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Trail closure east of Valentine
Jeff From Buffalo from Buffalo on 07/17/2021 02:21 PM
Trail closure map shows red east of the Valentine bridge to the parking lot, but I have read two recent posts of riders that claim they rode from valentine to Wood Lake in 2020/21. Anyone know if this closure is still active? Would hate to miss crossing the bridge, but would hate more to add 3 miles to the ride by doubling back to Valentine.

Greg from Bellevue, NE on 07/17/2021 02:40 PM
Following your question. I'm planning on riding from O'Neill, starting Wednesday. Two days to Valentine. Hopefully it's open, or at least open enough to walk bike around closure.... Looking forward to bridge coming into Valentine.

Jeff From Buffalo from Buffalo on 07/21/2021 03:39 PM
Let us know Greg.

Granny Gear from Green Valley, AZ & Grantsburg, WI on 07/21/2021 04:23 PM
Just rode from Valentine to Neligh (7/16-7/19/21. No detours from Valentine to Wood Lake. Actually looks like a new layer of crushed rock (reddish) has been put down. Mostly hard packed, but sometimes a little loose. Detour after Long Pine on a dirt/gravel road. A couple of short detours between O’Neill and Neligh because of washouts that put you on Hwy275 (nice, wide shoulder)

Greg from Bellevue, NE on 07/25/2021 07:36 AM
Trail is clear going into Valentine.

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Wood Lake City Park in Wood Lake
Granny Gear from Green Valley,AZ & Grantsburg,WI on 07/21/2021 04:59 PM
A little off trail, Hwy 20 at the corner of Chestnut St. is Grandma’s Playhouse and Ice cream Shoppe. Hours are a little random, but Norma is a delightful lady and has great ice cream and cold drinks!

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Riverside Park in Neligh
Granny Gear from Green Valley,AZ & Grantsburg,WI on 07/21/2021 04:51 PM
If you call the sheriff’s office, they will let you park a car on the south end of the park for a few days.

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Stuart City Park in Stuart
Granny Gear from Green Valley,AZ & Grantsburg,WI on 07/21/2021 04:49 PM
Awesome city park! Beautiful soft grass to camp on, clean restrooms and it’s free! One added attraction or warning (depending on your outlook), Sunday nights during the summer, Stuart Raceway (which is 200 yards north of the tent camping area) has short track auto races from 6-10pm. It is loud! But lots of fun to go and watch. For $15 you get tons of entertainment and also get to interact with lots of local people.

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Overnight parking in O'Neill
Greg from Bellevue, NE on 07/20/2021 07:33 AM
Starting in O'Neill Wednesday morning, then 2 days ride to Valentine. Anyone know a good place to leave car in O'Neill? Will be back to car on Saturday.

Granny Gear from Green Valley,AZ & Grantsburg,WI on 07/21/2021 04:27 PM
We parked a car at Shamrock Nursery, 1/2 mile east of town. Called ahead and asked and they said no problem, just come in when you get there and give them your car info and they’ll tell you where to park.

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Norfolk to Valentine in 3 days
Greg from Bellevue, NE on 07/05/2021 01:34 PM
Planning on riding from east to west, 3 days. Riding 40 mm tubeless on gravel bike while pulling a Bob trailer with my camping gear. Planning on riding 70 miles or so 1st day, then maybe 60 the next and remainder the 3rd day. Any tips and suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Alex from Lincoln on 07/06/2021 08:15 AM
If it's possible to switch from the Bob Trailer to panniers it may be worth it. I've pulled a Bob on cowboy trail a few times and also done it with panniers and I find panniers to be easier. The Bob felt like a boat anchor at times. It was probably due to me loading more into the bob since I had more room. The other thing to consider it's one more tube you have to worry about going flat. If you go with the bob, keep it light!

