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Share your comments, questions, opinions, and advice on the Cowboy Trail.
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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?

Trail Closures?
Heidi from Northwoods of Wisconsin on 07/31/2020 03:31 PM
It appeared on the state park interactive map that there are trail closures. We're wondering if this is accurate? If there are closures, does anyone know of a good (non-busy road or trail) as an alternative route?

Alex on 08/04/2020 08:05 AM
The spot just east of O'Neill has recently been fixed. The other closures still remain and should be marked when to jump off the trail.

Alex on 08/04/2020 08:05 AM
The spot just east of O'Neill has recently been fixed. The other closures still remain and should be marked when to jump off the trail.

Trail washed out west of Neligh
Brad Hayward from Bolivar Missouri on 07/29/2020 11:36 AM
Just got word that there is still a part of the trail washed out just west of Neligh. Can anyone confirm that and speak to how a detour may work out there?

Todd from Lincoln on 07/29/2020 06:11 PM
It is still washed out Brad. Just looked at my ride stats, we had to ride the highway all the way to Clear Water. The shoulder is nice and wide and pretty clean. The highway parallels the trail there maybe 20 yards on your right. We got on just after 522nd ave. via a driveway/field entrance. Probably 5 miles of hwy riding.

Any trail closures are pretty obvious as the trail is just gone from the flooding just beyond any sign. Exiting the trail is easy as the sign is always at an intersection of a driveway or similar method of exit.

Google maps in satellite mode gives a good view of its relationship to hwy and other features.

ride report - week of July 20
Todd from Lincoln on 07/25/2020 10:59 PM
Just finished Norfolk to Valentine. It's an awesome ride. Chose direction for reward of bridge at end and prevailing winds mostly to our backs. Rode w/ 2 of my buddies. They had road bikes w/ 15mm Gatorskin tires and slime, me single speed w/ 35mm touring with mr. Tuffy liners and sticker flickers. None of us had flats or issues. Trail closures are as advertised on State of NE's site except there doesn't seem to be a closure by Valentine anymore.

Only real issue are the large holes from rodents digging into the trail. At speed the holes are hard to see until you're nearly on them. Periodic thick gravel can slow or stop skinny tires, but I view that as an equipment/rider issue.

Stayed at locally owned/operated motels which were very clean and friendly.

I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Jess from Omaha on 07/27/2020 10:25 AM
Nice to hear more good reports. Did you see anyone else riding when you were out?

Brad Hayward from Bolivar Missouri on 07/27/2020 02:50 PM
Did your theory of prevailing wind prove true going east to west? I would be curious what the prevailing winds might be about mid September there as that may affect what direction we ride it. Any ideas?

Todd from Lincoln on 07/27/2020 07:03 PM
We met 2 - 4 people each day coming from the west.

Prevailing wind theory worked great. For summer I'd noted mostly south-southeast winds. The trail oveall is northwest direction, so even with a southern wind at worst it's a crosswind, towards the end it was almost totally tail wind. I haven't looked at historical data for September. Might try looking at for that detail.

Tent camping in Ewing
Brad Hayward from Bolivar Missouri on 07/27/2020 03:44 PM
We are looking for informantion from anyone regarding the best option for tent camping in Ewing? Any ideas?

Cynthya from Lewis,KS on 07/27/2020 04:24 PM
We stayed in an RV park north of the trail. Not too far. I don't know if other options, but that would be a possibility. At the time we stayed August 2017 there were lots of goatheads.

Cynthya from Lewis,KS on 07/27/2020 04:24 PM
We stayed in an RV park north of the trail. Not too far. I don't know if other options, but that would be a possibility. At the time we stayed August 2017 there were lots of goatheads.

Ride Report
Jess from Omaha on 07/12/2020 03:47 PM
Just completed the full length this weekend from Valentine to Norfolk starting last Thursday afternoon. We stayed in Ainsworth, Atkinson, and Neligh in each towns camping areas and had a great experience.

We road two hard tail 29’s and a fat bike with 4.8” tires all set-up tubeless. During the third day we has a side wall puncture on one of the hardtails that we were able to get sealed by laying bike on side so sealant could get to side wall but had no other tire issues.

