Bicyclist, walkers, nature lovers and history buffs all love Missouri’s Katy Trail State Park, where they can explore Missouri’s natural beauty and rich history year-round. (Motor and engine driven vehicles are not allowed on the trail; battery powered wheelchairs are allowed.) Horseback riding is allowed on a 25-mile stretch between Sedalia and Calhoun, and on a section in the vicinity of Mokane. (Parking lots in these areas accommodate trailer parking.)
This long-distance walking and biking trail, winding more than 237 miles from Machens (near St. Louis) to Clinton, welcomes people of all ages to discover the heart of Missouri. More than half of its length follows the Missouri River. Planned extensions will take the trail all the way to Kansas City. Many side trails extend from the Katy, reaching into communities along the way.
Built on the former corridor of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) Railroad, Katy Trail State Park is the longest rails-to-trails project in then U.S. When the railroad ceased operation on this route in 1986, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources acquired the right-of-way. With a generous donation by the late Edward D. “Ted” Jones, the trail was constructed. Today, the Katy Trail gives those who love the outdoors a safe pathway to enjoy the piece and a quiet of Missouri’s landscape.
The hard-packed, crushed limestone surface is fairly level and constant as it meanders through the countryside. With more than 30 trailheads along its length, the Katy is very easy to reach, offering trips of varying distance. The trail is handicap-accessible. Businesses at many trailheads provide bike rentals, refreshments, food, lodging and restrooms. Bike shops offer rentals, including two-person bikes, wheelchair bikes, hand-cycles and specialized equipment for handicapped individuals. The trail affords easy access to several awardwinning wineries; find them in Defiance, Augusta, Dutzow, Hermann and Rocheport.
No matter what the season, the scenery along the trail is always enjoyable and quite beautiful, with diverse panoramas, from sandstone and limestone bluffs to dense forests, sweeping river views to wetlands, and gently rolling farmland to prairies.
With so many types of habitat, wildlife is abundant. A canopy of oak and sycamore trees gives cool shade in summer and brilliant color in fall. Wintertime vistas can be breathtaking (not because of the cold). Bird enthusiasts are likely to spot and hear many species of birds along the trail year-round, including a large variety of song birds, geese and ducks, woodpeckers, hawks, great blue herons, turkey, vultures and the occasional bald eagle. Keep a sharp eye out for deer, opossum, beaver, mink, raccoon and other critters.
The Katy Trail weaves through dozens of small towns which once thrived along the railroad corridor. These communities are wonderful stopping points, offering antiques, historic districts, restaurants, groceries, craft shops, motels, campgrounds and bed and breakfast inns. Secure bicycle parking is always available.
History buffs enjoy exploring the section of the Katy between St. Charles and Boonville, which has been officially designated a segment of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. Markers identify campsites used by the explorers and point out landmarks noted in their Corps of Discovery journals. On a bluff near Rocheport, travelers can view a rare surviving pictograph left by American Indians.
For details on Missouri’s Katy Trail State Park go to MoStateParks.com. For information about the trail and trail-side businesses, visit BikeKatyTrail.com. To find Missouri wineries, check out MissouriWine.org.
Enjoy your trip, no matter the length. Take your camera, because ... you never know what might pop up.