Dougt from Onawa, Ia on 07/06/2021 02:47 PM
I'd agree with Alex about panniers over the Bob. If you get into loose gravel on the south end as some reports have noted it seems like it would be really, really tough. And of course you're carrying more weight than in panniers because you've got the room and you can. My annual trip takes 3 days from the east, an 80 and two 60's, then turning around and going back. But I get a room each night. I ride a mtn bike with panniers, 2" tires. Whatever you decide, it will be an adventure and that's why I like the Cowboy Trail. It's not like riding 200 miles on a paved bike trail. Enjoy the journey, put sealant in your tires to be safe, and carry plenty of water on the west end.

Dougt from Onawa, Ia on 07/06/2021 02:53 PM
When I mentioned sealant I was referring to the BOB tires if you go that route, since you're covered with the tubeless on the bike.
I've done this 4 years and only one year did I not have issues with goat heads. Like I said, it's an adventure.

Greg from Bellevue, NE on 07/06/2021 07:21 PM
Thanks for the tips. I have rear rack with panniers. No rack mounts on front fork. Was just going to put tent, sleeping bag and sleep pad in the trailer, about 15 lbs. Now I'm wondering about trailer... Figured if trail was too soft, I could ride highway for a bit.

Greg from Bellevue, NE on 07/07/2021 10:29 AM
Thinking of maybe 2 days now, O'Neill to Valentine. Then hopefully can fit all my gear on the bike, no trailer.

Dave from Sacramento CA on 07/19/2021 09:05 PM
Two days would be very ambitious. The trail is not in great shape in a lot of spots (I only know about Valentine to Bassett, where I am as I write this). When I planned my trip I thought 65 miles would be a reasonably easy start, but It turned out to be tough thanks to the combination of a little overpacking in the panniers, a lot of loose sandy areas and a detour on the trail, and unrelenting sun. I have some pretty thick tires that hit a lot of goat heads despite my attempts to dodge the
(not really possible), and I ended up with one slow-leak flat that I didn’t discover till I was in a hotel kicking back. In cooler weather and with thicker tires, I might go a little farther.

Greg from Bellevue, NE on 07/20/2021 07:29 AM
Thanks Dave. Planning on leaving from O'Neill tomorrow morning (Wednesday). Still planning to camp in Ainsworth that night and then into Valentine Thursday. Hopefully all goes well. Putting more sealant in tires tonight.

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Is it best to go from Valentine to Norfolk? Is it too hot to consider going Aug 1-7th?
Judie from Leonard, MI on 06/29/2021 12:06 PM
Planning to ride the Cowboy trail Aug 1- 7th. Is it best to start at Valentine and end in Norfolk? Is is going to be so hot I should reconsider?

Alex from Lincoln on 06/29/2021 01:10 PM
Average temp seems to be about 87 degrees for the high in the beginning of August but anything is possible in NE. Could be 100 or it could be 60. Keep an eye on the extended forecast and if it looks like it'll be a hot week you can adjust your plans accordingly. Usually folks plan what works logistically better for them. Technically Valentine to Norfolk is downhill elevation wise and prevailing winds sometimes help that direction.

Dougt from Onawa, Ia on 06/29/2021 01:49 PM
I go out and back each year, starting at Norfolk. Did it a couple of weeks later last year but this year will be on the ride the same time as you. If you're conditioned I wouldn't think the heat would be a problem, but be sure to carry lots of water on the west side because services are sparce. Last year there were two of us, each carrying a couple of 28oz water bottles and that wasn't enough on the west end. East of Valentine we came upon a windmill in a field pumping into a tank and we stopped and filled up on cool water, not really caring if it was pure or not. I'll carry 3 water bottles this year. Take precautions to avoid flats because 3 of the 4 years that I've done it I've had goat head thorn issues. If you're worried about the heat maybe wise to start at the east end where there are more services and towns and get acclimated as you head west.

Judie from Leonard,MI on 07/13/2021 02:01 PM
Thanks for the information. I'm planning to get to Valentine Aug 13 or 14 and ride part of the trail.

Dave from Sacramento CA on 07/19/2021 08:55 PM
I rode from Valentine to Bassett today, my first time on the trail, and I will say that the almost total lack of shade is a big factor. It wears on you and gets you hotter than you realize, even when the temperature is one you are used to riding in.

