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Share your comments, questions, opinions, and advice on the Cowboy Trail.
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Is this trail paved
Smc from Joplin Missouri on 04/24/2020 02:18 PM
Is this a paved trail

Cynthya from Lewis, KS on 04/24/2020 03:34 PM
?????? Through some towns it is paved. For the most part it is gravel and some sandy spots. It can be little hard going but it's well worth riding. We wrote it almost 4 years ago on Ranz recumbent. Loved it even even through the rough spots. O would do it again. In answer to your question. No, the trail is not paved. But is a great ride!

Average miles per day
Mason from Neligh on 03/03/2020 08:21 AM
Planning a 2 day bike ride with friend. (50+ women in decent shape). Trying to figure out about how many miles per day is realistic (taking in a few rest and sight seeing in the trail). Anyone with suggestions of best parts to ride.

Ray [webmaster] on 03/03/2020 07:55 PM
This varies a lot from person to person - for some people it might be 20 miles a day, for others it could be 80 miles.

Luckily you are close to the trail, so you can go out there and take some test rides on weekends. Maybe try riding just 5 or 10 miles out and 5-10 back. If you still feel good, do another 5+5 or whatever feels attainable. Try again the next weekend, adding distance, to see what feels right.

Don't just go out and ride 50 miles without a little advance riding, or it will not go well. You might be in great cardiovascular shape with strong legs, but your butt will be screaming if you you haven't gotten some "saddle time" in advance.

So that's not a very straightforward answer, but it's (I think) good advice. Once you get out and do a few long rides, your body will tell you the ultimate answer of what distance works for you.

Good luck and happy trails!

Mason from Neligh on 03/04/2020 08:57 AM
Thanks. My family is from Neligh but I live in SW Iowa and have the Wabash Trace trail realy close. Did a 20 mile ride in about 4 hours-but was sore. Thanks for the tip

Rosie on 03/04/2020 01:11 PM
My friend and I, 50s and 60s, average about 20 miles a day, but we have done more. We are so recreational, and enjoy exploring every little town. We talk and talk and pedal and pedal and take pictures, and talk and talk and pedal and pedal.

Cynthya from Lewis, KS on 03/04/2020 02:15 PM
My husband and I rode almost 3 years ago. We would park in a town and ride 20 miles east one day and west the next day. So we could say we rode from Valentine to Norfolk and back. We had an absolutely wonderful ride and time. Love the trail
Lumps, bumps and all. All good!

Rosie from South Dakota on 03/14/2020 08:30 AM
My friend and I, 50s and 60s, just finished our longest days of 35 and 40 miles. That was big for us, but we still had fun along the way. We think exploring the towns are a big part of the trail. Very tired at the end of those days!

Is Valentine to Norfolk currently open and passable with hybrid bikes?
Jamie Bray from Lincoln, NE on 03/03/2020 04:18 PM
My wife and I have always wanted to ride the Cowboy Trail from one side to the other and were thinking of possibly attempting in late April, 2020. Can anybody please tell us if the current trail has been repaired to travel on since the flooding last year? Also, for those who have traveled the Cowboy Trail, are hybrid bicycles ok to travel with on this trail? We've biked the Katy Trail but from reading through these posts there seems to be quite a difference. Thanks for all your help!

Rosie from South Dakota on 03/14/2020 08:26 AM
A friend and I just finished the section from Norfolk to O Neill on March 12 and 13. The trail was often quite soft and resistant. There are marked detours for washouts and missing bridges. There was one large washout that needed some creative passage. Be aware, have fun, take the highway that parallels the trail when necessary.

Bike Rentals/Full Service Shuttle
North Fork Outfitting LLC from norfolk on 03/08/2020 09:43 AM
Hey folks, just fyi, we have solid tire 7 speed Specialized hybrid rental bikes, other bikepacking related gear for use on the trail, as well as a full service shuttle. Call 402-316-0157 for info or reservations!

Current conditions
Rosie on 03/04/2020 01:08 PM
Does anyone have "eyes on" trail conditions RIGHT now? Most interested in the section from Norfolk to O'Neill. Curious about early spring riding. Thank you

Pepper from Grant NE on 03/04/2020 04:38 PM
I have just talked to Games and Parks and he said from Oakdale to Neligh the bridge is washed out. Also, from Neligh to Clearwater should probably take the highway.

North Fork Outfitting LLC from norfolk on 03/08/2020 09:27 AM
Both are very short detours, the trail is 50 yards from the highway, so fairly easy.

Panda Trans
George from Poncha Springs CO on 02/24/2020 11:36 AM
Has anyone used Panda in Valentine for shuttle. I didn't get an answer when I called.

DandyDon from Fairfield, Ohio on 02/24/2020 06:01 PM
Last summer six of us used North Fork Outfitting and were shuttled from Valentine to Norfolk. It worked out just fine.

