see that happening. The whole trail was a mess, terrible, terrible, terrible shape. Huge opportunity lost by the state of Nebraska not maintaining the trail. We had 7 guys ride the whole thing from Valentine to Norfolk this week. I will be writing a whole review soon. Newspaper had article that said bridge was done, NO WAY was it done. Also part of the trail was gone.....no where to be seen. do yourself a favor wait a year.


Looking for assistance - places to camp and eat
 - 
Paul from Lincoln, NE on 05/24/2012 07:51 PM
We have a group of 7 guys head from Valentine to Norfolk in about a week. Reading the posts on here, it would all suggest trail conditions are not the best. We are planning on camping in Valentine, then Bassett one night and then Ewing. Any suggestions on where to camp for those areas. Also looking for good places to eat. And of course, any input on trail conidtions is always helpful.

 
Anonymous on 05/30/2012 12:15 PM
We are going June 21, will you post updates when you finish?

 
Rob from Lincoln on 05/30/2012 01:35 PM
I got back from a ride from Stuart to Valentine and back a couple weeks ago. Camped only in Valentine.
Highly recommend Riverside Campground and RV Park (www.valentinecamp.com). We stayed in a cabin. $25 a night per person. Had a fridge, microwave, firepit, clean showers and bathrooms. The owner even let us borrow his truck to head to Valentine, which is 2 miles away, for groceries and beer.

Ainsworth has several options from Subway to Diners. That should put you from Valentine around lunchtime. Wood Lake has a cafe that's supposed to be pretty good. That's the only place to stop for food or water between Valentine and Ainsworth as Arabia is not a town but a ranch and Johnstown has nothing to offer.

Bassett is decent sized and a good place to stop for groceries. They have gas station also but I don't remember much for restaurants.

Highway is recommended from Valentine to Johnstown. Even all the way to Bassett. North and south of Ainsworth provided thorns on the trail both ways. The trail from Bassett to Stuart isn't bad. A couple hickups but worth checking out.

Enjoy your trip.

 
Dave from Lincoln on 05/31/2012 01:56 PM
Rob, thanks for the report.

We're (BoyScout Troop) are leaving Valentine heading East on Saturday morning (to Norfolk). We hope to stay on the trail as much as we can but may opt for Highway 20. We're bring spare tubes and lots of slime. Mountain Bikes and 1 hyrid (no road bikes)

 
Rob from Lincoln on 06/01/2012 10:50 AM
Hi Dave,
If you're mountain bikes have at least a front shock, the trails might not be too bad for you guys. I had a cross bike with no suspension so it was rough in some spots. Spare tubes and slime will definitely help.


Trail Conditions
 - 
Rob from Lincoln on 05/08/2012 04:46 PM
We're taking a ride from Atkinson to Valentine and back next Friday. Can anyone comment on the trail conditions on that stretch?

 
Abby from Fort Collins,CO on 05/15/2012 03:47 PM
Did you hear anything back? We aren't riding until June but would like to see more discussion on the forum!

 
David @Colorado from Denver on 05/16/2012 10:27 PM
I delayed a planned Cowboy Trail trip for another year - going to do the Allegheny, C&O Canal Trail instead. No progress on trail repairs, no progress on trail extension, and poor reports on trail maintenance.

 
Rob from Lincoln on 05/21/2012 11:51 AM
Hi Abby,
Just got back from the ride. We started in Stuart and rode to Valentine. 85 miles each way. The limestone is a little thick due to minimal traffic but not unrideable by any means, however, there has been some cattle and horse traffic so some of the stretches were bumpy for around 100 yards in a few spots. One stretch just north of Johnstown was so bad I had to walk my bike for about a 1/4 of a mile because the trail was so rough. I jumped on highway 20 after that all the way to Valentine. A friend continued on the trail and said he came across a lot of washboards up to around 6 miles south of Valentine.

On the way back I took highway 20 until Basset and was much better. Minimal hills for a few miles but flat the rest with good shoulders. You could take highway 20 all the way to O'Neill with minimal hills and still have a good ride, or hop on the trail for a change of pace, but highway seemed faster and more comfortable in the long run. We had several flats primarily south and north of Ainsworth with thorns and one or two on the rest of the trail also, but highway we had no flats.

Regardless, the scenery was great and we'll definitely be doing it again next year. Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.

 
Anonymous on 05/22/2012 10:19 AM
Thanks so much! It helps a lot. We'll be traveling with 2 kids, the 11year old will ride her own bike (she is very experienced but still only 11!!) and 8 yr old on a tandem. How was the traffic on 20? We've decided to take a car as a sag since we are also bringing our dog (and heaven forbid she should get hot :)). So I figure we can always shuttle the kids past a bad part. Just my husband and I are planning to do the GAP/C&O the end of September.

 
Anonymous on 05/22/2012 03:52 PM
The traffic on 20 was fairly busy. Quite a few semis. Not sure I'd take a child on the shoulder. I would stick to the trail. I would say about 70% of the trail was parallel with highway 20 so getting off the highway to the trail was pretty easy. Where were you going to start and finish?

 
Anonymous on 05/23/2012 10:16 PM
We are going to start in Valentine and finish around Neligh or wherever we end up. We are going to leave a car at the police station there. Since we are taking a sag wagon this time it seems pretty easy. I've never done a ride with any kind of support. This will probably lead to overpacking. :) Thanks for the traffic info. She was a trooper last year riding with logging trucks in Idaho but it took a few years off my life!!!


Current Trail Conditions and Re-opening
 - 
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission from Lincoln, Nebraska on 06/03/2011 10:33 AM
Thanks everyone for your interest in the Cowboy Trail. Here at Game and Parks Commission, we just learned this BikeCowboyTrail.com site existed so sorry for the delay on getting responses back about current trail conditions.

