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Norfolk and Back
Tim from Allen, Texas on 05/12/2022 08:44 PM
We are road bike cyclists and would like to take a two day ride on the Cowboy Trail - We will want to rent gravel friendly bikes so maybe start in Norfolk? We are flexible about the starting point. What recommendations for a starting and overnight location (hotel/motel). We are probably good for about 45 miles a day.

Alex from Lincoln on 05/13/2022 08:39 AM
I believe North Fork Outfitting rents Hybrid style bikes which are fine for the trail. Norfolk to Neligh and back is a good ride. Valentine to Ainsworth and back is also a good ride where you get to cross the big bridge over the Niobrara River - but I don't think Valentine has any bike rental services other than Heartland B-cycle which are great but I wouldn't recommend those bikes for a two day ride. Could rent something in Grand Island, Kearney, or North Platte on the drive up to Valentine. Niobrara Lodge is good in Valentine and Ainsworth has two budget chain hotels.

Tony Stuthman from NORFOLK on 05/15/2022 08:38 AM
Hi Tim, my number at NFO is 402-316-0157. We offer 7 speed, solid tire Specialized "Hybrid" style bikes, very easy to use and NO FLATS.

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Hopefully will ride soon but not sure.
Matthew Trenkamp from Iowa City, Iowa on 05/14/2022 12:32 AM
I noticed on Google Maps that an area on the Elkhorn River has a lot of the trail washed away between Neligh and Clearwater by flooding. Not sure if I need to get on the highway prior to the bridge area or if the trail is up to par. Plan is to the ride the 187 mile trail in one day starting at sunrise and ending at dusk pending on my transportation as well.

Tony Stuthman from NORFOLK on 05/15/2022 08:34 AM
There has been SOME work done on the washed out areas, but still about a half mile you will have to use the highway. The shoulder is 10' paved, and the detour is well marked on the trail. Also, give me a call at 402-316-0157 for shuttle assistance, or any other questions.

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most scenic sections?
Rocco from Timnath, CO on 05/11/2022 03:11 PM
Plan on doing several "out and backs" along the route, generally 30 to 50 miles total per day.
What are the most scenic sections?
Thanks in advance!

Alex from Lincoln on 05/13/2022 10:44 AM
Valentine to Ainsworth is nice if you want a more rural setting. It's also closer to you for the return trip. Otherwise Norfolk to Neligh and back is a good out and back as well. Neligh has a public pool memorial day to labor day which is nice to cool off after the day's ride.

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Electric Assist Bikes
Cindy L Siems from Mesa on 05/08/2022 01:19 AM
Are electric assist bikes allowed on the trail?

Alex from Lincoln on 05/12/2022 11:53 AM
Technically no. In reality yes, as long as it is e-assist (class 1) and is operated in similar manner to a regular bicycle.

Cynthya from Lewis,KS on 05/12/2022 01:54 PM
I wondered what others might say. For my part, at least, it is a bicycle. When we rode the Cowboy Trail 5 years ago (can it be that long ago?) I saw evidence of big tractor tracks at least crossing the trail. Definitely saw a four wheeler coming up behind us on the trail. Another time a person on a four wheeler was approaching the trail. Obviously preparing to get on the trail. When they saw us riding down the trail, they turned and went the other way. So E-Assist bicycle on The Cowboy Trail? Not a problem for me.

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Valentine to Chadron Trail
AP from Lincoln on 05/01/2022 04:59 PM
For those who are familiar with it, how is the trail from Valentine to Chadron? I know the easement runs all the way through, but I haven’t been on any of the uncompleted parts. I am contemplating doing a Thru-Hike of it either later this year or next year, though I thought I would ask about how the uncompleted parts are.

Alex from Lincoln on 05/03/2022 08:30 AM
Valentine to Gordon and Rushville to Chadron has not been developed and is not operated as an open trail. Gordon to Rushville (15mi) is developed and opened in 2019.

In general I can't recommend utilizing the undeveloped segments as many of the bridges do not have decking or railings and the corridor is not maintained for public use.

Alex from Lincoln on 05/03/2022 08:30 AM
Valentine to Gordon and Rushville to Chadron has not been developed and is not operated as an open trail. Gordon to Rushville (15mi) is developed and opened in 2019.

In general I can't recommend utilizing the undeveloped segments as many of the bridges do not have decking or railings and the corridor is not maintained for public use.