We had a really good time and with the right equipment this trail is really fun. It is a shame it isn’t utilized more.

Cynthya from Lewis,KS on 07/12/2020 04:23 PM
I am so thrilled to hear you had a great ride,despite a few difficulties.

We rode Valentine to Norfolk and back in 2017. We had no flats, we had a great time and met wonderful people.

In complete agreement with you. This is a great treasure and it needs to be utilized more.

Would be nice if it were totally finished from Chadron to Norfolk, but even so, I would ride it again.

Glad you has a good ride.

Thanks for posting your positive experience. Maybe it will encourage others to get out and ride!

Dougt from Onawa, Ia. on 07/13/2020 02:12 PM
Good ride report Jess, although I've got to say that your original post saying from Chadron to Norfolk got my attention before it was corrected. I do it out and back each year and am planning on late Aug. Were you able to stay on the trail for the entire ride other than the detour between Neligh and Oakdale? Did you pick up a lot of goatshead thorns, even though only one caused a problem? I had none in '18 but LOTS in '19. Just wondered what to expect this year. Thanks!

Don from Des Moines IA on 07/14/2020 02:47 PM
I also completed the CBoy Trail last month. I rode from Norfolk to Valentine 6/21-6/24. I continued to Hot Springs SD using highway 20 in NE. Highway 20 was VERY quite and I never felt uncomfortable off the trail. I loved the 6 foot wide shoulders on all the highways I rode in NE. Nice to see taxes being used on roads!! I did ride the additional 15 mile stretch that was added outside Gordon. I lucked out on weather. Only had a storm burst just outside O'Neil where I flew into a garage ASAP. I rode tubeless 650x47 tires and amazingly had zero flats/punctures. I alternated camping with a motel option and called bars and grocery stores ahead of time in towns I planned to stay-in or eat a meal in. I brought 3 freeze dried dinners just in case and ended up using only one of them because I just wanted to. So no issues with finding water, food (or beer). There were a couple of times I had to exit the trail due to bridge outs but was able to ride 95% of the trail (yah!). Folks I met were fabulous. I did take a mask and hand cleaner and for what it's worth I found most grocery store employees masked and customer not so much. As I went west the amount of Covid was slim to nil but I still did not want to take chances. When I hit Valentine I tried to find a Cowboy jersey or shirt to reward myself but found nothing. Even stopped at Chamber of Commerce and struck out. I agree it's a shame that this trail is not utilized more (I never saw another person on the trail) or marketed better. I do hope to come back and with friends!!

Jess from Omaha on 07/15/2020 10:04 AM
The outages on the Cowboy trail are marked at this website:

And were accurate when we road 7/9/20 to 7/12/20. HWY 20 was a nice option for the outages.

We probably ran over a few goat heads evidenced by some slime residue on our tires, but we never had another tire go flat during the ride. The one mountain bike tire that went flat was easily sealed when we found the hole and turned rim sideways so slime could get to the hole.

The aggregate seemed a little heavier from Atkinson to the west. The trail from Oakdale to Meadow Grove had some pockets that were pretty rough but passible.

Current Trail Conditions
Amanda on 07/14/2020 12:32 PM
We are planning to bike the trail from Clearwater to Valentine, starting this weekend. Has anyone been on that section recently and know the condition of the trail? I've done other sections in years prior that had small distances that were so soft you had to walk your bike through them. Not sure how common that is on other parts or if there is anything else to be aware of. Thanks for your insight!

Don from Des Moines IA on 07/14/2020 02:58 PM
Amanda, I rode this section on 6/25. The trail is fine. I recall a short section before Long Pine where you need to exit and ride a gravel road but you are able to hop back on and appreciate the bridge in Long Pine.

trail progress or condition west from Valentine to Chadron
Brad Hayward from Bolivar Missouri on 07/14/2020 11:10 AM
We rode the trail a few years back but stopped at Valentine. I was curious about the trail condition or progress on west from Valentine to Chadron. Is it rideable?

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