George from Poncha Springs CO on 03/04/2020 09:27 PM
Thanks for the info.

North Fork Outfitting LLC from norfolk on 03/08/2020 09:21 AM
Hi George, give me a call at 402-316-0157 to hook up a date.

Cowboy Trail Maps/Information
NG from Omaha on 02/26/2020 01:01 PM
Hi All,

I am an architecture student at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. My thesis revolves around the Cowboy Trail. I would like to design campsites and bike shops along the trail along with other programmatic spaces. I was wondering if anyone had any information about the trail. I am looking for:
- Maps
- Drawings
- How towns along the trail use the cowboy trail

Any information would be awesome. Thanks!

Panda Transportation in Valentine
AJK from Overland Park, KS on 02/20/2020 10:27 PM
Do you do bike rentals or recommend a place that does? Family with 7 or maybe 8 riders .... too many for us to transport...

George from Poncha Springs CO on 02/23/2020 05:02 PM
What is the price from Valentine to Norfolk. Looking for late September.

Trail to Chadron
Stephen McGregor from Hannibal, MO on 02/10/2020 09:35 AM
So what's the trail like from Valentine to Chadron? Is it passable, it is fairly well kept? We've ridden all but that part and would like to come back finish it and then go on up to the Michelson for a couple of days of riding.


Karl from West Nyack,NY on 02/10/2020 10:28 AM
The trail from Valentine to Chadron is called US Route 20. I rode that way last May on a cross country ride, and was hoping to ride stretches of the “unimproved” trail, but it really doesn’t exist, and is behind cattle fences most the way. You might see a couple of old rail trestles off the road, but nothing rideable. I might be forgetting some rideable stretch here or there, but I don’t remember seeing any.

Cynthya from Lewis, KS on 02/10/2020 10:43 AM
We traveled Valentine to Norfolk and back in August of 2017. When we questioned in Valentine about the passability of the trail from Valentine to Norfolk the report was not encouraging, however that was not the case. The trail was passable better in some places than others, but definitely worth the trip.. My understanding is there is a short segment west of Valentine complete, but that for the most part, it is still rough and incomplete to Chadron. We have been hoping for that to open up. We would love to ride all The Cowboy Trail... Trail building takes time, money and people with the desire... Maybe with some
oordination, people wanting to ride could supply some labor...but takes coordinating and cooperation..

Alex from Lincoln on 02/11/2020 09:41 AM
There is 15 miles of newly surfaced trail between Gordon and Rushville, NE. Other than that, it is just the railroad bed (ballast/dirt) between Valentine and Chadron. Technically the cowboy trail ends about 5 miles east of Chadron at Mile Marker 400.

While a handful of people have attempted the portion west of Valentine, it is not easy and is not maintained as an open trail. I would not encourage anyone to do it, but it is possible if you're prepared. A fat bike or plus sized tire is almost required I'd say.

If you are seriously interested, give me a call - 402-471-5443

Fully supported Valentine to Norfolk 4 day bike Adventure Sept. 2020
North Fork Outfitting LLC from norfolk on 12/17/2019 12:38 PM
Hey folks, I want to promote a fully supported 200 mile 4 day Cowboy Trail Adventure ride in September of 2020. I am looking for volunteers from Neligh, O'Neil, and Long Pine or Bassett to use money provided to purchase food from local grocery and prepare it for the evening meal in the city park, along with local entertainment. I am planning to cap at 100 riders, who would either camp in the park or rent local hotel/motel rooms.(camping costs would be included in ride fees.) I will be calling a meeting of those interested in promoting your city in Norfolk in early January. Please get me your contact info if you would like to be included. Thanks!

North Fork Outfitting LLC from norfolk on 12/17/2019 12:41 PM
We will be donating a portion of the proceeds to help repair the flood damaged areas of the trail.

Trail Rider from Hampshire, IL on 01/02/2020 03:52 PM
I see that you are maybe planning a 4 day ride on the Cowboy Trail. I would love to ride with this group. I will keep watching for more information. What a great fund raising idea. I would gladly contribute.

North Fork Outfitting LLC from norfolk on 01/11/2020 10:45 AM
A bit more planning to do, but looks like the ride will be Labor Day weekend. $300 per person will include shuttle to Valentine, snack/water checkoints every 15-20 miles, 3 nights of camping with evening meal and local entertainment, town to town gear shuttle, 2 on trail support riders and 1 on highway, An event T-shirt and a local business "goody bag"! Please like us on Facebook for more info. We have a final planning meeting the first week in Feb., web site will be up to date and ready to start registering then.

North Fork Outfitting LLC from norfolk on 02/02/2020 01:03 PM

Panda Transportation in Valentine
Nancy Working from Golden CO on 12/29/2019 02:35 PM
Hoping to ride 100 miles of this trail from Valentine this spring. Where will you pick up along the trail and how much is the cost per person?