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Long Pine Days
SandraM on 04/23/2022 02:08 PM
Is their a craft fair like the one you had in 2019

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Hiking the Trail with Kids - Multi-day
AM from WY on 04/17/2022 06:20 PM
We are looking at hiking the trail starting in Valentine in mid-to-late May. It will be 3 kids and 2 adults, with the intention of using it as a beginner backpacking trip for the kids (ages 7-9). The kids are active and hike a lot, but this will be their first 'backpacking' experience. We are a little concerned about the long distances between some of the campgrounds for hiking (for instance, the 25 miles from Valentine to Wood Lake for campgrounds). Are there any options for camping near the trail in between those? I don't see any on the trip planner, but hoping others might have some advice. Thanks so much!

Dougt from Onawa, Ia on 04/17/2022 10:58 PM
You know your kids and their capabilities, but that sounds rough. There isn't even a spot to get water between Wood Lake and Valentine. That stretch is the sole reason that I went to 3 water bottles on the bike. As you apparently know, Arabia is just a sign on the trail. I don't know why it's even on the map, b/c it was a real disappointment when I was expecting to water up there my first trip my first year. There are no camping spots until you get to Wood Lake unless you pirate along the trail. It would be better to start at Norfolk so you'll have services in towns along the route if you could make that work as you check out how the kids are going to handle it. Keep us apprised of your progress, and good luck!

AM from WY on 04/18/2022 09:35 AM
Thanks Doug T. That info helps a lot. We're thinking we might skip the Valentine to Wood Lake section with the info we've been finding, and maybe just do a day hike from Valentine to enjoy the bridge and that section without having to deal with the 25 miler. I really appreciate your input!

Dougt from Onawa, Ia on 04/18/2022 02:05 PM
If you do that, there's not much to see from Valentine east 2-3 miles to the bridge, which is a must-see. If you drive maybe a mile or two east of the bridge on the highway there's a parking lot and you can walk west to the bridge, then back east for an out-and-back for as long as you guys want to hike and the terrain is way more interesting so the kids would have more fun and you'd get a decent hike out of the day. Just a thought.....

AM from WY on 04/18/2022 02:28 PM
You rock, Dougt! I really appreciate your help with this. We're coming in a little blind on this, and just relying on what we find online. Thank you!

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Newport Pool Hall in Newport
Anonymous from Mesa AZ on 04/12/2022 12:45 AM
Cute town, the pool hall has snacks and a beverage vending machine

Cynthya from Lewis,KS on 04/12/2022 07:47 AM
Newport is a nice stop. The 1st time we passed through there we did not realize you could go into that little pool hall. On our return trip we bumped into a local who told us about it. We went in, looked around, had a drink and a snack. Especially nice on a hot Nebraska day!

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Trail conditions
Trev from Kearney on 09/12/2021 06:05 PM
My family and I did the cowboy trail over Labor Day weekend we started in valentine and went to Norfolk we were lucky to have a camper to use and stayed in basset the first night, used the fairgrounds in basset as they had hookups, we continued to O’Neil for the 2nd night and stayed at carney park, the last night we stayed in Norfolk at Ta Ha zouka park. Every place we stayed at night was great. We were lucky to have great weather, I felt like the trail was pretty well maintained. I would say the mopac trail by Lincoln/Omaha is a pretty similar trail to compare the cowboy trail too. To me The worst part of the trail was going from Johnstown to ainsworth we all got a few flats in this section, which really made the day difficult. Would def recommend using tubes with slime in them and make sure you check the insides of your tires for thorns breaking off inside your tires. Bring extra tubes, if I do the trail again I would honestly bring prob 6 extra tubes just for my bike alone. I would also get tubes with some sort of thorn resistance and get a tire liner. The bikes we used were mostly trek hybrids and mountain bikes. I think using a road bike would be pretty challenging on this trail. My family really enjoyed riding this trail and had an excellent time would def recommend to anybody considering it!

Alex from Lincoln on 09/13/2021 09:57 AM
Thanks for the trip report, glad you and your crew enjoyed the trail. Sorry to hear about your goathead woes, that has been a difficult area of the trail to keep those under control. I recommend tubeless if you can, or using a slime filled tube. If you do pick up some goatheads, leave them alone and keep riding. I find the thorn will act as a plug and help seal the puncture with the aid of sealant. YMMV.

