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tire size
Kathleen from Cincinnati OH on 10/09/2020 07:25 AM
Thanks for responses to my previous questions, now I have a few more.

Can you use 28 mm tires on the trail? Or do you need bigger ones?

Alex from Lincoln on 10/09/2020 03:17 PM
While it is possible with 28c tires, your experience will be better on the trail with at least a 35c. Ideally stuff the widest tire you can in your bike frame and run a lower psi to make your bike more supple. Running tubeless with sealant is best as well in case goatheads are present or at least tubes with some sealant in them.

from Norfolk to Omaha
Kathleen from Cincinnati OH on 10/09/2020 07:27 AM
So the NDOT map suggests using 275 to get back to Omaha from the eastern end of the trail but that road has trucks traveling at 75 mph! Any other ideas about how to get back on county roads (far less traveled)?

Alex from Lincoln on 10/09/2020 03:04 PM
The NDOT map is not recommending using 275, the map shows the traffic volumes of the road and marks 275 as red which is a high traffic roadway and thus should be avoided. Utilize roadways that are either purple or green which are lower traffic routes according to the map. Note that the width of the line indicates whether or not the road has a shoulder and also the width of that road shoulder.

best sections
Ellen from Chicago on 09/27/2020 07:06 PM
Can anyone suggest the best parts to do? I don't want to go on the highway and it sounds as if the trail does that in a few places. Thanks

Alex from Lincoln on 09/28/2020 11:04 AM
Many regard the stretch between Long Pine and Valentine to be the most scenic but it depends what you're into. And the trail doesn't go on the highway at all but runs adjacent to it in some areas. It's usually separated by at least 50 - 75 feet. There are some damaged areas though that require detours. See NGPC's map for where those areas are.

Ellen from Chicago on 09/28/2020 12:16 PM

Rob from Omaha on 10/02/2020 11:20 AM
I would echo Alex's reply. WAs up in the Valentine/Longpine area last weekend. Some people ride on Highway 20 where the trail parallel's it but there is no need to. Beautiful country!

Kathleen from Cincinnati OH on 09/26/2020 06:16 PM

Three of us are planning to ride from Seattle to Omaha next June. I think we might use the Cowboy Trail to cross NE.

Two questions:
1. Will we have to worry about goatherds that time of year? (She asks, hoping the answer is no)
2. Any advice about getting from Norfolk to Omaha?

And where is the bunkhouse?

Alex from Lincoln on 09/28/2020 11:11 AM
There is always the potential for goat heads in the summer, just have to be prepared. To get from Norfolk to Omaha, take a look at NDOT's bike map. It shows highway usage so you can pick a route with low traffic.

I think you're referring to the Long Pine Bunkhouse? If so:

Rob from Omaha on 10/02/2020 11:16 AM
Go tubeless and as others have mentioned don't pull them out. I was on a section of it last weekend in the longpine/valentine area with no issues.

best sections
Ellen from Chicago on 09/27/2020 07:06 PM
Can anyone suggest the best parts to do? I don't want to go on the highway and it sounds as if the trail does that in a few places. Thanks

best sections
Ellen from Chicago on 09/27/2020 07:06 PM
Can anyone suggest the best parts to do? I don't want to go on the highway and it sounds as if the trail does that in a few places. Thanks

best sections
Ellen from Chicago on 09/27/2020 07:06 PM
Can anyone suggest the best parts to do? I don't want to go on the highway and it sounds as if the trail does that in a few places. Thanks

Carriage House Motel in O'Neill
Henry on 09/24/2020 11:23 AM
Nothing about this place has changed, even with new ownership! The staff is still rude and the place is unprofessional and incredibly unclean!!
My recommendation is to take your money elsewhere!

Trail from Valentine west
Pepper from Grant NE on 09/18/2020 10:10 AM
Just wondering if anyone knows the condition of the Trail from Valentine west... or possibly Chadron east?

Alex from Lincoln on 09/22/2020 09:09 AM
The trail west of valentine was never developed. Recently though a 15 mile section between Gordon and Rushville, NE has been completed.

Cynthia from Omaha on 09/23/2020 04:36 PM
Going about 10 miles west of Bassett there is a bridge out with a decent detour.

East City Park in Ainsworth
Heidi R Richey from Cumberland on 09/12/2020 01:17 PM
Wondering if there are hot showers available at this campground.

Alex on 09/15/2020 08:11 AM
Not 100% sure but there is a pool there so most likely they do.

