Steep, forested bluffs hugged one side of the trail, marshy forests and lush wetlands the other. Treetops from either side of the trail created a shady canopy above and gave the feeling of traveling through a leafy tunnel. The humid, summer air was spiced with aromas from numerous wildflowers and blankets of green vegetation. A cacophony of birds twittered their news, while turtles basked on logs in nearby wetlands. I sighed. The Katy Trail State Park was more diverse, peaceful and beautiful than I had expected.
For an extended, high-school graduation celebration trip, my daughter and I had decided to bike the Katy Trail to access multiple conservation areas across the state. The Katy Trail’s crushed limestone trail meanders through some of Missouri’s most diverse landscapes, wildlife habitats and conservation areas. Though we limited our scope to biking and enjoying nature close to the trail for our first full-length trip, the options were amazing. Numerous conservation areas along the Katy Trail offer great hiking, fishing and boating opportunities.
Cycling the state’s conservation areas can be a great adventure for all ages and ability levels (just research the terrain before your trip). Day trips to individual areas can be just as exciting as longer trips (visit mdc.mo.gov and click on “conservation areas” to research areas and trails).
The Katy Trail is America’s longest rails-to trails project. It is also Missouri’s longest and skinniest state park. It meanders 237 miles across the state, from Machens to Clinton, along the former corridor of the Missouri-Kansas- Texas Railroad. About two-thirds of the trail follows the Missouri River and the original route of Lewis and Clark during their 1804–1806 westward exploration. Scattered every 10 to 15 miles along the Katy Trail are trailheads with parking, water and restroom facilities. These depots also offer shady benches and information kiosks with area history and trail maps.
We biked from our home in Columbia and connected with the Katy Trail State Park in McBaine. We were in the middle of the Katy Trail, and headed east toward St. Charles (the trail now extends an additional 12.6 miles northeast to Machens).
We averaged 40–50 miles a day and stayed at bed and breakfasts along the trail. This pace was perfect. It gave us plenty of time to explore and yet still arrive at our accommodations early enough to relax.
More Nature Than People
Our bikes let us coast through nature