“The Cowboy Trail is one of the country’s longest rail-trails stretching 196 miles across Nebraska.”
— Kristen Arendt
Features: Commonly Backpacked
Family Friendly: A nice path that is flat and wide.
Stretching across a significant portion of America’s outback, the Cowboy Trail provides visitors with endless potential. The trail can be a relaxing getaway for a nature walk at dusk, a family weekend bike destination, a more grueling course for a long-distance run or an easily-accessible route to explore the Great American Plains.
Starting in Norfolk and stretching 321 miles west to Chadron, this is one of the longest Rails-to-Trails projects in the US. This mapped route covers the 196 miles of the trail between Norfolk and Valentine that uses a crushed limestone surface, which makes for a great tread for hiking.
This path is also used for biking and horseback riding, so please respect right-of-way signs.
When the railroad was first built, it was constructed at a grade of 2% or less, which was the regulated maximum for locomotives. For the same reason, there are no tight turns. Both of these trail characteristics lend themselves to an extremely enjoyable user experience, whether you're hiking, biking, or riding horseback.
Keep your eyes open along the trail for some old milepost markers, which were originally erected as telegraph poles. A number of these mark the distance to Fremont, which is the easternmost trailhead.