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Best Time of Year for Riding Cowboy Trail in Nebraska

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Best Time of Year for Riding Cowboy Trail in Nebraska

Old 06-25-18, 02:26 PM
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CEPP1
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Best Time of Year for Riding Cowboy Trail in Nebraska

We are planning to ride the Cowboy Trail in Nebraska this coming year. We will start in Chadron and ride to the end in Norfolk before packing up and driving to Kansas to ride the Flint Hills Trail. We would ride about 65 miles per day and complete the Cowboy Trail in five days.

Looking for recommendations from experienced folks on the best month for riding. We are bound by an academic schedule, so Spring Break (middle of March) and summers are the best times for us. Wondering if mid-March is too early in the year and if July and August are too hot. Thanks for the help.
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Old 06-25-18, 02:48 PM
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Weatherspark is a site I use for such types of climate comparisons. For example, here is a comparison between Abilene and Chadron:

https://weatherspark.com/compare/y/4...on-and-Abilene

My own guess looking at this is March could be hit/miss with nights below freezing. Probability isn't high but also some precipitation would make icy/snowy if a front just happens to come through. I'd probably plan it with a "backup" plan if weather forecasts just happened to indicate a front.

Summer might be more similar to 2nd half of May in Abilene.
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Old 06-25-18, 04:09 PM
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Thanks for the link. We just rode the Katy Trail and so much of it was shady--which was really nice. The early afternoon sun was more bearable because of the shade. It looks like the Cowboy Trail is mostly exposed with a lot less shade. Early June is what I've been thinking, but thought that other options might work.
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Old 06-25-18, 04:46 PM
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Originally Posted by CEPP1 View Post
We are planning to ride the Cowboy Trail in Nebraska this coming year. We will start in Chadron and ride to the end in Norfolk before packing up and driving to Kansas to ride the Flint Hills Trail. We would ride about 65 miles per day and complete the Cowboy Trail in five days.

Looking for recommendations from experienced folks on the best month for riding. We are bound by an academic schedule, so Spring Break (middle of March) and summers are the best times for us. Wondering if mid-March is too early in the year and if July and August are too hot. Thanks for the help.

Usually August and July are high-summer weather....70F dewpoints and overnight lows of 75F and highs of 95F+, nevermind the UV. Ride crack of dawn--even at midnight the heat still carries over-it isn't until 3-4AM temps meaningfully come down

March...typically rainy and chilly.


Note how I said "usually" and "typically"...Tour de Nebraska just finished, Sunday, and we were up by the Niobrara end of Cowboy Trail. March this year was hot and dry. April was cold and wet. May was hotter and drier (see above high-summer weather)---The last week in Nebraska has been an utter monsoon. Inches of rain. The MMRs were impassable and the Cowboy was almost peanut butter. Similarly last August (2017) for 7 Cities Century it was unseasonably cold and very wet (first week of August)--lows in the low 50s and highs of maybe 60s).

Cowboy trail mirrors state highways much of the distance...so if the trail is impassable due to rain, there's always the highway. Some of those highways are quite busy however with farm freight traffic. As you note it is very exposed WRT sun and wind--which we do get wicked surface winds that pick up around noon to late afternoon in high summer. It is a nice trail that passes several towns along the route.



If you're starting in Norfolk, Ta Ha Zouka Park is a nice park to camp--and is on the trail system IIRC. Also right off the highway. It is where 7 Cities Century starts yearly.
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Old 06-26-18, 05:06 AM
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According to the web site, the section west of Valentine is not officially open and is use at own risk:

Cowboy Trail Maps, Businesses, Events, Mileage, and more

Anyone know what the undeveloped section is like? The Comment Forum on the web site makes it seem not that great.
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Old 06-26-18, 05:25 AM
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I rode a section east of Valentine last Sept. and it was hot. There’s not much shade. While ATVs and other vehicles are technically not permitted on the trail, they’ve created some pretty rough conditions in places. As plains riding experiences go, I preferred the Flint Hills rail trail in Kansas.
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Old 06-26-18, 02:28 PM
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I am wanting to combine a ride on the Mickelson Trail (South Dakota), Cowboy Trail (Nebraska), and Flint Hills Trail (Kansas). If we are going to drive up from Texas, it seems like a fun adventure to tie all three of them together. We will have a support car with a bike trailer to provide support during the rides and to transport us to the end points of the three trails.
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Old 06-26-18, 02:35 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
According to the web site, the section west of Valentine is not officially open and is use at own risk:

Cowboy Trail Maps, Businesses, Events, Mileage, and more

Anyone know what the undeveloped section is like? The Comment Forum on the web site makes it seem not that great.
It's probably worth a call to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to check on the status of the trail between Chadron and Valentine. Their website says that it spans 321 miles between Chadron and Norfolk, but also says that 192 miles between Norfolk and Valentine is an "improved limestone surface." We will definitely check before getting too far into the planning process.

Cowboy Trail - Nebraska Game and ParksNebraska Game and Parks |
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Old 06-26-18, 02:45 PM
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Looks a bit brutal due to lack of shade.

Have you ever done the Mickelson in SD? I did it back in 2015 as part of a tour around the Black Hills. Beautiful trail with varying scenery. But it's not flat, and you reach a altitude of over 6,000' at one point. Nice water cisterns and sun (and hail) shelters between towns. North to south is the easier direction.
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Old 06-26-18, 03:38 PM
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I've been watching videos on YouTube of the Mickelson Trail. It looks wonderful and so different from what we are used to in West Texas. We rode through South Dakota on our summer rides the last two years, but didn't make it that far west. We were also on road bikes and weren't up for any additional miles. We would ride south and then jump (drive) down to the Cowboy Trail. The worst part is having to wait until next summer to get this rolling.
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Old 06-26-18, 09:31 PM
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Hit the Mickelson Trail last July 2017 took the uphill route from Edgemont to slow down a bit though I’m not fast to begin with.
Awesome trail highly recommend it. Might go to the Mickelson in a few weeks start from Deadwood after an initial climb it is a downhill cruise that is very scenic. Wil drive US 83 to South Dakota then hit I 94 for a few hours to the Black Hills.
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Old 06-27-18, 04:55 AM
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Mickelson is the best rail trail I’ve ridden so far. The stretch from Hill City north is beautiful and more challenging because of the long hills. A really well maintained trail with “rest stops”.
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