Rails to Trails

“In my opinion the best way to see Nebraska is not at 75 mph on I-80, but at a much more leisurely pace on the seat of a bicycle.”

—Rev. Bill Ritter, Director, Nebraska United Methodist Bike Ride for Hunger; Member, National Bicycle Tour Directors Association

The Cowboy Trail is a former rail line converted into a scenic recreational path for biking, hiking and horseback riding. Once complete, it will stretch 321 miles across Nebraska, from Norfolk to Chadron, making it the longest rails-to-trails conversion in the nation.

Bike trails in other Great Plains states connect a vast network of trails for the amateur or serious biker.

Cowboy Trail

Norfolk to Valentine, Nebraska

Experience the nation’s longest rails-to-trail trek along the northern tier of Nebraska. You can hike, bike, or horseback ride a total of 195 miles on completed trail from Norfolk to Valentine. Enjoy the small towns along the way, beautiful scenery and pristine air on the Cowboy Trail.

Prairie Bike Path

Trail head located south of I 90 at Exit 1163, see website for details

The Prairie Path Trail is an unimproved surface trail. The trail’s rough surface and length give it a moderate difficulty rating but is overall relatively flat. Features of note are the near by Badland formations and prairie dogs. Seasonal features are flowers and birds, in particular burrowing owls. The missile silo portion of the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is located along the path.

The Crane Trust Nature & Visitor Center

(308) 382-1820
9325 South Alda Road 
Wood River, NE 68883

The Crane Trust is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and maintenance of critical habitat for whooping cranes, sandhills cranes and other migratory birds along the Big Bend Region of the Platte River Valley. The Trust operates the Nebraska Nature & Visitor Center, providing a regional gateway for community outreach and education. During crane season they offer visitors several different guided tours and access to private photo and viewing blinds along the river. Crane Trust now offers fat bike trail excursions along the Platte River and through untilled prairie.

High Plains Homestead

(308) 665-2592
263 Sandcreek Rd
Crawford, NE 69339

High Plains Homestead is an Old West outpost is located in the middle of the Oglala National Grasslands, an expanse of 90,000+ acres of African-like savannah. Owners Mike and Linda Kesselring are veterans of Nebraska tourism and after 16 years of business have seen a lot of repeat visitors—and for good reason. High Plains Homestead includes a school house, saloon, mercantile, post office, jail, and blacksmith shop. This wild, rugged and varied country of northwest Nebraska with its thousands of acres of public land, is a mountain biker’s “dream come true.” This undiscovered area has been featured in the September/October 2000 issue of Adventure Cyclist Magazine. Activities include horseback riding, fossil/rock viewing, mountain biking, birding, hiking.

Niobrara Riverview Retreats

(402) 376-2679
P.O. Box 414
Valentine, NE 69201

Steve Hanson and his family run Niobrara Riverview Retreats, a business that transforms their love for the outdoors into an experience to share with visitors. A former fisheries biologist in Alaska, Steve is an expert naturalist who can explain in detail the botany, geology, biology and ecology of his surroundings. Niobrara Riverview Retreats borders two miles of the Niobrara River. It includes hiking trails and a 25-acre marsh, appropriate for canoeing and catch and release fishing. The Valentine National Wildlife Refuge is only 15 miles away, a stunning landscape of over 30 sandhills lakes spread out across 70,000+ acres with 260 identified bird species spotted. The ranch is just miles from Ft. Valentine National Wildlife Refuge. Activities include tubing, canoeing, guided nature walks, orienteering, overnight stabling and horseback riding. Visitors with bikes can take a short ride to the Cowboy Trail where they can continue the ride into Valentine (about 5 miles).

Our Heritage Guest Ranch

(308) 665-2810
Toadstool Rd
Crawford, NE 69339

Our Heritage Guest Ranch is nestled in the foothills of the picturesque Pine Ridge. Owner Jean Norman is a fourth generation rancher with fifty years of experience and knowledge working in the Nebraska Panhandle. She organizes special experiences for her guests, including guided fossil digs, natural horsemanship training and multi-day horseback journeys. Her six-day Lakota journey is led by a tribal member who introduces groups to the plants and animals of the area as well as Lakota culture, astrology, traditional cooking and storytelling. Jean has shorter horseback expeditions as well, and also the option to participate in everyday ranch activities: fixing fence, haying, lambing and calving. Activities include horseback riding, hiking, biking, fishing, stargazing, photography, and holistic health instruction.

Know of an ecotourist-friendly place in the Great Plains to bike? Email us at cgps@unl.edu