The following press release is set to go out today and should answer most of the inquiries. If any questions still exist, feel free to shoot an email directly over or post a follow up here. Thanks again.

Cowboy Trail Re-Opened from Norfolk to Valentine!
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission recently re-opened 68 miles of the Cowboy Trail, which was damaged in the June 2010 flood of the Elkhorn River. Approximately 72 miles of trail, from Norfolk to O’Neill, were closed and multiple bridges damaged from the event. Three areas of the trail remain closed due to safety concerns, but alternate routes have been designated around those segments. The alternate routes take users on street, so the rules of the road apply. Cyclists, equestrians and pedestrians should stay alert when using the designated alternate routes. The map of the trail, including the alternate routes may be found at: http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/gisapps/trails/. Users may encounter rough surfacing in some locations, but the trail is still passable. Those areas of rough surfacing have been identified on the map.

A new bridge is being designed to replace the old Railroad Bridge along with a wash out of the trail near Norfolk and is expected to be completed by spring of 2012. Trail surfacing repair to 11.5 miles of trail from Norfolk to Neligh will occur by the end of fall of 2011. An additional 12 miles of trail from Neligh to O’Neill and replacement of a bridge near Ewing are slated to be completed by fall of 2012. Funding for these projects will be from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Recreational Trails Program of the Federal Highway Administration and the Cowboy Trail Maintenance Cash Fund from Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
 
Pat from Lincoln, Ne on 04/02/2012 05:56 PM
It is April 2012 and I didn't see any evidence of "trail surfacing repair" on the trail between Norfolk and Oakdale. The trail is not crushed limestone and is very soft and looks like repairs were done with sand. Tough cycling. There is damage from farm and livestock use. On the trail website nothing is noted about the bridge not being completed and no explanation of where to access the trail.
It would have been so lovely to have the expected "Rails to Trails" surface that I find on the Katy, the East Mopac, the Homestead, Wabash, Jamaica and other Rails to Trails in surrounding states.
Is there a volunteer group that could help maintain the trail?


Observations about the Trail and this Website
 - 
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

 
Pat from Lincoln, Ne on 04/02/2012 05:46 PM
I agree with your write up of your ride last June. I rode from Norfolk to Oakdale in March and was so disappointed in the trail. Yes, not limestone and lots of sand. I was creeping along at 7 miles an hour on my Fargo with 2.2 tires. Lots of livestock and tire tracks on the trail. I was hoping the trail was in better shape around Valentine and LongPine but it doesn't sound like it.


Fees, Permits?
 - 
Tom from Mammoth Hot Springs, WY on 02/21/2012 12:27 AM
Are there any fees or permits needed to use the Cowboy Trail?

 
Russ from Indiana on 04/01/2012 11:50 PM
No fees or permits to ride the trail. If you plan on camping, you might have fees. Neligh has a $5 fee for the city park but Battle Creek has no fee for their park. You can ask at other places.


Trail condition
 - 
Bike Guy from Yankton,SD on 08/17/2011 03:45 PM
Rode from Battle Creek to Tilden yesterday(8-16-11)Trail condition is terrible. sand 3" deep many places,deep holes and overall not a good experience.

 
Russ from Indiana on 08/19/2011 11:43 PM
Thanks for the comment on the trail. I heard the bridge was out between Norfolk and Battle Creek. My plans were to ride the trail in late September pulling a Burley Bugger. Any suggestions?

 
Pat from Lincoln, Ne on 03/31/2012 04:08 PM
Yes, from Battle Creek to Tilden still as of 3/24/12 pretty rough trail with sand and holes. But still fun and a hard workout. :) The bridge is also still out between Norfolk and Battle Creek. I wandered around for quite a while and did find the way back to the trail. I should have asked someone before starting the ride. It is a short ride on the paved road to a place where I could access the trail. Rough trail but a good ride.


Peppermill Steakhouse in Valentine
 - 
RNJ from Valentine, NE on 01/17/2012 06:15 PM
The Peppermill is now known as the Peppermill Restaurant and E.K. Valentine Lounge. It has moved to 502 East Highway 20 in Valentine.

402-376-2800

peppermillvalentine.com


O'Neill
 - 
Anonymous on 11/10/2011 12:58 PM
Noticed some errors on this website in regards to the attractions in O'Neill:
Yum Yum Chinese doesnt exist in O'Neill (I have lived here almost all my life and never even heard of that restaurant.) & unfortunatly the Lil Irish Billiards closed down. Sun Mart is now called Super Foods...just so ya know.

 
Russ from Indiana on 11/15/2011 12:01 AM
You're correct about things on the trail. The state of Nebraska needs to have an intern or somebody update this website or another site. While I only went to Neleigh, the Fountain Cafe has been closed for five years. Daddy's Cafe is open but not listed. Tilly's convenience store in Battle Creek has an ATM machine but tha'ts not listed. There's a need to attract more riders and tourists but the updated information is not there. Great people. I think I'll be back next year and ride more.


Camping
 - 
Russ from Indiana on 11/05/2011 12:14 AM
Rode the Cowboy trail for two days from Battle Creek to Neiligh and back. Camped at the City park in Battle Creek and Neleigh in late September. Great places. If the restrooms aren't open in Battle Creek, a person might go to the Police Department at City Hall and ask them to unlock them. Also, Tilly's convenience store has an ATM when needed. Temps at night were in the 30s but had a good time.


Wood Lake
 - 
Bob from Bellevue,NE on 10/04/2011 06:52 PM
It's not listed but there is a wonderful campground here right on the trail! There is a modern bathroom and electricity. Sign the guest book and leave a donation. I spent a very nice evening there.

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