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Explore the best rated trails in Norfolk, NE, whether you're looking for an easy walking trail or a bike trail like the Pawnee Park Trail and Third Avenue Viaduct Trail . With more than 10 trails covering 3959 miles you're bound to find a perfect trail for you. Click on any trail below to find trail descriptions, trail maps, photos, and reviews.
Nice towns along the way. Good history. Various places to camp/stay. The trail is wide, well groomed and is mostly free from weeds or any overgrowth. But tire tracks from maintenance equipment can create a rough washboard effect along the trail.
In the red aggregate areas there is so much loose red aggregate that sometimes it is very hard to pedal and navigate through. Then the crushed limestone portions are pretty good. Issue is the trail will alternate back and forth with some sections of the really loose red aggregate and some sections of nice crushed limestone.
Use caution in loose material at road crossings (especially in sandier soil areas in western portions of the trail).
No trailheads. Source your own water and find own restrooms in towns along the way. No bulletin boards to post communications so check ahead online for trail closures and detours.
I did not have an issue with the puncturevine many speak of but be prepared for it in case you do.
Today was my 3rd day on the trail. Have logged 140 miles on the trail over the last 3 days....all out and back. Today I rode from Ainsworth beyond Bassett. A pleasant surprise, 3 miles out of Ainsworth the trail surface changed from the red pea sized gravel to white/tan small stone gravel. Similar to what we have in WI…crushed limestone. This made the trail much much smoother! A MAJOR improvement. I did find in Long Pine that the bridge outside of town was out. Required me to take a detour out of town and ride on Hwy 20 for 1.5 miles (I felt safe as the shoulder is quite wide), got on a side road, where not far from Hwy 20 picked up the trail. That side road was very soft, so glad it was a short ride. The trail surface continued to be smooth to Bassett, where it then reverted back to the red stone. It made me wonder why the different type of stone is being used as the red stone surely is part of the reason for the rougher ride when the surface is comprised of this red stone. I rode 53 miles today. The temp was 88...still hot. Glad to be done! Overall, rode 141 miles on the trail. And no flats!!
My wife and I have rode 98 miles on the trail over the last two days (out and back rides), from Valentine to Ainsworth. The nicest thing I can say about the trail is it is clean. By that I mean it has no grass nor weeds growing on it. But that's about it. First, the surface is very washboardy. I surmise this is from the maintenance trucks leaving there tracks on the surface. We ride tadpoles/trikes, so very difficult to avoid these. Two wheelers will have a better time of it, but will still be a challenge. Would recommend they drag it periodically to rid it of this condition. This is a very boring trail....no scenery....just flat! There are also a lot of soft spots. You will sink into these and will need all your strength to get through them. Fatter tires are recommended for the trail, and if they are eBikes, lower your pressure to get a smoother ride, using your power to get through the trail. There are also holes in the trail. One might say they are gopher holes, but these are much bigger, as though prairie dogs live there. And stay clear of the sides as they are very soft and will suck you off the trail. We had been warned about those sharp barbs that can puncture your tires. Here they call them 'goat heads' . We did not encounter these and had no issues with flats. However, we were told this is not the time of year for them, and if you find them on the trail, they are left over from the fall. Late summer and fall is when these present the biggest problem. I also think mile markers would be helpful, but can get past that . Make sure you have plenty of water and few services in the small towns. Will I ride this trail again? Nope! UNLESS....they pave it. I think it would be an awesome trail to get on and just ride, if it was paved. I would come back (from WI) often if it was.
Surprised to see this amazing trail that has great bed and breakfasts along it is not noted as part of the Great American Rail Trail. It sure would help demonstrate more GART completion if it was.
The Pawnee Park trail is a good quality concrete trail in Pawnee Park. It connects through the park with many rest, relaxation, and recreation opportunities.
The east terminus of the trail is at 26th avenue, a short little walk, run, or bike into downtown Columbus!
