Cowboy Recreation and Nature Trail

Trail Map

Description Suggest an Edit

Portions of the Cowboy Trail are closed because of damages from flooding of the Elkhorn River in 2010. Please refer to Nebraska's Game & Parks website for updates.

The Cowboy Recreation and Nature Trail, or for short, the Cowboy Trail, stretches 195 miles between the Nebraska towns of Valentine and Norfolk (beginning at Ta-Ha-Zouka Park south of town). When complete, the trail will continue west another 126 miles to Chadron. The Cowboy Trail is mostly surfaced in fine crushed gravel but horseback riders should stay on the adjacent natural surface only. Some short sections are paved.

One of the country's longest rail-trails, the Cowboy Trail follows the route of the old Chicago and Northwestern Railroad through some of the Midwest's most dramatic landscapes. On the east end near Norfolk the trail courses through the Elkhorn River valley, which is dotted with farmsteads and cultivated fields. The river banks are lined with tall trees. West of O'Neill you'll experience more native prairie lands, and in Long Pine the stunning Sandhill country takes over. These grass-covered dunes, the largest in the western hemisphere, carry you along the trail en route to Valentine. Here the Cowboy Trail crosses the Niobrara River Valley—where five major ecological systems converge—via a dramatic 0.25-mile trestle 150 feet above the river.

Each town along the way offers a variety of services and local attractions. For more detailed information about each segment, click on the link under Related Links.

Parking and Trail Access

There are numerous access points and places to park along the Cowboy Trail. For more detailed information about trail access and parking, click on the link under Related Links.


East end MUCH nicer than West end

   May, 2015 by glhaberman

After a not very pleasant ride on the west end of this trail last fall, tried the East end in May 2015. Much nicer trail. Started in Norfolk and went out 1 mile past Battle Creek before impending rain forced me to turn around and head back. No issues more

Washboard trail

   April, 2015 by glhaberman

We did a 40 mile ride in October 2014, starting in Valentine and, except for the first 5 miles, the trail was not in good condition. A 2 or 3 mile stretch of continuous washboard almost made us turn around. At about mile 18, we hit a stretch that was more

2014 Norfolk to Battle Creek part of Cowboy Trail

   September, 2014 by juzzell

I ride the trail regularly. There is a new mile that starts on south 1st Street--south of where it appears the town ends, so keep going until you see the parking lot and a bridge for the trail. It is cement thru Ta-Ha-Zouka Park--which is on S. Hwy. 81, more