Shege from Lincoln on 8/4/2022 4:17:57 PM:
My 11-year-old and I completed the trail from Valentine to Norfolk in two and a half days (7/29-8/1). My son was running on standard 700 X 35 tires with Mr Tuffy tire liners and thorn resistant tubes. I was running 700 X 40 Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires with a thorn resistant tube on the rear, standard tube on the front. Neither of use suffered any flats. Everyone I talked to about the trail told me horror stories about all the flats people get on the trail, but we seemed to have lucked out. We were very conscious about not riding our bikes on grassy (green) areas around the trail. If we needed to leave the trail, we always dismounted our bikes and walked them. Before we remounted the bikes, we inspected the tires for thorns. My son found two thorns this way but removed them before they could do any damage. My wife sagged for us, so we were able to travel light and took a “rest” date in the middle to check out some of the attractions. We also got extremely lucky with the weather. The first day was only in the 80s and the other days were in the low 90s. The day after we finished it was 103 in Norfolk. The winds were not really a factor. We did have a 15 mph side wind on the second day, but that was just a little bit of a nuisance. If it would have been a head wind it would have been a much more difficult ride. Below are my notes on the trail and some of the other things we did. Our main issue was that ground squirrels like to dig holes on the trail and if you aren’t paying attention, you can lose control of your bike.
Day 1 - Valentine to Johnstown. Rode 36 miles in the morning and then went tubing down the Niobrara River in the afternoon. The trail surface was generally in good condition and hard packed.
Day 2 - Johnstown to Ainsworth- surface was generally good with a few light gravel/sandy spots where holes had been filled in. There is about a mile or so of trail in Ainsworth that is paved.
Ainsworth to Long Pine- surface was generally good with a few light gravel/sandy spots where holes had been filled in. The bridge outside of Long Pine is a slightly smaller version of the one in Valentine and is pretty cool.
Long Pine to Bassett – The bridge just outside of Long Pine is out so you will need to detour to the highway for a few miles and then you can get back on the trail. The trail was pretty good the whole way with no issues. We stopped at the Bassett Lodge for lunch. I recommend the chicken fried steak sandwich and my son recommends the bacon cheeseburger and brownie sundae.
Bassett to Stuart – there are long stretches that have a lot of sand/light gravel on them. This was challenging but did not require us to stop. The trail gets better as you get closer to Stuart.
Stuart to Atkinson – trail was pretty good throughout.
Atkinson to Emmett – trail was generally good with a few sandy/light gravel spots.
Day 3 – My son called for a rest day. We went to Ashfall Fossils Beds in the morning. If you are into fossils at all this is a must see. In the evening we went to a chicken dinner at the American Legion hall in Atkinson (last Sunday of every month) and then to dirt track car races in Stuart (every Sunday in the Summer).
Day 4 – Emmett to O’Neill – trail was good, there were some washouts at intersections.
O’Neill to Inman - trail was generally good with a few sandy/light gravel spots. There is a long-paved section in O’Neill. We saw a lot of thorn plants but fortunately no thorns.
Inman to Ewing – there was one very sandy/light gravel section right outside of Inman where we had to dismount and walk for a short distance. The remainder of the section was good.
Ewing to Clearwater – trail was generally good.
Clearwater to Neligh – there are two detours, you can jump on the highway and back onto the trail. Other than that the trail is in generally good condition.
Neligh to Oakdale – trail was closed right outside of Neligh. We took the highway all the way to Oakdale
Oakdale to Tilden- a lot of sections with heavy sand/light gravel. We had to dismount and walk on two portions.
Tilden to Meadow Grove– Starts out with heavy sand/light sand. We had to dismount and walk on one section. The trail improves as you go.
Meadow Grove to Norfolk – this portion of the trail is really good. The last few miles into Norfolk are paved.