Map of the Cowboy Recreation & Nature Trail


Cowboy Recreation & Nature Trail

Cowbow Recreation & Nature Trail Nebraska map area

Cowboy Recreation & Nature Trail


195 miles




Valentine, Ainsworth, Long Pine, Stuart, O'Neill, Neligh, Norfolk


rail trail, farmland, rural communities, railroad depots

The Cowboy Recreation & Nature Trail is a 195-mile long unpaved pathway that extends from Valentine to Norfolk in North Central Nebraska. The trail was constructed along the abandoned railroad bed of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad and much the trail has an improved crushed limestone surface. This is the longest Rails-to-Trails project in the U.S. It travels through wide open prairie land and passes by farmland and several small towns along its route. The scenery includes the historic and picturesque old railroad bridges, old railroad depots, creek crossings, museums, wildlife sightings, stretches through forested areas and other attractions.

The trail provides a link between the many communities along the route as well as an opportunity for outdoor recreation and exercise for the residents.


The Cowboy Recreation & Nature Trail is a non-motorized multi-use trail open for bike riding, walking, running and equestrian use.


The Cowboy Recreation & Nature Trail goes through the Nebraska towns of:

  • Valentine
  • Wood Lake
  • Johnstown
  • Ainsworth
  • Long Pine
  • Bassett
  • Newport
  • Stuart
  • Atkinson
  • O'Neill
  • Ewing
  • Clearwater
  • Neligh
  • Oakdale
  • Tilden
  • Meadow Grove
  • Battle Creek
  • Norfolk
End Points

The west end of the portion of the Cowboy Recreation & Nature Trail that is completed is located in the small community of Valentine near the Nebraska - South Dakota border. From here the trail heads to the southeast running not far from Highway 20 with a very long trestle bridge for crossing the Niobrara River. Much of the route of the trail is near to Highway 20.

There is a gap in the trail east of the community of Clearwater. Flooding along the Elkhorn River washed away part of the railroad bed between 517th Avenue and 519th Avenue. Trail users must travel up to Highway 275 to get to the next section of the trail. There are long stretches between services along the trail, so be sure to be prepared. Also watch the weather and summer storms can come up quickly.

The east end of the trail is on the south side of the City of Norfolk. There is parking and other facilities at Ta-Ha Zouka Park and a trailhead on S 1st Street at the eastern terminus of the trail.


Following are links to official off-site resources to find out more details about the Cowboy Recreation & Nature Trail, Nebraska.