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Trail closures and detour information
Dougt from Onawa, Ia on 07/30/2019 12:05 PM
Looking at doing the trail from Norfolk to Valentine and back in Sept. and hopefully will be getting some feedback so I can make plans.
The map shows the trail closed going through Long Pine, but I called the Bunkhouse and was told that there is a mile detour onto a gravel road to get around this. That's good news. There's an awesome bridge just outside of Long Pine and the Bunkhouse is decent lodging at a good price.
The issue is day one from Norfolk to O'Neill. Unless there are roads not shown on the map, it looks like there are about 40 miles of detours to 275 or 20 on an 80 mile day:
9 miles from Battle Creek to Meadow Grove on 275
13 miles on 275 from Tilden to Neligh
10 miles on 275 from Neligh to Clearwater
8 miles from Inman to O'Neill on 20.

Do I have this right? Has anyone found that these detours to pavement can be shortened on gravel? Thanks for any help!

Dougt from Onawa, Ia. on 08/26/2019 05:34 PM
Any trail updates from ANYONE this summer? What's the thorn situation out west? After lots of detours from Norfolk to O'Neill it's wide open to Valentine? Two of us going all the way west in Sept and then turning around and coming back(6 day trip). Any new information would be appreciated. Thanks!

Alex from Lincoln on 08/27/2019 02:14 PM
The map was updated a few weeks ago to show current closures. In the open sections there will be a few rough spots but it is passable currently.

Dougt from Onawa, Ia. on 08/27/2019 04:52 PM
Hey, thanks Alex!! I didn't realize that the map had been updated since I posted 7/30 and a lot of progress has been made! Looks like the 40 miles of detours from Norfolk to O'Neill that I'd expected are down to 20 or less. Good deal!

Carrie McGill from Omaha, NE on 09/03/2019 12:21 PM
I just met a lady riding across USA and rode the Cowboy Trail all the way from Valentine to Norfolk on Aug 31,2019 and she said very few miles were unrideable, but had easy access adjacent highway and no flat tires the whole way.

Dougt from Onawa, Ia on 09/03/2019 01:36 PM
Excellent update!! Thanks!!

DandyDon from Fairfield, Ohio on 09/04/2019 09:45 PM
My group of 6 bikepackers did the trail from Valentine to Norfolk in early August. Very minimal trail closures, well marked, easy transfer to highway, and no goathead thorns. Everyone super friendly in every town. In a few spots the trail is a bit soft with loose gravel, that will have you searching for the hardpack. (Firm surface for your bike tires to ride on.) Hope you enjoy your adventure.

Dougt from Onawa, Ia on 09/15/2019 06:32 PM
Last week was rough on the Cowboy Trail. Two of us took off from Norfolk on the 9th to ride to Valentine, then turned around and biked back to Norfolk, arriving on the 14th. We knew that we'd have to detour to the highway from Oakdale to Neligh, and from Neligh to Clearwater due to the spring floods. Evening of the 10th we spent the night in Long Pine and it rained all night. We were told Ainsworth got 5". We rode through water on the trail more times than I can count that day. Even 6" plus over the highway at one point. Some places the trail is higher than the highway but not always. Trail isn't as well maintained from O'Neill on, and you're riding on weeds/grass a lot, which makes it rougher than a cob. 4 flats from goathead thorns that day even with tire liners. 5 miles east of Valentine the trail was washed out and we walked bikes through the 2' or so washout completely dividing the trail. rained 6" or more in Valentine that night. The washout from the previous day was way deeper but we got through it with our loaded bikes(not a one-person task). Then rode through water more times than I can count to get to Long Pine. At one point we were riding through 8" water which got deeper and turned into a 3' deep hole that I rode into and went down. Adios cell phone....the current sucked it out of my jersey pocket. We made it into O'Neill the next night and figured that the excitement was over. Next day we again rode through a lot of water, came up on one bridge that had the approach almost entirely washed out(again, two of us working together got the bikes through). We marked that bridge as well as we could so no one came from the opposite direction and disappeared forever. Two more goathead thorn flats that afternoon. We were looking for adventure and we got it, but I would strongly suggest that everyone get a status update on the trail because all of that water out west was flowing east and doing a job on the trail. Good luck!

