Constantly changing trail and scenery makes this ride interesting.
I parked at the north trailhead just south of Nebraska City. The sign says its ',6 miles to the trail', so add another mile (round trip). if you ride the full trail, which goes a couple miles south of Brownville, you will go (round trip) about 45 miles. if you ride off trail to explore towns or anything....more. The whole trip for me was about 47 miles.
for a rail trail, it does have lots of sudden rises and falls, but none are long. and yes, it does go thru a section of farmland, but this just keeps the whole things interesting. you go thru trees, then corn, the sorta trees, the by the river, then more trees....while the trail is some flat, some bumps and some rises and falls, but all this adds up for a constantly changing, and interesting ride, that keeps giving you something new to experience. I liked it - it was not 47 miles of the same thing after thing after thing.
There is a big shelter at Peru with a ground water pump. There is also a campground there, and stores nearby as others have said.
There is an official 'off trail' picnic area called "Genie Hollow", that is pretty nice, in the trees, near Peru.
Also near Peru is There is a pretty lengthy section of trail that has sand carvings. Most are just names and such, but there are several that are pictures and neat to find. This area is called It is marked with a sign that reads "Roland Sherman Memorial Area". here is a Journal Star link:
the ride from Nebraska City trailhead to here is the easiest section. as you get closer to Brownville, I was happier and happier to have used the mtn bike this day. there is upkeep being done to this trail, but since it is in need of rather constant need of repair being where it is, there are things to look out for. a few places have small washouts under the bridges, so be careful on those, and the trail itself has some places where water running off the hill has worn grooves across the trail. having said that, tho, none of them are 'bad'.
the place that made me the happiest to have the mtn bike, was just north of Brownville, where there is lots of fresh crushed limestone on the trail...it was very mushy, and there was lots of it. the skinny tires would have been hard to use here.
I rode to the end of the trail (just a couple miles past Brownville), then came back up to Brownville for lunch, near the steamboat. FYI - the steamboat museum is open from 1pm - 5 pm on Saturday and Sunday. There are picnic tables there at the park (by the steamboat) for lunch.
I gave 4 stars, only due to the maintenance it needs, but that might not be fair, cause this trail is in a location where constant needs are necessary. ...BUT, in a perfect world, we want the maintenance done, so ...4 stars.
Nice, pretty, quiet trail.
I biked the trail from Peru to Brownville one weekend and Peru to Nebraska City the next. Had a very good ride, it is very pretty , tree lined in a lot of the area, along the river in some parts and going thru fields in other area, very diverse. At Peru there is a water pump that has very cold water, nice clean restrooms and ample parking. Saw coyote, some deer, squirrels and plenty of birds. It is not a very crowded trail, saw 6 people one day and 3 people the next ride. It is the only limestone trail I have ridden on, to me it seemed in pretty good shape, but I do not have anything to compare it to.
A Great Per-Labor Day Sunday - Mid-Day hike on Steamboat Trace Trail
We began our hike at the most northerly end, by the power plant. It was the perfect day, a nice northerly breeze, sunny skies, my husband, dog and I all out to enjoy this wonderful trail. We had plenty to see with so many different things hopping about, flying about, buzzing around us. There were no issues that we could find with this trail. The trail itself was in fine shape, no ruts or washouts to really talk about. We were pretty much on our own the entire 6 miles that we covered. The trees provided ample shade along the trail and the view of the bean and corn fields were beautiful. The old grain storage area where the trains once went through made the perfect back drop for a few pictures, along with the windmill that is still partially there. We did happen upon another person with his dog along the trail. There were many species of small and large birds flying about and chattering. We saw what appeared to be a large millipede on the ground, as the dog sniffed it out first. We saw many frogs, small and large jumping about the trail but didn't really know where they came from or where they were going to. The large rocks on the hillside next to the banks that were dug out for the train tracks are pretty interesting. I'm not sure what is burrowed in the openings, but I'm sure some critter resides within. We enjoyed a very peaceful and fun hike with our dog on this day hike for the 3 of us! The trail is in wonderful shape and I applaud the Nemaha NRD for keeping it so nice for everyone.
This is our 3rd visit to this trail. We started our first hike in Peru 3 years ago, then went last year on bikes. This is a very nice trail for all to use.
I have had the opportunity to access the Steamboat Trace on multiple occasions. I believe it's approximately 26 miles from north to south, but starting at Peru is what I would recommend.
Peru, the home of Nebraska's first and oldest 4 year college (Peru State College) is a quaint community. If you ride on a fall Saturday, you may just find yourself a short distance from the Oak Bowl and a chance to watch some great college football.
Services are available in Peru at Cotty's Restaurant, grocery store for supplies, a bank, etc. . A parking area with a spot to camp, water, and restrooms are right next to the trailhead.
If you aren't an expert rider, start the day heading south to Brownville, about 7-8 miles from Peru. You'll hugh the soaring bluffs for a few miles, and will glimpse the Missouri River itself just a few feet from the trail. Before the river cut a new path away from Peru, it's said that Lewis & Clark noted these very cliffs in their journals because of all of the bird nesting holes that are evident still today. Nice to have some history in your mind as you pedal on!
There's a conservation trail (walking only) that's located off this section for a respite, but the trail then crosses the floodplain and meanders towards Brownville. At Brownville, a great place for lunch or supper is the Lyceum or stop at the winery and pick up a bottle for a picnic on the way back!
So when you make the loop, you've got 14+ miles under your belt by lunch or so. If you're feeling good, you can ride toward Nebraska City in the afternoon and put in another 38 miles roundtrip.
Many of the comments concerning the condition of the trail are correct, but wrong at the same time. Because the trail is located along the Missouri River, it is damaged or flooded when the river is out. This occurs on an infrequent basis, but it does occur. Once the water recedes, the NRD staff gets in there and does a yeoman's job of putting the trail back in shape. I've seen fliers organizing the local community to pitch-in on designated days for trail cleanup as well, so I think people do what they can to keep it up. But if there's been a big rain a few days before, expect some light damage or soft spots (especially near county road crossings). My daughter and I typically use our mountain bikes and never experience more than a bit of mud on the worst days. One has to be reasonable though and understand that this is a rural trail in a rural area, that runs through very soft Missouri River soil. Despite lots of work, it sometimes appears that it lacks maintenance, but of the ten times I've been on it, I've seen workers about five times. Frankly, I'm impressed that the small cities and NRD are doing what they are so I always try to encourage them and make them know they're appreciated.
If you're considering this as part of a larger biking trip, I take this on a day and then strike out on the Wabash in Iowa for a while. Great variety and I wouldn't give up the tremendous scenery and nice people around Peru and Brownville for a longer stretch. Cowboy and several other trails developed by the Nebraska Trails Foundation make Nebraska a mecca for biking anyway, and if you're near Peru you wouldn't have a complete experience without stopping in.
Use is kind of a fickle thing. Summer and late fall, we're scooting over all of the time for packs of bikers and nearer Peru and Brownville, it's full of walkers and runners. Of course, we actually like the trail because it's less crowded than others in-between urban areas, so I guess it's a matter of perspective concerning whether it's used much.
If you live in the Kansas City - Omaha - Des Moines - Topeka region, I can't think of a more fun trail for a day trip. Give it a whirl and see if you share my opinion. Recommend the onion rings at Cotty's!!
Only caveats are that the trail is closed during deer hunting season I'm told. I'm guessing the way to find out when that is may be by contacting the Nebraska Resource District for the area. Hasn't come up for me as my trips haven't included November and December.