Author Topic: How to connect Transamerica (west) with Great America Rail Trail (east)  (Read 5557 times)

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Offline harveyrd

I am planning a cross country ride  and thinking about riding the Transamerica route on the West from Astoria, OR to somewhere in Wyoming and then trying to pickup the Great America Rail Trail in Valentine,  NE to pickup the Cowboy Trail (https://www.nps.gov/thingstodo/bike-the-cowboy-trail.htm) following the Rail Trail through to Pittsburgh and then continue on the GAP trail to Washington, DC.

One challenge is how to connect the Transamerica route in Wyoming with the Rail-Trail in Nebraska.

Option 1:
One option is to riding east from Jeffrey City, WY through Casper and further across Nebraska to Valentine.   The route might follow Rt 20 all the way from Lusk, WY to Valentine, NE.   Does anyone have advice on this section?

Option 2:
Another alternative is to head east out of Buffalo, WY and more or less follow Interstate 90 east to Murdo, SD and drop south to Valentine, NE on Rt 83.   Does anyone have advice on this section?

I appreciate any and all advice from the veteran riders out there!
« Last Edit: November 09, 2023, 12:45:12 pm by harveyrd »

Online John Nettles

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Re: How to connect Transamerica (west) with Great America Rail Trail (east)
« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2023, 01:42:27 pm »
First, welcome to the ACA Forums!

To clarify, the Cowboy Trail (CT) goes from Valentine to O'Neill, NE.  It does not go to Pittsburgh though you can route using a lot of rail trails between Clinton, MO, and Pittsburgh.

As far are the Cowboy Trail (CT) goes, it has a lot of potential but unfortunately the trail is still a bit rustic in many places so that most cyclists start on the CT but quickly switch to US-20.

To get to the CT, you could just follow the TA to east of Crowheart, WY, and then continue on US-26 to Shoshoni then US-20 to Glenrock. From Glenrock, you can take either I-25 (about 4500 cars a day so quite acceptable with a 4-lane and full shoulder highway) or take WY-95 to Douglas.  Then take CR-1/Irvine Rd (or I-25) to
Orin where you connect to US-18 then US-20 in Lusk which you take to Valentine.

You don't say why you want to ride the CT.  Most roads in that part of the country have pretty low traffic in most places.  If you gave a bit of guidance, we could give you better route advice. 

If you are trying to do low traffic roads, I personally would connect to the Parks, Peaks, & Prairie (PPP) route either Yellowstone or if you want to do more of Yellowstone and/or Tetons, then connect to the PPP via US-26 to US-16 at Ten Sleep.  To me, the PPP is much more scenic east of Yellowstone NP. 

How do you plan on getting from O'Neill (or the PPP) to Pittsburgh?

Tailwinds, John

Offline harveyrd

Re: How to connect Transamerica (west) with Great America Rail Trail (east)
« Reply #2 on: November 09, 2023, 01:52:08 pm »
Thank you John Nettles!

How do you plan on getting from O'Neill (or the PPP) to Pittsburgh?   My thought was to follows the Great American Rail Trail all the way to Pittsurgh and then on to Washington DC vai the GAP Trail and C&O Canal Trail.   I understand your comment about the CT -- perhaps it is not ready for prime-time.

I'm going to digest your advice above, and then rethink my route.  Possibly more to come on this ...

Any further suggestions are welcome!
« Last Edit: November 09, 2023, 01:54:43 pm by harveyrd »

Online John Nettles

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Re: How to connect Transamerica (west) with Great America Rail Trail (east)
« Reply #3 on: November 09, 2023, 01:59:17 pm »
Sure.  Just know that there are numerous segments that are not routed.  This map https://gis.railstotrails.org/grtamerican/ shows the route and the red segments and the grey boxes are not routed so you will need to create a route for that yourself.  That will be a lot of work and if you are not too experienced, you might route onto unfavorable roads.  What is the goal of this trip?  See American, cross the country, see specific areas, etc.? 

Offline harveyrd

Re: How to connect Transamerica (west) with Great America Rail Trail (east)
« Reply #4 on: November 12, 2023, 11:26:07 am »
You got me thinking John:   One of my criteria is to incorporate the C&O Canal Trail and Great Allegheny at the end of my trip, so perhaps the good ole Transamerica route might be close to ideal?   I wouldn't mind seeing parts of South Dakota, but that is pretty far of course relative to the Transam, so I could forgo that part.   I think I'm drawn to the TransAm over the northern tier or southern tier routes.

What are my criteria:  See rural America, ride the C&O Canal Trail and Great Allegheny, try to ride safer, low traffic roads to the extend practical, and have an epic cycling experience.

Online John Nettles

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Re: How to connect Transamerica (west) with Great America Rail Trail (east)
« Reply #5 on: November 12, 2023, 02:09:47 pm »
You might consider these four options all of which head west from Astoria, OR, on the TransAm to Yellowstone: 

1) Connect to the Parks, Peaks, & Prairies (PPP); then connect to the Lewis & Clark in South Dakota and head southeast to the Eastern Express (EE) and take that to Indianapolis before connecting to the Chicago to NYC (CNYC) Route which will take you to the GAP;

2) Connect to the PPP all the way to Minneapolis then connect to the Northern Tier southeast before heading southeast on the CNYC to the GAP;

3) Continue on the TransAm to Blue Ridge Parkway/Skyline Drive then go to Shepherdsville, WV, via this route https://ridewithgps.com/routes/44966993 to connect to the C&O (you miss parts of the C&O & the entire GAP);

4) Continue on the TransAm to Rush Center, KS, where you use the appropriate segement of this route https://ridewithgps.com/collections/57717?privacy_code=7Hz7hdyP1cntdBrT Clinton, MO, where you connect to the EE then CYNC to GAP as stated in Option #1.

Hope this helps.  Tailwinds, John

Offline Nyimbo

Re: How to connect Transamerica (west) with Great America Rail Trail (east)
« Reply #6 on: November 13, 2023, 12:08:45 am »
I rode the TransAmerica W-E and cut across to the Eastern Express in Colorado.  I did so because I had a desire to ride the Katy Trail and the GAP C&O more than I wanted to ride the official transAmerica but I missed riding the eastern half of the TransAmerica route which would have been nice. 


I loved the small town country roads and seeing "America" part of the ride and I loved the two major trails mentioned above. Both are very different kinds of experiences. 


I have not yet ridden any of the more norther routes you mentioned above, so I can't compare.  My only suggestion is that you stay on one or a combination of established paths for your first tour.  After that you should be well qualified to make your own routes.

Offline harveyrd

Re: How to connect Transamerica (west) with Great America Rail Trail (east)
« Reply #7 on: November 13, 2023, 01:55:27 pm »
John:  I filled out the details for both route options 1 and 2 and Google Docs, and I'm leaning to option 2 at this point.

I'll go ahead and buy the physical and GPX maps from ACA.

Thank you!
« Last Edit: November 13, 2023, 05:13:04 pm by harveyrd »

Offline jamawani

Re: How to connect Transamerica (west) with Great America Rail Trail (east)
« Reply #8 on: January 29, 2024, 09:16:26 pm »
You do know that the supposed Great American Rail Trail is more imagination than anything else in many places?
Especially in Nebraska, especially the Cowboy Trail. I've biked across Nebraska many times.
US 20 - which parallels the Cowboy Trail - has fairly light traffic and great shoulders.
But the Cowboy Trail is a sandpit - with Nebraska sand -  across much of the state.
Best part of the Cowboy Trail is the Niobrara River bridge - certainly worth doing.

Pic - Niobrara Trestle