Alex from Lincoln on 09/17/2019 11:14 AM
Sorry to hear about the tough trip. Last week was rough all along the trail due to these heavy rains we keep getting causing additional flooding and damage. Please exercise caution if using the trail as hazards are appearing rapidly. We do our best to mark them. If you see hazards please take a picture, note gps location if possible or bridge #, and send me a an email at

Alex from Lincoln on 09/17/2019 11:14 AM
Sorry to hear about the tough trip. Last week was rough all along the trail due to these heavy rains we keep getting causing additional flooding and damage. Please exercise caution if using the trail as hazards are appearing rapidly. We do our best to mark them. If you see hazards please take a picture, note gps location if possible or bridge #, and send me a an email at

Biker4 from PAPILLION, NEBRASKA on 09/17/2019 02:34 PM
I wonder if Alex could explain how he handles these issues on the trail. Are they inspected by the state employees and how fast the address the issue.

Diane McCallum from Montrose on 10/03/2019 07:58 PM
There is a section of trail completely missing at the eight mile make east of Valentine. There is running water through the cut. The cut is approximately three feet wide and two to three feet deep.
Section coming into Ainsworth from the West is unrideable. It's a hike a bike.
Many other rain washout hike a bikes toward Long Pine.

Bear Bag
Tim from Cambridge on 09/22/2019 02:58 PM
Hey guys, Tim here.
I’m new to the bikepacking world and am in the process of packing my rig for a trip on either the Michelson Trail (Black Hills) for three days, or a trip on the Cowboy Trail. My lean is the Cowboy, as it seems less dangerous and is something I could probably do on my own.
My question is this: I own a bear can from previous backpacking trips to Rocky Mountain National Park and the Wind River Range in Wyoming. However, it is large and I do not have the equipment nor the desire to pack it on my bike.
I’m aware that there is no risk of bears on the Cowboy Trail, but is it necessary that I buy a bear bag to protect against other varmints and nuisances on the trail? Let’s just say I planned to camp every night. Do I need a bear bag, and if so, do I need to hang it?

Thank you in advance for any responses!

DandyDon from Fairfield, Ohio on 09/23/2019 09:07 AM
I bikepacked both the Michelson and the Cowboy trails on the same trip last August. I had no critter problem, I even kept all my food items inside my tent, well sealed in Ziploc baggies. Have done the same on the Katy, C&O, GAP, Natchez Trace, and other trails and had no problems.

Dougt from Onawa, Ia. on 09/23/2019 11:23 AM
You'll be camping in towns on the Cowboy Trail, and I'd be surprised if any critters bothered you, although a racoon can pop up anywhere. I did the Cowboy Trail out and back Sept 9-14 and there was water over the trail in a lot of spots and some trail washouts in several places and at a couple of bridges. I haven't seen any updates as to whether these have been repaired so be advised. I've done 160 miles on the Mickelson Trail a couple of years ago and it's beautiful and well-maintained. Better maintained than the Cowboy Trail by far. The Cowboy Trail is more of a "roughing-it adventure" than the Mickelson, in my view. Just my 2 cents worth.....

DakotaRose from South Dakota on 09/20/2019 11:47 AM
Be sure to just take a little spin down Main Street. Every little town has something interesting to offer or see.

DakotaRose from South Dakota on 09/20/2019 11:46 AM
We tent-camped at Mill Race Park just outside of town. New bathroom facilities with flush toilets, sink, and HOT showers. Grills and picnic tables. Storm shelters available in the park. A little busy with drive-through traffic until 10:00, or so,(traffic from the golf club) but otherwise quiet and peaceful. $7 fee fee for tents.

