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Bicycling To Prosperity In Small Town Nebraska

Ray (webmaster) on 10/22/2018 6:05:15 AM
Nebraska’s small, rural communities can bicycle their way to prosperity.

That was the message at a Nebraska Tourism conference breakout, where the Cowboy Trail from Norfolk to Valentine and “gravel grinding” routes around Lincoln were visioned at the intersection of biking and tourism.

Ginny Sullivan of Adventure Cycling said bicycle tourism is a real industry.
Full Article:

Source: Sandhills Express, 10/18/2018

Alex from Lincoln on 10/30/2018 11:27:01 AM
It was a great session! She made a great case that Nebraska has a lot of potential to develop their bicycle tourism industry.

Cynthya from Salina on 10/30/2018 12:55:42 PM
We were not able to attend, but excited to see the post. Hopefully folks will come on board. We rode The Cowboy Trail from one end to the other and back in 2017. We stayed true to the trail except for the detour and a very short piece in front of coop at Ainsworth. They have a gem they need to develop.

BIKER4 from PAPILLION on 10/30/2018 3:05:27 PM

Alex from Lincoln on 11/1/2018 9:23:45 AM
If you ever see damage of any kind on the trail please note the GPS coordinates and take pictures (if possible) of the damage and send them to me at so I can address the damage. This will ensure the best turnaround time in fixing the damage as we will know exactly where it is and what we will need. Feel free to give me a call anytime at 402-471-5443. This website is a great resource, as are the forums here but for anyone looking for a brief overview on the trail check out

BIKER4 from PAPILLION on 11/1/2018 10:33:55 AM
Alex, Glad o see someone from the Game and Parks Department monitoring the forum. I have ridden all kinds of trails throughout the US and I was very pleased with the trails I have ridden except for two. The Steamboat Trace is one and needs a lot of work since I rode it last spring. I will ride the Cowboy Trail next spring and report any damage to the trail to you but I feel a lot of the damage is caused in the late fall from harvesting crops. I will try and work with you more in the future to promote the Cowboy Trail for Nebraska. At 68 I do not ride for long distances as well as I used to but I will keep Cycling as long as I am able.

dougt from Onawa, Ia on 11/1/2018 12:04:32 PM
It's good to have an email address and contact # for information Alex. If I do this again next year I'll see if you respond. I had no luck at all this year before my trip when I was trying to get status on trail conditions but I didn't have your information. As I stated in my post, it was a great adventure!

Norfolk to Valentine and back

Dougt from Onawa, Ia on 10/22/2018 11:31:51 AM
I rode Norfolk to Valentine and back on Sept 16-21. Weather ranged from 90's the first 2 days to misty and progressively cooler after that. Last day was in the 50's, which surprised me for Sept. Trail conditions varied from nicely packed on the eastern side to rougher as I got past O'Neill and started getting closer to Valentine. If anyone has any illusions about no motorized vehicles ever using the trail they'll be disappointed because there will be tire tracks, cow tracks and manure in various places out west. That said, I expected an adventure and that's what I got. Not a sterile paved bike path running through a residential neighborhood. I left my truck at the trailhead in Norfolk and it was fine for 6 days. Stayed in O'Neill, Long Pine, and Valentine. Long Pine has The Bunkhouse which consists of a small sleeping room with shared bath and a day room with tv and kitchen. Not a 5 star hotel by any means but cheap and fairly clean. There is a bar in town with the smallest grilled chicken sandwich that I've ever seen(so maybe order something else) and a grocery store. Beautiful bridge right outside of town. You'll want to refill water bottles every chance you have if it's hot because as you venture west there don't seem to be services in some of the towns. My only real problem was that I carried all of my gear in a 35# backpack. That seems like nothing, but I wore the skin off under one of my sit bones on the first 80 mile day and for the next 5 days had to get out of the saddle every 30-60 peddle strokes to ease the pain,so I wouldn't recommend a backpack. That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger, right?? All in all a great adventure and I might do it again next year.

dougt from Onawa, Ia on 10/22/2018 11:39:42 AM
I forgot to mention that I'd read about thorns and put heavy tires and liners on my Mtn bike, but never saw any goats head thorns and only picked up some cockleburs in about 2 places, which weren't going to bother those tires.

The detour for the bridge out was well marked and is only for a couple of miles on the highway. That highway has an awesome wide shoulder with rumbles separating the traffic from the shoulder and even at that people were moving to the opposite lane for me. I'm normally a road rider and have never encountered great riding like that.

Cynthya from Salina on 10/22/2018 1:26:17 PM
Doug, Thanks for sharing about your ride. Enjoyed hearing about your experience. Sounds much like or experience, though we rode August 2017. Days were warm, got caught in heavy rain at Inman. Even though there are some though spots it is a GREAT ride. People need to get out and ride. I would like to ride again. Maybe we will try again next year.