Also, I only saw one other rider all day, in 65 miles on the trail, so make sure to prepare wisely so you don’t end up stranded in the sun. There are motorists and businesses in many areas, but others are isolated.

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Storm Damage
Alex from Lincoln on 07/12/2021 08:08 AM
The trail between Norfolk and O'Neill was hit with another storm over the weekend. Please report any damage here -

Alex from Lincoln on 07/12/2021 01:56 PM
Update - Norfolk to Battle Creek is now passable. Battle Creek to Meadow Grove has many downed trees blocking the trail in areas. Still assessing west of there. Cleanup will likely push into next week.

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Valentine trail conditions
Louisville from Louisville on 07/11/2021 06:05 PM
What are the conditions for cycling the trail from Valentine East and West?

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North Fork Outfitting in Norfolk
Ed Marino from Eaton, CO on 01/09/2021 09:42 PM
Its January 2021 and I just saw your postings on the 2020 group ride from Valentine to Norfolk. How did it go? Doing it again in 2021? How can I track that next ride? Would love to join up. Thanks!

opedaler on 02/24/2021 10:49 PM
I don't think they went. We signed up, but did not receive further notifications. It's still on our bucket list however. I really hope they include a canoeing trip at Valentine. We haven't done that for years but it is a very good, relaxing time. Probably nothing until the pandemic is over is my guess.

Tony Stuthman from NORFOLK on 07/08/2021 07:15 AM
sorry, missed this thread...we did cancel the ride due to the pandemic. I am in the early stages of planning a group ride next season, 2022, thinking of early September. Follow us on facebook at North Fork Outfitting, or our website

Tony Stuthman from NORFOLK on 07/08/2021 07:18 AM
and as for the float trip, probably be in!(Check out our page North Fork Outfitting on FB!

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hoteling the trail
kt22mike from Cape Cod on 05/11/2021 04:19 AM
is it possible to do the entire trail staying in hotels and eating in restaurants? Is there a recommended strategy to do this (which places to stay each night etc.)? Ideally a 4 or 5 day itinerary.

Any shuttle services or buses to get you back to the beginning of the ride?

Jess from Omaha on 05/11/2021 04:50 PM
It's definitely doable but you will likely have one long day.

Valentine to Basset - 64
Bassett to O'Neill - 48
O'Neill to Neligh - 41
Neligh to Norfolk - 35

Valentine has a brewery, restaurants and is a nice place to start and your first day could be a long day to Basset which has a nice down town hotel.

I would also make sure to stop in Atkinson, they have a developing nice town and a nice brewery and pizza restaurant.

Newport has a nice self service pool haul on main street. Johnstown has a nice bar with food.

Another option would be:

Valentine to Ainsworth - 47
Ainsworth to Atkinson - 48
Atkinson to Ewing - 40
Ewing to Norfolk - 54

All of the towns mentioned have hotels listed and a lot of the towns listed have food but you will want to verify.

Have fun

SherryO on 05/11/2021 05:29 PM
The interactive map is very good. You can tailor your trip for your fitness level and side trip interests. Don’t rush it because the best thing about the trail is the interaction with some of the nicest, salt of the earth, people you will ever meet.

SherryO on 05/11/2021 05:35 PM
The interactive map is very good. You can tailor your trip for your fitness level and side trip interests. Don’t rush it because the best thing about the trail is the interaction with some of the nicest, salt of the earth, people you will ever meet.

Gilbert Pena from raleigh on 06/20/2021 01:28 PM
I will be riding the trail real soon with this schedule:
* 29 June - Dropped off @ Econolodge Valentine
* 30 June - Valentine to Ainsworth 47 - Rodeway Inn
* 1 July - 48 miles to Atkinson - Sandhills Guest House
* 2 July - 40 miles to Ewing - Two Rivers Motel
* 3 July - 54 miles to Norfolk - Picked up @ Trail Head!
I am bringing a beach cruiser with fat tires!
I am looking forward to a fun ride!