Tiffany Sealock from Bennington, NE on 03/29/2022 12:57 PM
With so many issue with the thorns, can't the trail maintenance folks find a permanent solution to the goat head thorn problem? Spray them in spring or detour them from going over the trail somehow? Certainly there is something to get rid of these problem thorns so people aren't stranded with a flat if they come unprepared or can't fix the flat. In googling how to get rid of goathead, it looks like you can attack them with a post-emergent herbicide, but burning them is also effective enough to kill the plant and seeds, also tilling the land to prevent the seeds from germinating in the future. I think the trail maintenance folks should consider doing something along the stretch of trail where they are the worst.

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Patrick Healy from South Dakota on 09/02/2021 02:19 PM
I see a lot of the websites related to the Cowboy Trail are geared towards cycling. Do people hike this trail as well? Im contemplating segment hiking it this fall/winter. Any input appreciated. Thanks

Alex from Lincoln on 09/02/2021 03:27 PM
Yes people absolutely hike the trail. There's an annual Ultra Marathon on the trail too. Fall/winter would be a good time to do that since it would be cool. In the winter, if it does snow, the trail is not plowed or groomed. In some areas it has a good tendency to create large snow drifts that can be difficult to get through. The trail is technically open all year long but unfortunately we don't have regular maintenance staff November - March.

Hiker on 11/26/2021 05:27 PM
Which is the best segment to hike if you were just going to do a day hike (either out & back or parking two vehicles at separate trailheads)? I'm guessing crossing the Niobrara on the bridge but that's just a guess.

Alex from Lincoln on 11/29/2021 10:51 AM
Don't know what your definition of a day hike is but Valentine to Arabia Ranch is about 15.7 miles and is pretty scenic. It's flat though so a decent pace can be made.

pacrfan from Colorado Springs on 12/02/2021 10:55 AM
I am also thinking about hiking the trail June 2022. From what I have read, I believe that there is no stealth camping on the trail. Is this correct? Is there any place to replenish water on the trail or do you have to rely on the towns for that?

Alex from Lincoln on 12/03/2021 11:23 AM
Camping is technically not permitted on the trail ROW. The towns along the trail all have a campground of some sort available to travelers on the trail, many are free or have a small fee. Services vary but the larger towns tend to have hydrants, bathrooms, etc. I haven't ever had difficulty finding water - usually the gas station, park, library, or bar are willing to accommodate.

Tiffany Sealock from Bennington, NE on 03/29/2022 12:45 PM
Would like to know from those who have rode the trail from point to point- - is it easier from Norfolk to Valentine or Valentine to Norfolk?

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200-mile ultramarathon planned on Nebraska's Cowboy Trail
Ray (webmaster) on 03/23/2022 06:06 AM
The Cowboy 200 will be an unprecedented race for runners in Nebraska.

The Cowboy 200 ultramarathon will start in Norfolk and end in Valentine via the historic Cowboy Trail, which spans around 195 miles.

“It's the first 200-mile race in Nebraska that we’re aware of,” said Chase Hammond, one of the directors of the race.

The race is set to begin Nov. 5 in Norfolk.


Full article:

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tire size
opedaler from Ne nerbraska on 12/01/2021 11:36 AM
I have to eat a little crow from a post I made earlier. It deals with tire size on the cowboy trail. While it is true that we have ridden the trail many times with smaller tires, an experience has led me to believe the best AND SAFEST way to enjoy the trail is with wider tires. This year we have enjoyed the trail primarily with our gravel bikes (40 mm tires), but I wanted to try out a new seat that I installed on another bike that I was going to use on a road ride. The tires I use on this bike are not thin (32mm) but the bike which my wife rides when I use this bike are 30mm wide. We were near Battle Creek and I was slightly ahead of my wife so I didn't see the incident, but she got caught on the side of the trail in some soft gravel. Long story short she ended up with a concussion (still can't remember what happened), a broken collarbone (requiring a plate), and a short stint in the hospital. So if anyone took notice of my suggestion that narrower tires are alright on the cowboy trail, I'd suggest you forget it. Also wear a helmet (which my wife had), and don't be lulled into false security because you're on a limestone trail. Safer than hard surface, but not hazard free.

