The Cowboy trail will soon be the longest rails-to-trails recreation trail in the nation. This spectacular development is attributed to the Rails-to-Trail Conservancy, Chicago and NorthWestern Transportation Company, and NEBKOTA Short Line railroad. The railroad grade offers a gentle climb from 1500 feet near Norfolk up to 3500 feet in the Pine Ridge area near Chadron. The 320 mile trail passes through twenty-nine quaint communities, and many ghost structures remain from the bygone railroad era.
The converted historic Chicago and NorthWestern railroad corridor passes through spectacular and nationally unique geographical regions in Nebraska. Traveling east to west, the trail begins in Norfolk and runs through the timber-covered Elkhorn River Valley, where Farmsteads and small towns are scattered about the landscape. The trail then evolves into an area of native prairie lands as it approaches Basset. West of Basset the Cowboy Trail enters Nebraska's nationally unique and subtly beautiful Sandhill country, which is home to some of the most productive cattle ranges and hay fields in the world. As the trail extends westward, through the largest county in the nation (Cherry County), it eventually enters the canyon and Ponderosa-pine covered region of Pine Ridge, from just west of Merriman to Chadron.
The 320 miles of trail contain 3,893 acres of land and 221 bridges. Within the surrounding area and especially along the trial you will find a vast amount of historical, geographical, paleontological, and geological phenomenon. Explore the interactive maps below to discover intriguing sites such as: The stomping grounds of David C. "Doc" Middleton and Albert "kid" Wade and their horse stealing syndicate. The home of attorney William Froelich and family after prosecuting Al Capone. The possible burial site of Oglala Sioux warrior, Crazy Horse. Walgren Lake State Recreation Area, where it is said that the Walgren Lake (Lock Ness-like) Monster resides. And a place where wishes come true, according Sioux Legend.
For an overview map of the entire trail click here.
The Cowboy Trail-Home Page
Nebraska Department of Economic Development's Tourism Home Page
Nebraska Trails Page
Endacott, Richard & Katherine. More Eating Nebraska-Second Helpings. Pleasant Dale Press. 1996.
McNally, Hannah. Nebraska-Off the Beaten Path. The Globe Pequot Press. 1997.