Tony Stuthman from NORFOLK on 07/08/2021 06:56 AM
guess I missed this earlier. If you haven't completed your ride yet, I offer shuttle between Norfolk and Valentine. Total cost with tax is $401.25 for 1-4 riders, and $50 per additional rider.
my number is 402-316-0157 North Fork Outfitting.

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New gravel
Will Fisher from Marinette Wisconsin on 06/22/2021 06:45 PM
Just an FYI. There is new gravel that has made the sect from Norfolk to O’Neal very difficult. Deep sand and gravel. We are going across the country and this was a huge disappointment. We are on gravel bikes with 38mm tires with packs . we came across two women that were giving up after falling several times. We finally finished on highway 20. I made a call into the trail manager Alex to express my disappointment but never heard back.

Peter Sheridan from Santa Rosa California on 06/23/2021 08:47 AM
I agree. Worst trail conditions I have ever experienced in all the trail riding I have done. It's inexcusable.
Gap trail, Katy trail, c&o trail and Alps to Ocean and Otago in New Zealand have none of these issues. Why can't these people get it right?

Ah Jeez from Iowa on 06/23/2021 09:38 AM
How long is the stretch of new gravel? I am heading to Valentine tomorrow to ride the trail back to Norfolk. I am riding recumbent and this could be a game changer for me. It surely isn't loose gravel all the way from Norfolk to O'neill.

Peter Sheridan from Santa Rosa California on 06/23/2021 01:18 PM
Somewhere between Neligh and Norfolk the sand traps got the best of me. It was about 20 feet long and about 6 inches deep. After a few maneuvers I got stuck and stoped dead and went over. The rest of the trail is good to moderate. You have to stay alert for the drifts of sand and small sand holes. You'll have to get out and push through a few places if you're not used to it.

Alex from Lincoln on 06/29/2021 02:51 PM
Thanks for reporting these conditions. A unprecedented flood in 2019 had deposited a lot of silt on the trail and eroded the base material in a number of areas which is likely the cause of these soft spots. We made a bunch of temporary repairs to re-open the trail so folks could use it until a permanent fix could be done. If you recall the exact location of any of these areas please report them here:

West to east from Boulder co on 07/03/2021 10:37 AM
We are in Bassett riding west to east on 700x38mm tires. The reported goat heads are not out yet. There are brushy parts of the trail and some gravel patches but for strong riders with good bike handling skills everything east of lone pine is a good ride. There is a detour around a section of closed trail east of lone pine.

opedaler from Ne nerbraska on 07/04/2021 01:13 AM
The cowboy trail has been fraught with issues since its opening, and the flooding is just one issue imo. Another has been lack of interest from riders. There is the "If you build it they will come" crowd, and then there is the "We will fix if we see interest" crowd. Both have legitimate concerns imo. When it was first opened it was in pretty good shape imo, but it was frustrating to see so many taking the highway anyway. We rode from Norfolk to Neligh and back and only saw one other individual......a bird watcher on foot.....on the trail. It is my sincere hope that covid will bring out some more outdoors people to such a fun pastime.

As for us, retirement is giving us the chance to try some new trails.......Coeur d'Alene, Hiawatha, Mickelson (we've done that one before), Katy, and the Mopac, Homestead and Standing Bear in Nebraska. We'll have a better chance to evaluate after this year.

Biker4 from Papillion, NE on 07/06/2021 11:54 AM
Thank You opedaler for your comments. I agree with your thoughts-
riders still taking the highway. One thing that is wrong is the negative comments other riders post as to repairs done to the trail but not posted on their completion . Riders do not want to go half way through an area they heard was to be repaired but not posted as completed ie trail sign for completed work or updates posted at trailheads.
I have ridden all of the trail you listed and more. When doing so talking to other riders they have a bad opinion of the cowboy trail with bridges out, loose gravel, goat heads poor sign instructions as well as slow repairs. I live in Papillion and have not tried to ride the trail since the flood and was hopping to ride late this year if I hear better reviews on the trail. WHO DO YOU BELIEVE?