Dougt from Onawa, Ia on 12/01/2021 01:22 PM
This could happen to anyone on any trail, but it speaks to an issue that I've noticed every time I ride the trail(4x out and back for a total of 8x) and that is trail maintenance. I'll continue to ride it each year because it's an adventure, but when people talk about it being a big draw like the Katy Trail that's a pipe dream until Ne. steps up its game and maintains the trail. I realize that flooding is an issue and some problems are unavoidable. I rode it in '11 when it got something like 11" of rain over 2 nights and not only was the trail flooded in entire areas but the highway was as well. That's unavoidable. What I would think could be done, however it to step up mowing, spraying, and packing of the trail. There are always sections of trail that are overgrown with weeds, and if that's happening you're going to have goat heads in there. I've seem goatheads growing inside city limits which should be the last place that you see them. I rode the Katy Trail out and back last year and there is no comparison. And you can see the equipment that they use parked in places, something like a big roller to compact the surface when they add rock, which would be a big help on the Cowboy. We read about the trail being finished to Chadron at some point. That would be awesome, but perhaps more effort at doing a decent job of maintaining what is already there would be a good start. I've run into people on more than one occasion from Omaha that came out to ride and were quiting because they were expecting something well maintained like the Wabash and weren't prepared for the Cowboy. Just my two cents.....

opedaler from Ne nerbraska on 12/01/2021 02:24 PM
You make a good point Dougt. We have ridden several trails this year (Katy, Hiawatha, Cour d'Alene, Centennial, Mickelson, among others). On every single one I've been asked about the Cowboy, and I don't really know how to answer. I would like for people to use it, but I'm hesitant to recommend it for fear once they use it, they won't like it and will fail to return.

Pepzilla from Omaha on 01/22/2022 11:50 AM
Contemplating a trip this spring, but concerned I might need a different bike. I have 700x28c currently and no problem riding the MOPAC from Omaha all the way down to Platte River State Park. The gravel can get pretty loose on that trail, and I've seen a few comparisons on these forums to the MOPAC. What say you all, would I be crazy going on 28s?

Alex from Lincoln on 01/24/2022 08:32 AM
I would not recommend using that narrow of a tire on Cowboy Trail. A 38c or wider tire is recommended to have the best experience. I think you would end up riding the highway if you ride the trail on 28c tires.

Alex from Lincoln on 01/24/2022 08:32 AM
I would not recommend using that narrow of a tire on Cowboy Trail. A 38c or wider tire is recommended to have the best experience. I think you would end up riding the highway if you ride the trail on 28c tires.

Bikenfrank from Cedar falls Iowa on 02/01/2022 10:46 AM
I used the 700c x37 gravel king. Tubeless tires filled with slime. The goat heads on the Cowboy trail can be frightful. I didn’t have a problem but my buddy from Council Bluffs had 8 patches the first day. That was riding the stretch from Valentine east. That first 46 miles had UNpacked loose pee gravel, potholes, flooding, and four wheelers tracks. I wouldn’t ride that again till it’s repaired!!!!

BurritoFAN from Tn on 03/09/2022 11:20 AM
8 patches in one day... was that while riding with you?? Just wondering as I am planning to ride the trail in april?

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Trike packing in late spring
K Eldg from Fremont on 03/05/2022 11:47 AM
I was thinking triking the whole way from Valentine to Norfork. I pull a small trailer to hold all my gear. Would this trail be ok for this use. I run schwalbe big apple tires puncture resistant. Any feedback would be great

Alex from Lincoln on 03/07/2022 08:23 AM
That's a good tire for puncture resistance, what width is it? Especially the front? A wider tire will help float through any soft spots you may encounter on the trail.

Puncture vine (goatheads) becomes more prevalent in late June/July as the temps get hot. I also recommend using sealant in your tubes if possible or going tubeless is typically best. If you do pickup a goathead on your tire, just leave it. Pulling it out will cause it to leak faster.

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Valentine to Omaha
ENRIQUE from Houston on 12/09/2021 02:40 AM
Hi, flying into Omaha and will be starting from Norfolk. Once I get to Valentine, any shuttle services available from Valentine to Norfolk or Omaha? Thanks

Alex from Lincoln on 12/09/2021 01:32 PM
Look up North Fork Outfitting -

Tony can likely help you out.

ENRIQUE from Houston on 12/09/2021 10:43 PM
Thank you.

Tony Stuthman from NORFOLK on 12/22/2021 12:52 PM
Hi, give us a call at 402-316-0157

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Any permits or reservations required?
Rob from Frisco, CO on 11/15/2021 06:00 PM
I am interested in doing the trail in spring of 2022. Any permits or reservations required or do you just show up and start riding? Thanks

Alex from Lincoln on 11/17/2021 09:38 AM
Show up and start riding! If you plan on camping, the trail relies on adjacent campgrounds in communities along the way as camping is not allowed on the trail. Generally they are free or just a couple bucks. If you plan on spending a night at Long Pine State Recreation Area, which I do recommend, there is a day park permit and camp fee. I think the opportunity to cool off in Long Pine Creek is worth it.