Alex from Lincoln on 10/30/2018 11:20:25 AM
Thanks for sharing your trip! Great tips for future CBT visitors.

Not Optimal

Robert Hale from Port Matilda, Pennsylvania on 9/13/2018 10:32:43 AM
I rode parts of the Cowboy Trail and the highway from Valentine to Norfolk from September 8-10th, 2018. My impression of the trail is that it could be a gem, but is too poorly maintained to really be usable. The scenery around Valentine is beautiful. However the gravel is not packed and I sunk and slid even on 40mm tires. Near Wood Lake there were sections where it appeared that weeds had grown so tall and thick on the trail that they were simply mowed, leaving stumps. At Johnstown, I sunk and slid, and being clipped in, took a spill. It was at that point that I decided to ride the parallel highway. To the best of my ability, I calculated that using the same effort on the trail was costing me about 4 miles an hour. My first day, I rode from Valentine to Bassett. I camped in the Bassett city park. There was water and electricity available, and the restroom doors at the swimming pool were open, but no water to flush the single toilet. You can imagine the condition. On the second day I rode from Bassett to Inman. Several times I ventured onto the trail for a mile, only to return to the highway. Typically the highway and trail are so close together your scenery doesn't change, only the effort in peddling. The shoulder or berm on the highway is excellent. It is wide and smooth, and the traffic is courteous. In Atkinson, I was invited to lunch by Pastor Linda and the Methodists. They were wonderful people and a picnic lunch was a great break from peddling with the south breeze cross wind. I also waved and shouted at the only other long distance cyclist I encountered on the trip. He was on the highway and shouted back that he was headed to California. Camping in the Inman city park was an adventure - no water, no electricity and no restrooms. On the third day I stuck to the highway from Inman to Norfolk. The only hill, and it was a small one, that I encountered on the entire trip was in Neligh. I was riding a fully packed Kona Sutra bicycle. My tubes had sealent, and I never had a flat although at one point riding on the trail, I had thrown enough sandburs up on the front panniers that they were difficult to open without getting stuck several times. I truly enjoyed the ride. The people I met were great. The highway was pleasant. The scenery especially near Valentine was excellent. The trail needs to be maintained. My advice to other riders would be to ride the trail from Valentine to Wood Lake (where I had a lovely break in their park)and think about the highway for the remainder of the ride.

Dougt from Onawa, Ia on 9/15/2018 9:08:44 AM
That's depressing news. I'm looking forward to a trail ride,not a road ride after a summer of road riding. It's too bad that there isn't more trail condition information/upkeep on this gem, because the Cowboy Trail is famous in the biking community. I've emailed the Ne. government contact listed somewhere in the form for trail information and never got a response. I appreciate your posting and will post my experiences when done. I was planning on making this an annual fall trip.

Jim in Baltimore from Baltimore on 9/26/2018 5:45:39 AM
Rode the trail that same week. I found the trail conditions to be good, much better than I was led to believe from reading some of the posts on here. The trail does have more gravel than is needed, some weeds, a few washouts and cross roads and believe it or not huge ant mounds. But slow down, ride the tire tracks where the gravel isn’t as deep and don’t overcorrect when you do hit loose spots. It took me a day or so to get used to the heavy bike and loose conditions but once I did I found the trail exhilarating. Slowing down isn’t a bad thing, stopping and walking through some of the more scenic areas is even better. The trail near Valentine is truly spectacular. I brought a folding camp chair and took frequent breaks. Highly recommended, especially near ONeil where there are trees chock full of big beautiful Monarchs this time of year.

The highway is faster but not anywhere near as enjoyable or as close to nature as the trail. 70 mph semis are no fun.

I bought 2.25x26 Swalbe Marathon Plus MTB tires with standard tubes just for this trail based upon reports from the forums. These tires proved to be too much. The only thorns I picked up were from riding through grassy areas in campgrounds and cutting to and from minimarts. Stay on the gravel and you will see less thorns (and don’t walk the campgrounds barefoot!!). The Swalbes proved impervious to the few thorns I did pick up, no flats in 4 days of riding. The big issue with the tires was the deep tread is not good for gravel and they were much wider than need be. Next fall will ride the trail again with 32-40 cc tires on my gravel bike. Fast handling bikes or a twitchy riding style are not good for loose gravel.

The cowboy is not an easy or fast ride, but it is an extremely satisfying one. What I think the trail needs most is more traffic to wear the gravel in better. I think letting people know what to expect will help in this regard.