DakotaRose from South Dakota on 09/20/2019 11:41 AM
We tent-camped at the City Park in Stuart. Very nice location and well tended. Bathrooms with flush toilets and running water. Grills and picnic tables.

Best Trail Sections / Min Tire size
Brad from Denver on 08/01/2019 08:03 AM
I'm planning on doing a few out and back day rides on the trail in September, at least one near the Valentine end of the trail. I'm wondering if anyone has a suggestions on which are the nicest sections to ride? I'll do about 40 miles per day (20 out and then back).

I also need to know if 38x700c (1.5" wide) tires on my "urban" bike are going to be OK to ride the trail. If not, I can bring my mountain bike but for other rail trails the 38c tires have worked fine.

Alex from Lincoln on 09/05/2019 01:58 PM
The western section is really scenic between Valentine and Long Pine if you like open grasslands. 38c tire width will be alright, but I always recommend going with the widest tire that fits in your bike.

Riding through Nebraska
Dan from Evanston, IL on 05/22/2019 05:38 AM
I was planning on doing the Cowboy Trail mid-June (going from Denver to Lincoln), but I've changed plans due to the flooding and trail closures/uncertainty. Does anyone have any thoughts on doing the Lincoln Highway instead? I would still like to do a Nebraska ride, but I'm not sure about alternatives. Thank you.

Alex from Lincoln on 05/22/2019 08:22 AM
Hi Dan,

Here is a map for the current Cowboy Trail closures:

The trail is passable from Valentine to Norfolk but there are a number of detours needed to get around the closed sections.

If you are in search for some rail trail riding in NE, you can combine the Homestead and Chief Standing Bear Trail for some good mileage from Lincoln to Marysville, KS. It's a nice route with some neat historical stops along the way such as Homestead National Monument.

Or if you have the proper bike setup I'd highly recommend these routes listed on

I have not ridden the Lincoln Highway before but have driven it. The highway traffic in some areas could posed a problem as there is not a shoulder in many sections.

Check out NDOT's bike map with traffic counts to see if you're up for that.

Let me know if you have any more questions!


Biking Brian on 05/30/2019 07:10 AM
If you do end up doing Lincoln Hwy, I rode it back in 2016 across Nebraska up to Scotts Bluff then down to Denver and most of that is nice wide shoulders, easy for biking. I have some videos in this playlist of my ride if you want a better look. Looking forward to riding the Cowboy Trail up through the Black Hills in June this year. Safe Travels!


Lefty from Oklahoma City on 09/03/2019 08:53 AM
Is this mainly a bike trail? Also, can you camp anywhere?

Alex from Lincoln on 09/03/2019 09:40 AM
The cowboy trail is open to non-motorized uses. Most folks either hike or bike but it is also open for equestrian use (horses are to stay off the main trail surface except when crossing bridges. Camping is not allowed along the trail right of way but there are many towns along the trail that allow for camping in their city park.

Opedaler on 09/02/2019 02:23 AM
What does the future hold for the Cowboy trail? We love it and use the east end often. Currently we are stuck going from Norfolk to Battle Creek and back. There are some stretches that appear to be a long time from completion. Is it in the plan to repair all of it? And if so what timeline are we talking about?


Panda Transportation in Valentine
JO from COLORADO SPRINGS on 08/30/2019 06:00 PM
Not sure how your shuttle works. If I start at Valentine and bike to Norfolk would you be able to pick me and my bike up and take me back to Valentine? Is there a spot to park your car at Valentine?

Stay on the Trail and detours!!!
Sally Davis-Jackson from Long Pine on 08/06/2019 02:37 PM
Please Remember to stay on the trail and follow the detours when posted. Please don't cross fences without permission of the landowners. We love this trail and use it often.

New website features
Ray (webmaster) on 08/01/2019 10:35 PM
A couple new features in the website:

- Forum Search: now you can search the Forum, so you don't have to page through and scan through 20-something pages of discussions to find a topic. Near the top of the Forum page, look for the "Search the Cowboy Trail Forum" next to the magnifying glass icon.