HEARTLAND FLOOD: The long road to recovery for Nebraska's Cowboy Trail
Ray (webmaster) on 12/07/2019 10:54 AM
Eight months after massive floods in Nebraska washed out chunks of one of the nation’s longest stretches of trail, crews are still trying to repair the scenic pathway used by hikers, bikers and horse riders

Source: WOWT

Full story:

Goathead thorns
Lee from DENHAM SPRINGS on 11/11/2019 10:13 AM
When is the WORST time for Goathead thorns? I'm planning a trip for the cowboy trail in late May or early June. Or should I plan for a different time of year?


Donna from Glasco on 11/11/2019 10:32 AM
Early spring before they firm up and dry out to reek their

Maynard from Lincoln on 12/05/2019 09:12 PM
The only place I found thorns was just west of Ainsworth, and it was only for 1/4 to 1/2 a mile. I bought thicker tires and put kevlar inserts in them. Never had a problem after that.

Alex from Lincoln on 12/06/2019 10:25 AM
I'll second "goatheads just west of Ainsworth". That's the only place I've ever had trouble getting flats with them on the entire trail.

Marna from Belle Fourche, SD on 08/24/2017 05:04 PM
My husband and I have ridden the Katy Trail End to End and the entire Mickelson Both Directions.

We are planning a trip to Nebraska to ride one the Cowboy Trail from Valentine to Arabia.

We heard that some sections of the Cowboy Trail are being illegally fenced by ranchers there. Does anyone know if this are we are going to be riding is fence free and in good repair?

Cynthya from Salina on 08/25/2017 01:35 AM
This trail is definitely not the Katy Trail. We just rode this section earlier this month. It is rougher than Katy. Some weedy areas and holes, lose gravel. None of it was fenced off (though we got that impression from the local police in Valentine). The big bridge you will ride across is spectacular and the scenery along this section beautiful. It is disappointing that there is opposition, however we did not run into any of that and we rode to Norfolk. The lack of maintenance in parts of the trail is disappointing also. They have a great treasure here and I hope that they will keep it up and folks will come to ride!

Marna from Belle Fourche, SD on 08/25/2017 11:30 AM

We knew it was not the Katy and or the Mickleson..... and I am so glad to have your input.

I bought the book on the Cowboy Trail, but could tell right away when I started reading it that it is PC Bull....especially after talking to others that have ridden the trail.

We are looking forward to starting this Trail and again, THANK YOU FOR YOUR REPLY!

Stephen McGregor from Hannibal, MO on 09/13/2017 11:38 AM
Everyone we met was friendly. And yes, a little maintenance would be good, just trying to keep some of the vegetation down, and the only place the trail was really bad for "mushy" conditions was from Bassett to Newport, that's where my friend Lisa took a tumble and cut her elbow and knee. There seemed to be a lot of "loose" granite gravel, and were later told by one of the local ranchers we were talking to that the ground is really "sub irrigated" from the aquifer, and there is little you can do about it. He (and correctly so) advised the ride from Stuart on would be different. One rancher's wife that was out walking with her dog on the trail in that area told us that water was only about 2 feet down.

But I think if they would brush out their four wheeler tracks a bit with something behind them when they spray that would help some. Most of the roughness we found was from fourwheeler tracks.

Marna from Belle Fourche, SD on 09/14/2017 09:30 AM
Thanks for your reply!
And again, I really enjoyed reading about your trip on the Cowboy....
Let us know when you come do the Mickelson....we will try to meet you for at least a short ride and perhaps a meal together.

Stephen McGregor from Hannibal, MO on 09/14/2017 02:46 PM
Hi Marna, yes, if we get to come back up that way next year and ride the Mickleson, we certainly will. Right now that is in our sights...

Marna from Belle Fourche, SD on 09/17/2017 11:20 AM
Sounds Great!
We are hoping to get back out on the Mickelson this week....although we got a LOT of recent rain. I do have a Blog about Mickelson if you were interested in seeing it....

We are also hoping/praying to get to ride some of the Katy Trail later this year with our Children and Grandchildren who live in St. Louis County. We started riding bicycle with our children as babies....and they are still riding bicycles and now riding with their children.

Still planning that Cowboy Trail Trip for this Fall...hoping this month or next.

Stephen McGregor from Hannibal, MO on 09/18/2017 08:31 AM
Hi Marna, I looked at your blog (I'll print it, I don't read well on the screen), but I like how you've done this. Lisa and I have ridden the Katy extensively (except the little piece from Clinton to Sedalia)... And we love it. The Cowboy Trail was lots more challenging, but it was a great time. If you come to Missouri (StL) let me know and we'll try and ride a bit with you.