Pepper from Grant NE on 09/18/2020 10:13 AM
I have camped at the City Park and there are not showers, but nice restrooms!

Norfolk to Valentine
Ted Wuebben from omaha on 09/08/2020 02:59 PM
Is the City park in Ewing available for camping our first stop

We are riding from Norfolk to Valentine starting Thursday sept 10th As board memebers of Parkinson's Nebraska (an organization that helps people with Parkinson's and their care givers on a daily bases) we will be stopping, shopping, eating and hopefully making more people aware of how we can help those who suffer from Parkinson's.

we hope to do about 50 miles a day

Sherry Olson from East Ellijay on 09/08/2020 03:43 PM
Do you have a site following your journey? Wonderful cause. Wish you the best!

William Regan from Morro Bay, ca. on 09/03/2020 08:17 PM
What direction is best to ride? Start in Norfolk or Valentine?

Alex on 09/04/2020 11:00 AM
Both have the pros and cons. Riding Valentine to Norfolk gives you prevailing winds. Norfolk to Valentine, you end with the bridge over the Niobrara River. I live in Lincoln so I prefer Valentine to Norfolk so it's only a 2 hour drive home vs 5 hours when I finish the trail.

William Regan from Morro Bay,ca. on 09/04/2020 08:25 PM
Thanks Alex!

Fastest Known Time
Jon Fye from Omaha on 08/31/2020 09:53 AM
Does anyone know what is the fastest time on foot to complete Norfolk to Valentine?

Alex on 08/31/2020 10:46 AM
There's been a few Ultra marathons on the trail. I think one guy ran the whole thing in a weekend a few years ago.

Favorite 100 mile stretch
Marc from Boston, MA on 08/24/2020 08:35 AM
My Son and I have limited time for a bikepacking trip. We can cover about 100 miles.

Any recommendations on which section of the trail would give us the most bang for the buck? Scenery? Point of interests? etc.

We can both tent camp and hotel stay as necessary

We are from New England so this is some new landscapes for us.


Marc from Boston, MA on 08/24/2020 08:36 AM
Oh, we would cover about 25-30 miles in a day in order to take our time

SherryO on 08/24/2020 09:13 AM
Every part of the trail has it's own beauty but if you can only do 100 miles, start in Valentine. You’ll get more diversity of landscapes. Stay at the bunkhouse. It’s fun part of history.

Cynthya from Lewis,KS on 08/24/2020 09:46 AM
My thought is the same as Sherry.... each part has its own beauty, but one of the highlights in my book is the old rail trestle just outside of Valentine. I have not ridden since 2017 and hear there is flood damage in places... but it it is all beautiful and worth the ride.

Alex on 08/24/2020 10:00 AM
I would recommend doing Valentine to Long Pine and either staying in the bunkhouse or Long Pine SRA if interested in camping. It think that would be about a 110 mile round trip.

Alex on 08/24/2020 10:00 AM
I would recommend doing Valentine to Long Pine and either staying in the bunkhouse or Long Pine SRA if interested in camping. It think that would be about a 110 mile round trip.

Marc from Boston, MA on 08/24/2020 01:01 PM
Thank you for the posts!
Seems starting in Valentine is the way to go!

Is something like this possible?
Drive to Valentine, leave the bikes, drive the car to say Atkinson get a ride back to Valentine and then bike the 100 miles straight?

Are there places of business and trail angels that with compensation would be open to something like that?

SherryO on 08/25/2020 07:52 AM
I talked to a couple that rented a car to set their own shuttle and just drove it the day before. They said it was cheaper then the shuttle cost.

SherryO on 08/25/2020 07:58 AM
I talked to a couple that rented a car to set their own shuttle and just drove it the day before. They said it was cheaper then the shuttle cost.

Bob Clark from Topeka on 08/27/2020 06:53 PM
Loved Long Pine area

Long Pine Detour
JL on 08/23/2020 09:33 PM
Hello All—What is the detour situation outside of Long Pine? The Nebraska parks map says that part of the trail is still out. Thanks-JL

Dougt from Onawa, Ia. on 08/23/2020 10:42 PM
Ha! Good luck getting a response from anyone. I posted a week ago asking about several detours shown on some maps but not others and got nothing! I don't know what the moderator is up to...

Two of us take off tomorrow from Norfolk to Valentine and back. I recall that last year that portion of the trail was closed but it was well marked and the detour was just 2 or 3 miles of gravel. Not a problem at all compared to some of the possible detours like the one east of Valentine which I can get NO information on.....

