More than 130 miles of bike trails weave through the capital city, including the MoPac Trail, stretching 27 miles from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to the small town of Wabash east of the city. One day the MoPac, built on an abandoned Missouri Pacific Railroad corridor, will extend all the way to Omaha.
For now, the MoPac’s 5 urban miles follow a greenbelt past backyards and city parks. Beyond the city’s eastern edge, past 84th Street, the trail transitions to crushed limestone for the trip past restored prairie and cornfields.
The MoPac offers riders diverse experiences ranging from access to Lincoln shops, restaurants and parks to group rides into the countryside for Tuesday-night nachos at Bailey’s Local in Eagle.
“If you go 5 miles, it is the same as 100 miles: smooth, calm amazingness. It is therapeutic,” University of Nebraska student Daniel Casburn says.
Around the state, other routes offer a big range of additional outings. The state’s distance champ is the Cowboy Recreation and Nature Trail, which covers 195 miles of crushed limestone across the northern part of the state between Norfolk in the east and Valentine in the center of the state. Eventually, it will reach Chadron and its full length of 321 miles.
Cowboy Recreation and Nature Trail. Photo courtesy of Nebraskaland Magazine/ Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
Along the way, find pockets of prairie harbor pheasants, quail and songbirds. Bald eagles swoop over the Elkhorn River, and riders find a signature photo op as they pedal across an old trestle bridge over the Niobrara River.
On the state’s eastern side, several popular trails deliver tastes of urban settings and historical pathways. Omaha contains a total of about 120 miles of paved multiuse recreational trails, with 20 miles of the Omaha Riverfront Trail following the Missouri River along former levee roads.
In the southeast corner, Beatrice’s Chief Standing Bear Trail runs 19-plus miles to the Kansas border and will eventually connect to the Homestead Trail, which leads 40 miles from Beatrice to Lincoln. Between Brownville and Nebraska City, the Steamboat Trace’s 22 miles of crushed limestone include 6 miles of Lewis and Clark’s route near the historic river port of Brownville.
Mountain bikers can easily make a weekend out of a visit to the state’s northwest corner. In and around Chadron State Park, 33 miles of trails weave through pine forests and reveal views of the Pine Ridge region.
Chadron State Park. Photo courtesy of Nebraska Tourism
Next door, the adjoining Nebraska National Forest adds another 80 miles of trails within its 146,000-plus acres. Pioneer landmarks highlight the Monument Valley Pathway, a 6.3-mile trail connecting Scottsbluff, Gering and Terrytown. Chalk hills rise above grasslands along the North Platte River, and Scotts Bluff National Monument, a key marker for wagon trains, looms 800 feet above the river near the trail. Soon to come: 5 more miles for the pathway in Scottsbluff.
Bike Gurus: Catch the buzz at Omaha Bicycle Company. The local shop sells caffeine drinks, bicycles and gear.
Statewide Bike Events
Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska
June 4–10, 2017
This annual rural-urban mixer takes 600 riders over 470 miles on its way between small-town stops. The route varies each year for this Rotary-organized event that benefits Nebraska students (bran-inc.org ).
Tour de Nebraska
June 21–25, 2017
Organizers promise to plan a 30th-anniversary route that catches as many tailwinds as possible, making the miles go more quickly on this 250- to 350-mile, four-night adventure (tourdenebraska.com).
Tour de Nebraska. Photo courtesy of Tour de Nebraska, Inc.
7 Cities Century Bike Ride
August 5–6, 2017
Put in back-to-back 50-some-mile days with breaks every 10 to 15 miles. Starting and ending at the Ta-Ha-Zouka Park clubhouse in Norfolk, riders stop in seven towns, including camping overnight in Petersburg (7citiescentury.com).
August 19, 2017
Hills. Many, many hills. In fact, riders in this trek across country roads climb a total of 8,000 to 11,000 feet during the 150-mile loop around Lincoln (gravel-worlds.com).
August 27, 2017
Riders who join the Great Plains Cycling Club for this century ride aren’t afraid to crank out the miles in the midst of summer. But you can choose from loops of 24, 35, 43 or 102 miles starting and ending at the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum in Ashland (greatplainsbikeclub.org ).