Marna from Belle Fourche, SD on 09/18/2017 10:13 AM

IF you enjoyed the Cowboy Trail for the adventure, you might like the Ice Age Trail in WI. There is (or was) camping on or near the trail in some areas and WI IS LOVELY! We lived there 9 years and left kicking and screaming. ;-)

The Mickelson is not the Katy, but I bet you guys will LOVE IT!

Again. Thanks for your note.

ps.... I do not like reading 'on screen' either. I often print out pages to sit down and read.

Brad Hayward from Bolivar MO on 10/06/2017 11:03 AM
We just rode the trail from Atkinson to Valentine and back and we never noticed any illegal fencing going on. As for the section between Valentine and Arabia one should prepare for some pretty major washboarding for a few miles west of Arabia.

Stephen McGregor from Hannibal, MO on 10/13/2017 11:23 AM
Videos of our three day ride from Valentine to Inman (Glad to see the car still where we left it three days earlier in the last of the day 3 video). But you can get some ideas of trail conditions from each of our days. One WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE:

Kevin Meier from Huntsville, Alabama on 10/15/2019 01:41 PM
My wife are planning a trip that will start at the top of the Mickleson Trail and end at the eastern terminus of the Cowboy Trail. But we are unfamiliar with the dirt roads of South Dakota. (Which Google has us on from Edgemont to Oelrichs.) Are they traversable via bicycle or should we only stick to paved roads? Thanks!

Bassett to O Neill
Pepper from Grant NE on 10/14/2019 11:12 AM
My friend from S D just biked the trail from Bassett to O Neill ( we l picked up there from biking from Valentine a year ago). This year was a bad year for flooding I. This area, so we rescheduled our trip 3 times before we were able to meet up! We love to bike this trail, but this time parts were rough and one bridge was washed out. Just be careful and alert! We camped in the Stuart and Adkison City Parks! Great facilities in both Parks. Hope you will take the time to explore these towns along The Trail! We are planning to meet in O Neill and finish at Norfolk!!

Mickelson Trail
Ray [webmaster] on 02/26/2017 04:02 PM
I have created a new website for the Mickelson Trail in South Dakota: follows the same design and features as this website. It doesn't have photos yet, but the trip planning tools are all there. If you've ridden the Mickelson, I welcome any photos you'd like to send. And I welcome any feedback, whether you have ridden it or not.

Happy trails!

Paula DeWald from Fort Wayne indiana on 09/10/2019 09:20 AM
Hello Ray, I have used your web site for the Katy Trail and this year I used your web site for the Erie Canal. I am using the site for the Mickelson Trail this September, I think you do a great job. Keep up, the great work to help bicyclists. Your info is great for self guided trips. I take pictures of the lists of restaurants and bike shops, bathrooms on the trails for each town I want to check out and keep the, on my phone for quick reference as we bike. I sometimes use your info to take a picture of the eatery restaurant or beer place so I’m sure not to miss it. Thanks very much and happy planning! Paula ???????

Opedaler from northeast Nebraska on 09/12/2019 11:47 PM
My wife and I are heading up to ride the Mickelson Trail next week. I'm not sure of its current condition but look forward to the ride. Sorry but no pictures from my end.

Outside of a few sagged group rides we spend much of our riding time on trails and bike paths. Rails to Trails have become our "go to" choice of riding. They are scenic, fun and SAFE. Do I miss the continuous roar of traffic in my ear? Not one bit.

I was attending a meeting in O'Neill, Ne some years back when the speaker from Tampa, Fl asked why he was the only one on the (Cowboy) trail. He said back home this trail would be elbow-to-elbow. He said he hoped the few of you who use this trail know what a gold mine you have.

Cynthya from Salina on 09/13/2019 05:28 PM
We rode the Cowboy Trail in August of 2017. It was a great ride. As the gentleman from Florida said..not many riders on the trail. Lots of potential and we would love to be able to see it finished and open all the way to Chadron.

Jeff from Lincoln on 10/10/2019 02:53 PM
The website for the Cowboy is very helpful in preparation for our tandem ride from Valentine to Norfolk this month. We hope the snow doesn't accumulate and the temperatures rise quickly. Our goal was to see the leaves changing and spend some quiet time together. We rode the Mickelson Trail this summer and were impressed with the scenery, rail tunnels and the condition of the trail. That 17 mile climb out of Deadwood on a tandem is no joke. There is also a fee per day for riding the Mickelson Trail while the Cowboy is free. We also purchased a Michelson Trail guide book off their website and it was very helpful. I recently purchased the Cowboy Trail book and love the history and information. I would like to see some of the information you provide on your website to be included along with pictures, history and general information in one handy book that would pack nicely in a bike bag.

I want to thank you for all the work you have put into creating and maintaining the website! Excellent service and I am using it again today nailing down our trip details. Thanks again.

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