- Export Planner to Excel: at the bottom of the Trip Planner page, you will find a link to to download the contents of your trip planner to an Excel file.

Happy trails!

Trip planner
SR on 07/10/2019 10:51 AM
Is there a way to export the Trip Planner results to Excel?

Ray (webmaster) on 07/10/2019 07:03 PM
Unfortunately there is currently not a way to do that, but that is a great idea! I will put that on my "R&D" list.

Thank you for the suggestion and happy trails!

Ray (webmaster) on 07/27/2019 12:00 PM
This feature is now ready! You can download the contents of your trip planner into Excel.

When you use the Trip Planner tool, at the bottom of the page (in the "Share your trip planner" section), you will now see a link to "click here to download in Excel-ready CSV format"

Depending on your browser, you can either download the file and then open with Excel, or you may be able to open in Excel immediately.

Happy trails!

Can I take a team of horses and a covered wagon on this trail?
Randy Koenig from Sioux Rapids on 07/21/2019 08:27 AM
Hope to do the entire trail.

Bob from Topeka, KS on 07/21/2019 08:56 AM
I'm afraid you can't. There are posts in the middle of the trail to prevent motorized traffic. I even had to carry my 3 wheeled bike over one at a bridge.

Cynthya from Salina on 07/21/2019 10:08 AM
I believe horses are allowed, however, a wagon, while not motorized, would be heavy? If wet, would cut up the trail. As well as the blocks mentioned in another post.

East City Park in Ainsworth
mwalsh23 from Boulder, CO on 07/18/2019 10:58 AM
Talked to Wendy with the City of Ainsworth. No reservations allowed at the park. It is rarely full. They make every effort to accomodate cyclists even if the sites are all full.

Cowboy Trail closures
Tandem Touring from Michigan on 06/27/2019 04:02 PM
Husband and I are considering taking the Cowboy Trail in September starting at Valentine and riding to Norfolk. I am reading about closures. Are there closures on this trail? Would the conditions as they are today be too difficult for a tandem bicycle? Is there a shuttle system from Norfolk to Valentine to get our car?Thanks for reading this post and responding.

Alex from Lincoln on 06/28/2019 11:00 AM
Yes there are closures on the trail. See for current trail closures. Typically to get around the closures you ride on the shoulder of HWY 275/20. For your tandem, I would say it depends on your tire width on the bicycle. A road tandem would have trouble but if you have greater than a 35c/1.5" tire width you'd be alright. The wider, the better when you're on the trail. For a shuttle look up North Fork Outfitting in Norfolk, NE.

Jon Stuthman from norfolk on 07/13/2019 08:37 PM
You can give me a call at 402-316-0157 North Fork Outfitting. I shuttle to Valentine, as well as bike rentals and some gear too...
I have a long trailer so the tandem is no problem.

Prevailing winds?
Bob White from North Conway NH on 07/12/2019 10:01 AM
I noticed on this sire there's a elevation profile for the trail showing Valentine higher than Norfolk elevation. Does anyone know what the prevailing wind direction is in Nebraska? I know the weather usually flows across the country west to east and wind can blow from any direction, but is the general prevailing wind also west to east??

Alex on 07/12/2019 10:13 AM
Prevailing wind is from west to east. And yes you lose elevation that direction as well. It is a rail bed so the grade is 3-5% usually. But the wind can become your hills :)

Long Pine
Keith from Omaha on 07/06/2019 11:01 PM
Is there a safe overnight parking option in Long Pine? Riding from LP to Valentine and need to leave car overnight

Alex from Lincoln on 07/08/2019 10:46 AM
I think you can park at the bunk house/city office overnight. Just give them a call and ask - 402-273-4120. Otherwise if you have a park permit there is Long Pine SRA.

biking from Ainsworth ? which direction is the best
S&J from Oklahoma on 06/15/2019 09:56 PM
We are planning to bike from Ainsworth on 6/16. Can anyone tell us which direction you would recommend...going east or west? This is probably the only time we will be able to bike this part of the trail. Thanks!