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Best Time of the year?
Ted from Salt Lake City on 09/26/2021 10:34 PM
I am planning to ride the trail next year 2022 and I am interested in knowing the best time of the year to make the trip.

Alex from Lincoln on 09/27/2021 08:49 AM
I typically like tackling the trail in the spring and fall to avoid the heat in the summer time. Just have to be prepared for some potentially cool nights if you intend to camp.

Norfolk Area Visitors Bureau from Norfolk on 11/11/2021 11:02 AM
We'd love to help you plan your trip! Get a free visitors guide at

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Trail etiquette?
Jim from Overland Park, KS on 10/02/2021 06:37 PM
I apologize for a potentially weird question. What is the appropriate trail etiquette for "bathroom breaks (specifically #2)" along the trail? I get the sense from my research that not every campsite has public restrooms available or open during the off-season. I know the backwoods etiquette ... find a secluded patch of trees or privacy off-trail & away from water, dig 6-8" cathole, complete business, bury and leave no trace. This is just a different type of trail than I've hiked before. Thanks.

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What's the wisdom of doing the Cowboy by yourself
Isaac T from Lincoln on 09/30/2021 05:10 PM
With no bike shops along the route, limited cell service (Sprint), tons of goat heads being present, and this biker not being incredibly good with bike maintenance (I can change a flat but that's about it), I'm a bit skeptical about riding the trail myself. Concerned about getting stranded. What's the wisdom (My first tour was the Katy last year and was with friends). I'd be going this Sunday-Tuesday and doing the entire trail (not sure which direction yet). Anyone else riding during those days?

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Bill Heistermann from Fort Collins on 09/26/2021 09:54 AM
Just returned from riding from Valentine to Bassett and back. did it over 6 days at a nice relaxed pace. Rode a gravel bike with 700x35s and a BOB trailer. On the advice from Ruth at the L Bow Room I rode the highway between Johnstown and Ainsworth to avoid the goatheads. Wood Lake park is great for camping, Lone Pine not so much. Stayed overnight at the Bassett Lodge instead of camping, what cool funky little hotel. Met some great people, took in a high school football game and enjoyed the heartland. AND didn't get a flat till 2 miles from the finish!!!

Alex from Lincoln on 09/27/2021 08:52 AM
Thanks for the ride report! The goatheads are prevalent this year in that Johnstown to Ainsworth area. Did you check out Long Pine State Recreation Area? I've found that to be an excellent place to camp. Glad you checked out Bassett Lodge, it is a neat place to stay.

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Riding Entire Trail
Therese Bauer from Oregon State on 08/27/2021 11:05 AM
Two of us will be riding the entire trail, one way, in late September. We haven’t decided on a starting point. What would you all do? Start in Norfolk or Valentine? We’ll need a shuttle back to our car! Any new ideas out there?

Alex from Lincoln on 08/27/2021 01:27 PM
I usually recommend whichever way that works logistically best for you. If you're coming from the west, drive to Valentine and take a shuttle to start in Norfolk. That will shave a few hours off your return home drive. Reverse that scenario if you are coming from the east such as Lincoln or Omaha (if you're flying in).

Therese Bauer from Oregon State on 08/27/2021 01:38 PM
Thank you! We will be driving from the west. What shuttle do you recommend? I see two options, panda and North Fork outfitting.

Alex from Lincoln on 08/27/2021 02:41 PM
Unsure if Panda is still in operation, Tony with North Fork Outfitting is good. Give him a call.

Therese Bauer from Oregon State on 08/27/2021 03:50 PM
Thank you!

Tony Stuthman from NORFOLK on 09/22/2021 12:54 PM
North Fork Outfitting LLC, 402-316-0157 for info! Please call asap as a couple discount options are available.

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New informational signs from Norfolk, to Valentine!
Tony Stuthman from NORFOLK on 09/22/2021 12:45 PM
Hey folks, just FYI....there are new signs with info and distances from town to town all along the trail from Norfolk, to Valentine! I cant seem to post a picture, so check out my page for the one at the trailhead in Norfolk! Great time of year for an adventure! Call 402-316-0157 for shuttle and bike rental info!

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