Alex on 08/24/2020 10:03 AM
The closed sections of the trail are on NGPC's trail map are accurate. The trail just east of Long Pine is still closed. Utilize the highway or gravel roads to detour around.

Jess on 08/26/2020 01:30 PM
We road the trail in mid July and a Long Pine local showed us how to detour in Long Pine w/out getting on the Highway.

Where the trail crosses main street:
Turn right (S) on main street and go a very short distance to 1st Street

Turn Left on 1st street and go east on 1st street until you hit a paved asphalt county road (maybe 1/4 mile)

Merge/turn left on to asphalt county road and head North East to gravel road 877 which is right before a bridge for the closed part of the cowboy trail (again, maybe a 1/4 mile)

Turn right and head east on Road 877 about a mile until the first intersection and take a left and head north less than a mile and intersect the trail again where it crosses the road.

It is really easy and quick.

Advice for a newbie!
Debbie from Poole (on the Jurassic Coast), Dorset, UK on 07/29/2020 04:24 AM
I've only just heard about the Cowboy Trail and it's peaked my interest!Any info from anyone who has ridden part of/all of the trail would be gratefully received! It's something I would love to do as part of my bucket list....defo not this year because of Covid-19 but at some point in the not too distant future. Would the trail be suitable for a couple of English women (47 & 58) to do? Plenty of places to stay en route etc? Can't wait to hear back from any of you!! Thanks!!

SherryO on 07/29/2020 06:20 AM
My husband and I rode it out and back parking in Norfolk. You can camp in the campground in Norfolk and make instant friends with the park staff. We camped at city parks and resupplied at grocery and convenience stores. Wonderful locally owned restaurants with awesome food and friendly people. Don’t be surprised if a rancher or a veteran sit down with you to have a cup of coffee. Stay at the bunkhouse, you’ll get your key from the mayor of the town and learn about the area. We found trail conditions good. We rode tubeless with stanz on our tandem. Lots of wildlife. In Valentine, we paddle the Niobrara River, a beautiful wild and scenic, float past the tallest waterfall in Nebraska. You can rent a canoe. We had wind and tornado warnings but that only added to the adventure. Enjoy!

Cynthya from Lewis,KS on 07/29/2020 08:06 AM
My husband and I rode the trail in 2017 at ages over 60. There is camping available in all of the towns along the trail that we stopped in. We traveled in an RV so that was our place of residence though we have camped along other trails. Motels out West maybe more sparse; closer to Norfolk you'll have more. That said it has been 3 years since we've ridden and they have had flooding which is cause some problems along the trail. Somebody that's more recently ridden can clarify that information. We did have a great ride, met nice people and got through the rough spots in the trail just fine.

Brad Hayward from Bolivar Missouri on 07/29/2020 11:24 AM
My buddy and I rode the western half from Atkinson to Valentine and back first week of October 2017. Here are a few of our take wasys: The Nebraskans we met were the most hospitable and friendliest people we'd ever been around. Run tubeless system on tires. It will drastically reduce likelihood of flats. Be aware of the "goathead" puncture vine thorns that you might run across occasionally on the trail. If they show up in your tires, DO NOT PULL THEM OUT!!, just leave them. The camping was really great in the towns of Atkinson, Ainsworth, and Valentine, mostly we stayed in city parks. The scenery and country is AMAZING!!We had an outstaning trip and are going to do the eastern half this fall.

Lynn L from Eugene, Oregon on 07/29/2020 10:00 PM
We (two ladies in our mid-50s) are planning to do this trip, hopefully in 2021.

Can anyone tell us about their experiences riding from Valentine to Chadron? We'd love to do the ENTIRE trail, not just the Norfolk to Valentine section. Specifically, will we be walking our bikes? Are there locked gates? Will water be available? We have hybrid tires (1.75").

Thanks to all!

Carol from Chippewa Falls WI on 08/20/2020 07:14 AM
A few ladies from Wisconsin are looking for a bike adventure. We both have Trek road bikes. What is the best route with paved roads? I don't know how our bikes would do on the crushed limestone.

Alex on 08/24/2020 11:30 AM
Carol - I'd recommend using this road traffic map our DOT made to find a good route. It shows what roads have low traffic and if they have shoulders.

What is the trail riding surface like?
Rough Rider of Houston from Houston, Texas on 08/22/2020 08:22 AM

What is the trail surface like? I would like to use my commuter bike and not a mountain style bike on this trail. This is mainly because I will also be riding on many actual roads as part of my overall trip.