Trail Status Valentine Eastward
Mrwhiskers from Bartlett TN on 06/04/2019 03:53 PM
Is trail open eastward from Valentine?
Is Norflok to Battle Creek open?

Alex from Lincoln on 06/05/2019 08:19 AM
This map has the most current information on closed segments of the cowboy trail.

johnr from Bellingham, WA on 06/12/2019 11:33 PM
The trail east of Valentine is open-ish. I just rode as much of it as possible last week from Valentine to Battle Creek. In fact, the best part of the trail, in my opinion, was the 15 - 20 miles directly and immediately east of Valentine. Here the trail wanders far from Highway 20, through the sand hills. Peaceful and beautiful. As you travel east pretty much anyplace that the trail crosses the Elkhorn River, the bridge has been washed out and there is no crossing the Elkhorn right now, so one must detour to Highway 20. It's worth it, however, to ride right up to the washout and then turn around because the sight of it is awesome. Much of the Cowboy trail between Valentine and Battle creek in right next to Highway 20 (literally 20 feet from the road) and not all that interesting.

Norfolk Daily News article
Emily C. on 06/10/2019 04:32 PM
Hi all, I'm a reporter for the Norfolk Daily News and I'm working on an article about the Cowboy Trail. How have your plans been affected by trail closures? What does the Cowboy Trail mean to you? If you'd like to share your thoughts and experiences, feel free to reach out:

Emily Case
Norfolk Daily News

Bill from Vancouver, WA on 06/10/2019 08:08 AM
Got chased by two dogs inbetween Battle Creek and Meadow Grove. One bit me. Reported this to Tilden PD who forwardedto County Sheriff's office.

State map says Cowboy Trail is open between Oakdale and Neligh but it is definitely NOT
Karl from West Nyack,NY on 05/29/2019 07:06 AM
Riding the trail (and 275/20) the next few days. Yesterday, I found out the hard way that the state map at
is NOT a complete depiction of closures - that map shows the trail as open between Oakdale and a Neligh, but there is a huge washout at the elkhorn river bridge with swirling water in it.

There were “Trail Closed” signs, which I made the mistake of ignoring assuming the map would be up to date.


Dougt from Onawa, Ia. on 05/29/2019 09:51 AM
It's good to hear from someone about current trail conditions and hopefully you'll keep posting about conditions over the whole trail. I'll do it again in Sept and plan on Norfolk to O'Neill for my first day and my last day. It looks like a lot of that will be detoured off of the trail from the map that is posted. Any info is appreciated. Thanks!

Alex from Lincoln on 05/30/2019 03:59 PM
The map has not been updated yet but will be shortly to show Bridge 211, west of Oakdale, being closed. That damage occurred very recently.


Opedaler from Northeast Ne on 05/31/2019 02:09 AM
This poor trail just keeps getting hammered. I don't know what the future holds for the Cowboy trail. I hope it is resilient because from what I can see some major repairs are needed.

Cynthya from Salina on 05/31/2019 07:10 AM
Let's hope the weather lets up and the state of Nebraska goes to bat for the tell. We rode The Trail in 2017 from one end to the other and back. There were rough spots then, but we enjoyed the ride and planned to come back.

John from SD on 05/31/2019 07:12 AM
Yesterday, (May 30th, 2019) I was on the section of the trail from Norfolk to Battle Creek. This section of the trail was open and not damaged. When I arrived to Battle Creek to continue on the trail, there was a large sign posted "Trail Closed Until Further Notice". That's when I turned around and headed back to Norfolk.

Clark Martinson from Houston on 05/28/2019 09:02 PM
joining BRAN this weekend and plan on riding Valentine to Atkinson Cowboy trail. Can a carbon fiber bike with 25 cm Continental Gator Slkins work? Or would a Steel touring bike with 32 cm Panasonic Graveling tires be a better choice?