Kevin R from Twin Cities on 9/27/2018 4:59:47 PM
Anyone find a decent place in Valentine to leave your car? I can't find any "official" recommendation online. I'll call the city office tomorrow, but Old West Days are underway and I may not get anyone on the phone.

Alex from Lincoln on 10/4/2018 8:50:10 AM
Thank you both for your comments on your trip! Both good reads. For anyone camping in Inman in the future the bar (Harte's Pub) in town is happy to fill your water bottle.

Cynthya Billinger from Salina, KS on 10/22/2018 8:10:59 AM
Was excited to see the post this morning on the tourism post regarding The Cowboy Trail. Very much enjoyed these latest posts regarding The Trail and ride experiences. We rode The Trail August 2017. We rode entirely on The Cowboy Trail except for the detour at Clearwater and a short detour by The Coop at Ainsworth. This trail is a diamond in the rough, but well worth the ride. Would make the trip again and after reading these posts ready to hit The Trail another year in September. Nebraska....people will come, ride and bring good things for your state!

Riding in March/April

BobbyJ from Stockton, Utah on 9/23/2018 6:32:03 PM
Hello! I'm thinking of coming out in March or April. What kind of weather and trail conditions will I have. I'll adjust my bike to gravel (usually go road) with wide tires and a couple of packs....

Alex from Lincoln on 10/4/2018 9:13:18 AM
Sweet! That'd be a good time of year. It'll be towards the end of calving season so you might see lots of young ones in the pasture on the western end of the trail. Nebraska can be pretty unpredictable with regard to weather - it will be chilly overnight still so bring a warm bag if you're camping. Snow is a possibility this early in the year too so stay on top of the weather forecast. Definitely go with the widest tire you can fit in your bike, and don't be afraid to run them at a lower psi - I prefer about 35psi in a 40c tire on my gravel bike. The trail conditions will vary across the trail from looser gravel sections in the west to hardpacked limestone on the eastern portion. There shouldn't be many goatheads that early in the year but be prepared for flats just in case. There will be some washboard sections but it's not bad in my opinion. There is a 3ish mile detour east of Clearwater where a bridge is out. There will be a sign that directs you out to the highway and then meet back up with the trail by heading south on 517ave or 519ave depending on what direction you are going.

Backcountry camping

Chris from Omaha on 9/17/2018 1:43:37 PM
Most of the towns are close, but some are a little to much for a day hike. Does anyone know the rules for backcountry camping on the trail?

steve from Saint Louis on 9/17/2018 2:31:53 PM
Camping is only allowed along the Cowboy Trail in designated camping areas, which are generally located in towns along the trail. I camped in Norfolk, O'Neill, and Valentine while doing some biking on the Cowboy and have no complaints about those locations. Valentine City Park was maybe a mile off the trail, but the others were right along the trail.

The cowboy has no shade and scenery that does not seem to change for miles so not sure why someone would want to spend a lot time hiking on this trail.

Jim in Baltimore from Baltimore on 9/26/2018 5:50:32 AM
Most of the small towns allow camping in the city parks, some with a nominal fee. The park in Atkinson is particularly nice with hot showers and electric hook ups. I met enough people in minimarts that there is little question one could get an invite to camp on local land.

Best Short Ride Recommendations?

Jill from Kansas City on 9/1/2018 9:11:29 AM
We are planning a trip (from KC,KS) in late September/early October and looking to ride the trail. I'm not a novice but about 20 to 25 miles round trip is about the amount of time during our trip for a half day ride. Can anyone make a recommendation for the best/most scenic trail ride area (starting in one town, returning back) with about a 20 mile round trip distance?

Anonymous on 9/1/2018 4:44:39 PM
In our opinion the Valentine bridge is a must see, and ride over. Park in Arabia parking lot (has a cell tower near it) and ride to the bridge and back. Just past the Arabia Ranch sign..

Or there is a parking lot near the bridge.

Enjoy and have fun!!

Cynthya from Salina on 9/1/2018 6:20:58 PM
Wondered what folks might say. The bridge was my first thought. Totally agree with the other comment. The bridge is spectacular and it is within the first 3 miles and you could decide how much further you wanted to ride. We rode from Valentine to Arabia sign. For us it was a 31 mile ride. We rode on Rans recumbents no problem.

Cynthya from Salina, KS on 9/1/2018 8:25:26 PM
Let me amend thst last response. That a 32 mile roundtrip. Valentine to Arabia snd back
to Valentine.

Anonymous on 9/1/2018 9:35:11 PM
Cynthia - is the 32 miles going from trailhead in Valentine to Arabia?

Cynthya from Salina on 9/1/2018 11:41:07 PM
32 miles roundtrip. Valentine-Arabia-Valentine.