Alex on 08/24/2020 11:24 AM
Most of the trail is a crushed limestone trail with some sections in town being paved. I would recommend a tire width of at least 35c or 1.5". There are some softer spots on the trail due to the flooding from last year that have been patched but not permanently fixed. If it gets too soft in an area the highway is easy to jump on to from the trail.

trail closures
Dougt from Onawa, Ia. on 08/17/2020 09:21 PM
Planning on doing the trail out and back next week. The trail map shows closures between Oakdale and Neligh, Neligh to Clearwater, just outside of Long Pine, and just east of Valentine. It seems that I've read on here that the one east of Valentine is open now, and maybe one of the others is open. The one between Oakdale and Neligh is a bridge that has been out for a long time so I'm sure that's still closed. I started reading back through the forum but gave up before I found any information. Can anyone shed some light on current closures?
Thanks in advance!

Dougt from Onawa, Ia. on 08/21/2020 06:01 PM
Doesn't anyone have a trail report on closures???? We did it 9/19 just after the 11" rain and it was tough. Planning on doing it again next week and am wondering about the washout 6 miles east of Valentine, and the one west of Neligh. The last comment I can find is from 10/3 last year. I've looked at two Ne. maps online, one shows several closures, the other only the one just east of Long Pine for a few miles. It would be helpful to know about the others.

Check Out This Proposal!
Nate Gradoville from Omaha, NE on 08/21/2020 09:21 AM
I just recently graduated with a Masters Degree from the University of Nebraska Lincoln Architecture College. I currently work for an Architecture firm in Kansas City.

My thesis studied the Cowboy Trail. The thesis provided spaces along the trail for users to utilize for their benefit! The link to the proposal is attached below. I would appreciate any feedback there may be from this forum! Please don't hesitate to reach out via comment. If there is an exceeded interest, we can find other ways to communicate!



June 2021 Ride
Lee from Louisiana on 08/12/2020 07:39 PM
I'm planning to ride from Norfolk to Valentine in June of 2021. Could anyone tell me if this would be a good/bad time of the year to undertake this ride. How are the THORNS this time of year, weather, etc.
Thank you for ANY help with my plans.

Alex on 08/13/2020 12:37 PM
June is a fine time of year to ride the trail. Nebraska has a pretty large variance in weather at any time really but I would plan on it being hot/humid, maybe rain. Thorns are a hard thing to plan for but it seems later in the year is when they start causing trouble after things dry up. Using some kind of tube sealant or tubeless tire is recommended in addition to having extra tubes, just in case. Typically if I stay on the trail surface and favor the center I don't have an issue. Go back and read the other forum posts as there is a wealth of information there. Hope you make the trip!

East to West or West to East
Ace Wickwire from Fruita, CO on 08/11/2020 01:40 PM
Thinking I might like to give this a try in September. Wondering if there is a preference as to East to West or West to East? If windy does it usually come from the West? Prefer to have wind to my back if possible. Status of thorns, a lot or a few? Thanks for any comments. P.S. I'm trying to focus on some of the routes of The Great American Rail-Trail.

Dougt from Onawa, Ia. on 08/11/2020 05:29 PM
If you Google it, the prevailing winds in Valentine are from the south until the end of Sept.
My brother and I are doing Norfolk/Valentine and back late Aug so I'll post an update on the thorn and trail situation. I did it two years ago and never saw a thorn, then we did it last year and had a multitude of flats. Thorns always seem to be from Ainsworth to Valentine.

hwy 20 between Chadron and Valentine
Tim on 08/08/2020 11:14 PM
How is Hwy 20 from Chadron riding east to Valentine in terms of road/shoulder condition and grade? I'm planning a trip but can't decide whether to start in Chadron or Valentine to Norfolk.

Alex on 08/10/2020 08:18 AM
For the most part there is little traffic between Chadron and Valentine on HWY 20. The shoulder is nice and wide. Generally it is considered a good road to tour on. Know that there is a surfaced segment of cowboy trail between Rushville and Gordon, NE that is about 15 miles. NDOT has a HWY traffic map that it touts as a bike map if you want specifics:

Tim from Louisville, Colorado on 08/10/2020 01:24 PM
I'm going to start in Hay Springs, Hay Springs to Rushville via Hwy 20, Rushville to Gordon via the trail, and then Gordon to Valentine back on 20. Then the trail from Valentine to Norfolk. I don't normally like to ride on highway shoulders but I'm not familiar enough with the area to find a gravel only route between Gordon and Valentine. Has anyone ever traveled between Gordon and Valentine on gravel?

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