I had an outfitter drop me off in Ewing so I could ride 50 miles back to Norfolk. (wind coming dirctly from the east in my face...my bad). I encountered two bridge washouts. One had a detour sign to leave the trail but no sign on how or when to get back on. The second east of Neligh had no sign and no warning causing a 2 mile double back. There was also a trail washout section again with no warning. The other issue that made this ride less than ideal was that they had laid down about 20 miles of new pea gravel but had not tampted or rolled it so it was like riding in sand. The local big industrial farmers use this trail as their own private tractor highway leaving ruts for most of the section I rode (despite knowing that they are not permitted). In frustration, I left the trail and rode RT 275's nice shoulders for the rest of the trip. Also, if you're looking for scenery, skip this trail.
A nice ride. The hub is a good place to start.
Rode the trail in 6+ days, nice trail, very maintained, gravel only. Watch out for "puncture vines" must have spare tubes or tires or change from tubeless to tubes. Pack up! Beautiful out there. Don't expect too many people riding. Water up with hydration, not too many choices for refilling. Super hot in June/July. I enjoyed the ride a lot. If you prepare the ride, you find every 30+ miles a good place to sleep.
We took electric scooters and did 16miles of this trail was so beautiful seen 6 deer 5 turkeys will glad go back and explore more
May 22 – 24 2022 The entire Trail from East to West
Day 1 Norfolk to O’Neil 80 miles
Day 2 O’Neil to Bassett 50 miles
Day 3 Bassett to Valentine 65 miles
The Trail was in good condition with very, little vegetation in the middle of the trail for the duration for late Spring. There are plenty of soft spots (deep gravel) that wider tires (used 50cm) are highly recommended for the Trail.
If you are riding the entire Trail, there are multiple detours along the route. The issue is that some are not marked well until you get to where for example, a bridge is washed out and it says closed as you reach the river and you must backtrack. The detour puts you on a busy highway with plenty of traffic mostly with large trucks. Since the Cowboy follows the highway for a majority of the Cowboy, we learned that once the obstacle was bypassed, we would just join back onto the trail which in most cases was a football field in distance to return to the Trail.
Treat all transitions with caution that includes all roads, driveways and bridges that crosses the trail as each may have challenges to include drop-offs, soft and deep sand plus up to 6” to get back up on the trail.
You may want to take into consideration the winds for the timeframe of your ride because you are exposed as the limited trees along the trail do little to help block the wind. 2 out of 3 days it was a direct headwind of 10+ knots. Also, going from East to West is a steady 1 to 2% climb.
We chose the Spring time frame to avoid the possibility of the dreaded sand burrs but we did have several occurrences of the burrs being imbedding in our tires. Luckily, we were running a tubeless tire setup with a sealant we have been using for years and after removing a burr, it quickly plugged the leak and we continued on with our journey.
Throughout the length of the Cowboy, there was some sort off wildlife digging holes mostly on the sides of the trail but some were in the middle of the trail and quite large. It was difficult to see the severity of the hole until you were almost on it.
As you approach each town on the trail, there is a sign announcing the name off the city and distance to the next one. As you are departing that town, there is another one along the trail.
Near Bassett, keep your eyes in the pastures adjacent to the trail as you might see wildlife of not the indigenous type but more of the exotic kind – 2 camels and a zebra!
We've read mixed reviews of various segments of the trail, with issues of maintenance, and goathead burrs that will puncture tires. But the section near the west end of the trail, specifically near Valentine NEB merits a short ride and we didnt encounter any problems. Park in downtown Valentine, where the trail crosses highway 83 (or anywhere- its a small town) and head east on the trail about 2 miles for a visual treat. The huge trestle that is one of the trail icons crosses high above the Niobrara river, and offers great views of the valley. Also FYI, the Niobrara is a great float river and several outfitters are based in Valentine.
Completed my ride east to west on Aug 9. I rode my Kettwiesel e-assist trike around 40 mi. per day, staying on trail except for required detours, two near Neligh and one at Long Pine. Because temperature in afternoon reached the 90s I started early each day. It’s not an easy ride, soft surfaces occasionally, and weeds in center of trail quite frequently. With my trike one wheel was in the weeds in places. But thanks to Schwalbe marathon tires, I had no flats I did notice goatheads sticking to tires several times and removed them of course.
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