Cynthya from Lewis,KS on 07/06/2021 12:55 PM
As I have said in previous posts, my husband and I rode this trail in 2017. It was challenging at times, but still rideable.
We rode Ranz recumbents (V and Formula LE) with 20 " wheel on front and 26" on back. We got off the trail at Ainsworth just before the Co-Op. A local person told us that the stickers were really bad along that area. The only other highway riding we did was where we had to get off at Clearwater because the bridge was out (and it is still out), due to the flooding that they had years ago.

Getting a rails to trail up and going is a lot of work. You have to have people that want to do a lot of hard work as well as all the paperwork and struggles dealing with people not on board.

Any of these trails that are up and running and have really good conditions have been there because of dedicated interested people who have put in a lot of hard work.. not to mention maintenance.

It's the old rock and hard place...Make a trail and they'll come...maybe. Fix it and they'll come ...maybe.

Problems or no...I hope someday to ride The Cowboy Trail again. Things are never easy... but if people wait for will never happen!.

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Bassett City Park in Bassett
West to east from Boulder co on 07/03/2021 10:28 AM
Not a park. There is some grass with cactus near the high school. No bathrooms no tables there is water. Stay at the Bassett lodge if you spend the night here. It’s awesome.

Dougt from Onawa, Ia on 07/04/2021 10:04 AM
There is a nice park in Bassett. You have to leave the trail and ride south to the edge of town. It's right across the highway. Water, open shelter w/picnic tables, several buildings.

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Bassett City Park in Bassett
West to east from Boulder co on 07/03/2021 10:28 AM
Not a park. There is some grass with cactus near the high school. No bathrooms no tables there is water. Stay at the Bassett lodge if you spend the night here. It’s awesome.

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Trail conditions
KW from Lincoln on 06/28/2021 08:53 AM
Nebraska needs to up their game. My son and friend just biked Lincoln to Black Hills and they hated the Cowboy Trail due to goatheads and a range of poor trail conditions...ended up doing mostly highway. They were worried Mickelson Trail would be similar but it was great and they loved it. Some of the camping options in towns along the Cowboy Trail were pretty weak too. For example, why have a campground but lock the bathroom?

Cynthya from Lewis,KS on 06/28/2021 10:20 AM
Bet the locked bathroom was in Woodlake? We experienced that. We rode back in 2017 and it was mostly ridable. We did get off the trail at Clearwater for a spell because the river washed out crossing. There was one bridge had a big hole washed out at bridge 184 (I think) potential for a bad wreck. We did ride all of the trail except for the part there at Clearwater. Wasn't always easy. Either we were lucky in respect to goatheads or maybe not as bad the year we rode? No flat tires but we generally stopped and carried our bikes across the roadway because it seemed like there were more goatheads at those crossings. We always checked our tires before we started again. Things you really shouldn't have to do to have an enjoyable ride. That could be a great trail. I suppose part of problem is maybe they don't get enough traffic, but hard to get traffic when people hear how much trouble they can potentially have. Even with all those troubles I hope to be able to go back and ride again someday... I would really like to see the trail finished to Chadron, but I suppose that's a long ways in the future, if ever.

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shuttle a vechile
Hal Wayne from Denver on 05/25/2021 06:51 PM
Want to ride oneway... Any suggestions on shuttling our car from Valentine to Norfolk ?? Would plan to ride the last week of june 2021.. Thanks..

Charles on 05/26/2021 09:59 PM
My friend and I recently used a uhaul for transportation. We rented one in Oneill, left our cars and put the bicycles in the uhaul. We then drove to Valentine and turned in the uhaul. An option to consider!

Tony Stuthman from NORFOLK on 05/27/2021 06:59 AM
North Fork Outfitting in Norfolk offers shuttle service. 402-316-0157
Total cost with tax is $401.25 for up to 4 riders.

