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The Great Plains Trail

Old 08-07-20, 07:40 AM
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The Great Plains Trail

Has anyone looked at the Great Plains Trail info? It probably is not very close to completion, but I wonder if some approximation could be strung together by an interested party since much of it is on the road any way.

It is intended to be able to be hiked, biked, or ridden on horseback. It is located in the High Plains and includes 3 National Parks, 3 National Monuments, 10 National Forests/Grasslands, 5 State High Points, and 15 State Parks. It is supposed to be about 2200 miles. At least some of it has been hiked and there has been some discussion about hiking/riding it on the AT White Blazes site.

I have been giving it some not yet serious consideration as a post pandemic (whenever that is) tour/trip. I figure if I do it, it will be mostly a bike tour with some hiking and peak/high point bagging.
https://www.greatplainstrail.org/
https://whiteblaze.net/forum/forumdi...t-Plains-Trail
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Old 08-07-20, 07:50 AM
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Wow, thanks for sharing! I really like the looks of this and am very interested in doing some of the Colorado and perhaps New Mexico sections of this. I've likely driven many of these roads over the years.
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Old 08-07-20, 08:39 AM
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Originally Posted by countrydirt View Post
Wow, thanks for sharing! I really like the looks of this and am very interested in doing some of the Colorado and perhaps New Mexico sections of this. I've likely driven many of these roads over the years.
I don't know how well fleshed out the route is at this point, but I do think it has the making of a great route. Folks may not realize how interesting the areas it passes through are, but there are some real highlights to see there. For me it would allow visiting a couple states I have not been to and climbing a few new state high points as well as revisiting a lot of other areas that I have been in much better detail and seeing stuff that I skirted past in previous travels. I remember seeing pictures of places there that I missed and was bummed that I passed so near on other tours or car travels.
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Old 08-07-20, 08:44 AM
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I'm interested in riding this. I don't live too far from the Great Plains in Iowa and this is an area I want to explore.
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Old 08-07-20, 12:32 PM
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I'm a son of the Great Plains. I love the Great Plains, but I've found over my life that almost all folks that aren't from the Great Plains "don't get it".

I don't want to put anyone off, but be realistic about what you enjoy and what a cycletour in this area of the country entails. A recent tour report referred to this as "The Road to Nowhere" (the author was not from the Great Plains.) There are reasons that Adventure Cycling Association's mapped routes scamper across this part of America rather than traverse its length. Likewise, the historic Oregon, Sante Fe and Mormon Trails saw the Great Plains as a region to cross - as quickly as possible - as the settlers went to other more benign places for habitation. The Great Plains Trail's route down through western Nebraska, eastern Colorado and eastern New Mexico transverses thousands of miles of some of the driest, flattest, most wind-swept land in the USA with pretty nearly the lowest population density. Those big green areas on the map marked "Forrest Service"? Yeah, they're National Grasslands.



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Old 08-07-20, 02:39 PM
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Based on the website, I agree about a lot of it not being flushed out. The Mickelson Trail is, however, quite nice, though not as flat as many people imagine rail-trails to be.

And there is this proviso:“What about Private Lands?

Private lands are exactly that – private. While there may be a few landowners along the way who become interested in hosting a small piece of the trail, the reality is that public roads will be utilized for large stretches of the route.”
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Old 08-07-20, 03:32 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
Based on the website, I agree about a lot of it not being flushed out. The Mickelson Trail is, however, quite nice, though not as flat as many people imagine rail-trails to be.
I suspect that a fair amount of the roue is less flat than one might expect for the Great Plains. I have not dug in to it too deeply, but just poking around on the map I see some pretty large differences in elevation.

And there is this proviso:“What about Private Lands?
​​​​​​​
​​​​​​​Private lands are exactly that – private. While there may be a few landowners along the way who become interested in hosting a small piece of the trail, the reality is that public roads will be utilized for large stretches of the route.”
Yeah, it will be a bigger deal for hikers and those less willing to ride on the road. Those who don't mind a good bit of road miles may mind it a lot less. I could see it as a real trip killer for backpackers.
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Old 08-07-20, 05:18 PM
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Some years ago, I set out to bicycle every official county road in Weld County, CO. I only got ~600 of the 3000 miles done before I moved and a majority of them were gravel roads.

So I looked through the detailed maps to see how they crossed Northern Colorado. My sense is for at least northern CO and southern NE this is essentially a picking of a particular set of gravel roads - where often there is a network grid - often alternate county roads a few miles to east or west. So even without the official Great Plains Trail listing, one could also ride at least those areas with a more detailed CO map e.g. Delorme and just pick county back roads and expect mostly gravel riding. Not a big issue unless one gets a combination of rains along with poorly graded road that becomes a mess (not all gravel roads are a mess in the rain, but Weld County at least had a few and I've seen similar in other states).

As far as the appeal of that, it might appeal to someone who has started riding all county roads in Weld County or the length of US83 You can expect some wide open spaces, a need to plan routes to include occasional services and except for National Grassland, mostly private property that started originally as marginal homestead lands but since has largely consolidated into large acreages. This is still a good amount west of the 100th meridian, a traditional dividing line between areas getting 20 inches a year and those receiving less with a lot of impact on farming, etc. I would suggest riding south to north due to prevailing winds - not always in your favor but more often from SW / S than from the N.
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Old 08-07-20, 09:07 PM
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The Black Hills and Badlands are long-time cycletouring meccas. These are anomalous areas in the Great Plains as a whole.

More typical is the Rita Blanca National Grassland:

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Old 08-08-20, 05:02 AM
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The big thing I would see is it would need a lot of careful planning as there are very few services for mot of the route. Water would be the big issue. You definitely would need to filter water from wells and stock tanks some of the time and there would be some gravel most likely but other than that, the Great Plains can be quite nice. Tailwinds, John
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Old 08-08-20, 06:05 AM
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Originally Posted by TulsaJohn View Post
The big thing I would see is it would need a lot of careful planning as there are very few services for mot of the route. Water would be the big issue. You definitely would need to filter water from wells and stock tanks some of the time and there would be some gravel most likely but other than that, the Great Plains can be quite nice. Tailwinds, John
Yeah that worries me as well. Water would require careful planning and is probably my biggest concern on may trips (even more so backpacking, but also touring in some places).

Filtering isn't an easy answer either though. I know that in places on the plains and in the southwest that I would have expected to find stock tanks or wells and didn't find any water to filter. On the southern tier for example I found a filter to not even be worth carrying. Places where there was any surface water to filter there was also water resupply in the form of at least daily and most often twice daily potable tap water. So it worries me a bit how well a filter will work out there. I guess these days with some of the tiny gravity or squeeze filters the weight/bulk is pretty minimal though so carrying one isn't a hardship.

The filtering from stock tank/well thing did work out for me mountain biking in Utah though and I am sure it will be a must if I do the Kokapelli trail some day.

One place where the filter was really wonderful was on tours in parts of the Sierras where filtering and immediately drinking from ice cold mountain streams was possible in 100+ heat. That ice cold water was delightful!
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