Robert Hale from Port Matilda, Pennsylvania on 9/13/2018 10:55:09 AM
Just rode from Valentine to Norfolk. I would second the ride out of Valentine to the east for scenery. The trail is very good from Valentine to the bridge. The gravel gets a bit loose in places east of the bridge but is Ok - my tires were 700x40. There were some beautiful wooded ponds along the trail east of Valentine, with ducks and cranes. Unfortunately, I can't remember how far out I was when I rode through them. This section was my favorite.

Dougt from Onawa, Ia on 9/15/2018 8:54:54 AM
Robert, I'm taking off tomorrow from Norfolk to Valentine and back. Did you run into many thorns? Any other info that I might find useful? I'm riding a mtn bike w/tire liners. Thanks!

Robert Hale from Port Matilda, Pennsylvania on 9/21/2018 11:42:29 AM
I didn't have any problem with thorns. Sandburs in parts of the trail kicked up on the front panniers. However past Johnstown, I rode mainly on the highwsy.

28 mm tires -- good enough for riding this trail?

Dave from St. Paul, MN on 7/9/2018 2:47:22 PM
I have a road bike with 28 mm tires (Continental touring), and completed the Katy Trail in Missouri this spring, and the Sparta-Elroy series of trails in Wisconsin last year. My tires did fine on those crushed limestone trails. But some of the threads on this forum indicate that isn't sufficient. Anyone have any thoughts?

Stephen McGregor from Hannibal, MO on 7/9/2018 3:29:31 PM
I rode it with Clement XPLOR USH 700x35's and wish they'd have been a little bigger, but bigger wouldn't fit in the fork of my Gravel Bike. The surface isn't really compacted (by the Katy Trail Standards). My friend rode her mountain bike with Scwalbe Marathons (I think they were 42m and had the puncture resistant liner), and she had some trouble around Newport, where the sub irrigated soil and loose gravel gave her a good spill.

You can probably ride on your tires, but it's not anywhere near a hard surface trail.

Larry Wenzl from Norfolk on 7/23/2018 4:34:38 PM
Five of us rode the 200 miles from Valentine to Norfolk in mid-May of 2018. I recommend 38mm tires or wider. Also be sure to have tubeless tires with sealant, or sealant-filled tubes and liners. We also exited the trail several miles before the two A-towns: Atkinson and Ainsworth, to avoid goat head thorns. 1000 miles between five of us, and no issues by following those few rules.

Mark Murphy from Mountain Park, Georgia on 9/14/2018 3:13:25 PM
I've ridden cross country twice and last year did the trails in WI with 700X25 as part of my Portland, OR to Portland, ME trip. I didn't have any problems but we also had dry conditions. I'm going to be riding roughly 3000 miles before I hit CT on my way to RAGBRAI to ride another 400 or so. Wondering if I should skip CT..honestly not a big fan of trails and prefer open road and nice hard pavement..thoughts?

Camping in Bassett - nope

Anonymous from South Carolina on 9/1/2018 9:56:31 PM
Just finished riding O'Neill to Bassett with plans to camp in Bassett. The city park had plenty of picnic tables, but no restroom facilities that we could find. The Cowboy Trail park restrooms were locked tight and there were no picnic tables. After great camping options in Neligh and O'Neill, this was quite frustrating.

Cynthya from Salina on 9/2/2018 12:10:14 AM
Where did you find The Cowboy Trail in Basset? We never found it. Even stopped and asked local people in town along the trail area and they had -no idea- what we were talking about. We parked at the city park/fair grounds and ride north to the trail. We then went on to Stuart. They have a real nice park for camping.

Robert Hale from Port Matilda, Pennsylvania on 9/13/2018 10:45:45 AM
I used the restrooms at the swimming pool. The doors were open, but no water there to flush. Pretty bad conditions. A few portable toilets would help.


Victor from Pottsboro Texas on 9/8/2018 9:32:15 PM
We want to ride about 25 miles a day. Then We want a ride for one without a bike back to our camper. I will then drive back to the camp ground where my wife and my bike will be waiting. Then again the next day. Any ideas.

Jon Stuthman from norfolk on 9/11/2018 7:18:57 PM
Give me a call at 402-316-0157 when you get your plans settled. I can shuttle you where ever you like. Ta Ha Zouka Campground in Norfolk is amazing. Its also the trail head. Let me know.

East City Park Campgrounds in Tilden

Neal Raymond from OMAHA on 9/10/2018 7:58:48 PM
Has one bathroom with a free shower inside. Costs 10 dollars a night.

Sportsman’s Family Grille in Meadow Grove

Neal Raymond from OMAHA on 9/10/2018 7:54:34 PM
As of 8 Sep they were closed for remodeling

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