Hal Wayne from Denver on 05/31/2021 01:05 PM
Did check with North Fork Outfitting, they would charge $401 for one person oneway even if you meet them at Valeentine for their return trip back to Norfolk, that was without any gear my body only..

Tony Stuthman from NORFOLK on 06/27/2021 08:23 PM
that is actually the price for up to 4 riders with bikes and any gear/ trailers etc...about $100 each with tax....

Peter Sheridan from Santa Rosa California on 06/28/2021 08:47 AM
We used the shuttle to Valentine. Tony picked us up in Norfolk at our hotel and droped us off in Valentine at our hotel. It was a Three hour ride with all our gear. Some people on this forum seem to be a little out of sorts with this but really it's the normal for all other shuttles here and everywhere else. Tony was also a good source for info on the trail.

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Alex from Lincoln on 06/24/2021 11:01 AM
Hi all - the Cowboy Trail area got hammered pretty good by the storm yesterday. Please help by reporting any downed trees, flooding, etc. here:

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Miriam from Columbus, NE on 06/21/2021 07:14 AM
Does anyone know if dogs on leashes are allowed on the Cowboy Trail? Or is it prohibited since horses are on the trail as well?

Alex from Lincoln on 06/21/2021 08:21 AM
Pets must be on a leash no longer than 6', but yes they are allowed.

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Spring Valley Park in Newport
Charles on 05/23/2021 06:19 PM
This campground seems abandoned - we scoped it out in May 2021.
The grass was mowed, but the water was off and that bathrooms were locked. The nearby house seemed abandoned and the buildings were nearly falling over.

The other commenter is correct about the pool hall - its located directly south of the trail in the middle of Newport. They have various snacks + cold drinks for sale using the honors system. I called a phone number on the vending machine outside and was told that I could camp behind the pool hall and that there was water in front of the city hall nearby. There didn't appear to be any restrooms, but there were a few homes that seemed occupied nearby.

Cynthya from Lewis,KS on 05/23/2021 09:30 PM
Agree about The Eight Ball(I think it is called). We were there in 2014...did not realize you could go in. We were back the next day and a local told us it was open and honor system. It is a nice little place...but as facilities.

Luke from Omaha on 06/16/2021 01:57 PM
+1 for the Newport Pool Hall. Good spot for camping w/water just down the road by the community center and church. Melissa and Shawn have a special thing going there, and talked to us about plans to possibly install a restroom near the pool hall for bike campers. I hope travelers stop and support the pool hall and their efforts. Was truly one of the highlights of our trip.

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Neligh to Norfolk
Peter Sheridan from Santa Rosa California on 06/14/2021 06:52 PM
A few miles out of Neligh there is a detour. It's the section that veers away from the highway and a missed scenic opportunity. Connect back to the trail where it becomes visible from the road. The stooges that work on this trail set a sand trap for me this morning that I couldn't get out of. Despite having fairly good mountain bike skills six inches of loose material and about twenty feet of it got the best of me and I went down before I could unclip. Surprisingly the rest of the trail is solid and quick going. Don't know why the trail conditions are so inconsistent. Neligh to Norfolk is pretty scenic with river views at the end. Lots of opportunities for food and water along this section.

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O'Neill to Neligh
Peter Sheridan from Santa Rosa California on 06/13/2021 08:20 PM
Trail conditions in this part are good. A few stretches have the red rock fines laid to thick. I don't know what possessed whomever to do this. Somebody should get a tractor and scrape it off. It will never sink in to the base. The parts with the grey rock are the best with only a thin layer on top of the base. You can make good time on this. Ewing has a market but it's closed on Sunday. Up the road there is a Hiway Mart with snacks and drinks. You can see it from the trail on the left. After Clearwater there is a detour pointing to the highway. The trail bridge is out. There is no signage on where to get back on the trail. The best thing to do is ride on the road till you see the orange pylons where the trail used to be. This part has been washed out by the river. After you pass these look for the next dirt path back to the trail and your on your way to Neligh in about two miles.

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