Dougt from Onawa, Ia. on 05/29/2019 09:46 AM
I rode the trail both ways last Sept and would imagine that conditions are worse now after the flood. I'm a road biker but wouldn't even consider a road bike for this trip. I rode a mtn bike with 2 1/2" tires and had no problems, but there were areas that were rough. Look for my posting about trail conditions.

Electric Bike on the Trail
Tom on 05/25/2019 04:07 PM
I am exploring the possibility of riding an ebike on the trail. The model is a Radpower Radmini, which is a folding multi-purpose trail bike with 20" wheels, 4" knobby fat tires with puncture protection (Kenda K-Shield), and front suspension. I have two questions. The first is - are there any prohibitions against an ebike on the trail (it's a Class 2 bike with throttle capable of a top speed of 20mph)? Second question - I would plan on about 35 miles per battery charge, so I am hoping there are spots along the trail where I can plug in and re-charge the battery (I am trying to avoid the weight and cost of a second battery)? In reading several posts I see where some campsites have electricity and others don't. I would hope the locals along the trail would not have any issues if I had a meal in a cafe while charging up the battery.

And just so this doesn't become a discussion between ebikes v. human-power bikes, I am a senior who has physical issues which make the ebike option one that actually allows me to even consider this trip. Thanks for your understanding.

Tom on 05/25/2019 04:14 PM
One clarification: the ebike has a pedal assist feature, which provides motor assistance at a specified level of power. It's not a question of simply using the available throttle as if it were a moped or scooter. I do intend to pedal the bike at a low power assist, hopefully most times at 3 or below (range is 1-5).

Ewing City Park in Ewing
Scott Bigler from Boulder, UT on 05/16/2019 06:34 PM
Our first night is planned in Ewing. Is there actually no place to camp? Suggestions, please.

Cynthya from Salina on 05/17/2019 10:05 AM
We camped at an RV park in Ewing. Most of the little towns have some kind of City Psrk and were very accommodating. I would think you could camp at RV park as well. At the time we were there, there were plenty of goat heads.

riding the cowboy triail
Lori from Berthoud, Colorado on 05/05/2019 10:37 PM
We are planning to bike the trail over Memorial Day weekend, but after reading some of the posts, we are wondering if the trail is open after some flooding? We plan to begin in Valentine and work our way east. Look forward to an update. Thank you.

Lux from Lincoln, Nebraska on 05/15/2019 09:25 AM
Here’s a link to the latest information from the trail manager, Alexander Duryea:

“The cowboy trail will not be entirely open from Valentine to Norfolk for quite some time due to the flood. We are on pace to open Norfolk to Battle Creek, Valentine to Long Pine, and some other sections by May 1st but if we have any further flooding it could delay the opening of those sections. I am working on a map that has open and closed sections that should be posted on in a week or two. That map will be updated as we are able to repair sections of trail so check back there for updates. You will likely have to find detours around the closed sections. There are several bridges, more on the eastern end, that are out – they will be marked on the map. There are tons of great gravel roads that you can utilize for detours as well as the highway.”

Alex from Lincoln on 05/15/2019 11:55 AM
Hi Folks,

The map is live here:

It has not been added to our cowboy trail web-page yet but should be added soon. The map will be updated as we complete repairs but it probably won't be changing much in the next month. Utilized the highway shoulder or gravel roads if you have an appropriate bike for that to detour around the closed sections. And please stay off closed bridges, there are a few you will have to detour around.


Two Rivers Motel in Ewing
Cindy Sheets from Perkins, OK on 05/07/2019 01:09 PM
We camped at the Two Rivers Motel one night while riding the Cowboy Trail last summer. The owner, Vonnie, was hands-down the most hospitable person we met during our week-long ride. Despite being booked full, she allowed us to camp in her backyard, and she even provided firewood and use of her firepit. Such a lovely and interesting person! We're so glad we found that place.

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