The beautiful Show-Me State attracts nature-lovers and adventurers year-round. Now is one of the best times to visit, as the sunny summer prepares to turn into vibrant fall. Whether you prefer a tranquil hike or an invigorating bicycle ride, you’ll find the perfect activity in Missouri. In 2013, American Trails, the world’s largest online trails resource, named Missouri the “Best Trails State,” a prestigious award which recognizes innovative and successful trail sharing efforts, programs and systems. To learn more about what Missouri’s trails have to offer, check 100MissouriMiles.com, where you can discover trail information and details about the Governor Nixon’s “100 Missouri Miles” challenge.
Cyclists from around the world travel to Missouri to ride The Katy Trail. At 237.7 miles, the Katy is the longest rails-to-trails conversion in the United States. Choose from 30 trailheads, spaced between Machens and Clinton as you embark on your cycling or walking trek. The trail follows the Missouri River for much of its eastern half. It passes campgrounds, restaurants, wineries, bed-and-breakfasts and other interesting attractions. The flat, chat-covered Katy Trail is the perfect route for a 30 minute stroll, a five mile ride and a multi-day vacation.
The Missouri Highway 36 Bicycle Route offers an excellent tour of Missouri’s beauty. The 260-mile route stretches across pristine, low-traffic northern Missouri, between St. Joseph and Hannibal, and creates connections with Missouri’s six national bike routes. The route follows county and state roadways that generally parallel Route 36, with some stretches on Route 36 itself.
Pack your hiking boots and fishing rod when you visit Bennett Spring State Park. Situated 11 miles west of Lebanon, this park is home to Missouri’s third-largest spring. The cool, clear waters supply some of the best rainbow trout fishing in the Midwest. In addition to excellent fishing and hiking, Bennett Spring State Park boasts camping, a fly-fishing school, picnic sites, a nature center, trout hatchery, a restaurant and other recreational facilities.
Take your hike underground at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, located about five miles south of Columbia. The family will be amazed by the geologic formations in this gorgeous park. Hiking trails wind through prairies and woods, leading to the natural rock bridge. Beneath your feet lies Devil’s Icebox Cave – the seventh-longest cave in Missouri. Ranger-guided, wild cave tours are given periodically (advance registration required). Miles of surface trails can be explored by foot, mountain bike and horseback.
Finger Lakes State Park, 20 minutes north of Columbia, offers high-octane fun. More than 70 miles of trails wind through the hilly terrain of a former strip-mining area, making a challenging and scenic ride for off-road motorcycles and ATVs. Mountain-bike riders love the 2.25-mile Kelley Branch Trail. Canoeing, swimming and fishing in the flooded quarries are popular. A large campground welcomes sleepy adventurers.
Five miles south of Ballwin (26 miles west of downtown St. Louis), Castlewood State Park attracts mountain-bikers from throughout the Midwest. Whether you’re an amateur cyclist or have been riding the trails for years, Castlewood features a path to fit your experience level. Also, this gorgeous park offers excellent fishing, hiking and picnicking. TripAdvisor.com user LisaG814 calls Castlewood: “One of my favorite parks for its variety of scenery and walking paths; and there are very nice playgrounds for the kids.”
The Huzzah Conservation Area, 30 minutes northeast of Steelville, treats visitors to a day of adventure in prime Ozark country. Hikers can explore six miles of the rugged Ozark Trail. With access to two creeks and a river, Huzzah Conservation Area is an ideal destination for kayakers and float-trippers. While spending time in this amazing place, be sure to check out the geological wonders of Bat Cave and Bear Cave.
A 15 minute drive northeast of Mindenmines (35 miles north of Joplin) takes you to Prairie State Park. The magical landscape of swaying prairie grasses and brightly colored wildflowers welcomes hikers. American bison and elk roam the largest remaining tallgrass prairie in Missouri. After a day of hiking through this lovely park, set up your tent or park your RV at one of the campgrounds and dream under the stars.
Walking and biking trails wind through our state’s great urban areas, too. In St. Louis, the Great Rivers Greenway includes several interconnected trails, on- and off-street bicycle routes, greenways and parks throughout the St. Louis metro area. In Kansas City, get your exercise on numerous trails, such as the multi-use Trolley Track Trail along the former track-bed Kansas City’s last streetcar line linking the Country Plaza, Brookside and Waldo. In Springfield, the Ozark Greenways encompass a variety of trails that run throughout the city and beyond.