How To: Experience the Katy Trail

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Cyclists, hikers, equestrians and outdoor enthusiasts have come to the Katy Trail for over 30 years to enjoy the longest developed rails-to-trails project in the country. Built on the former corridor of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, the trail stretches for just about 240 miles between Machens, near the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers in eastern Missouri, and Clinton, just a stone’s throw from Truman Lake.

History of the Katy Trail

More than 100 years ago, the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (MKT), often called the Katy, carried passengers and cargo along the banks of the Missouri River, cutting through the state from east to west before heading to destinations south and west. In the 1980s, the railroad track was severely damaged by flooding and was subsequently abandoned by the railway. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources acquired the right of way to develop Katy Trail State Park. Since then, restaurants, inns, rest areas and other services have sprung up to help visitors get the most out of their time on the trail. 

How Long is the Katy Trail?

The Katy Trail winds through Missouri for nearly 240 miles, with much of its path following the Missouri River. In addition to the longest river in North America, you’ll also pass by towering bluffs, leafy canopies and over 20 charming small towns.


Whether you’re casually cycling with your family or training for your next century ride, the crushed limestone path, relatively level grade of the Katy Trail and abundant rest areas make it easy to get out and pedal for your comfort level. Take advantage of the many restaurants, wineries and overnight accommodations along the trail that offer facilities for cyclists. You’ll also be able to air up your tires or handle other maintenance issues at numerous bike shops located near the trail. 

Electrically assisted pedal-powered bicycles and tricycles with a maximum speed of 20 mph are allowed on the Katy Trail. 

A top-down view of a cyclist pedaling along the trail with green trees along the path.
The Katy Trail stretches for 240 miles across Missouri.
An image of the Portland trailhead, with a child on horseback and a woman holding the reins.
Horseback riding is permitted on two sections of the trail.

Horseback Riding

Horseback riders are welcome to enjoy the trail on the 34.7-mile section from Clinton to the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia and on the 15.3-mile stretch between Tebbetts and Portland in central Missouri. Equestrian trailer parking is located at the Henry County Fairgrounds in Clinton and the fairgrounds in Sedalia as well as the trailheads in Calhoun, Windsor, Green Ridge and Mokane.

Katy Trail Basics

Katy Trail State Park is open from sunrise to sunset for pedestrians, bicyclists and equestrians (in designated areas). Motorized vehicles, including ATVs and ORVs, are not allowed on the trail. Pets must be leashed at all times.

Restrooms and water are available at some trailheads year-round. At other trailheads, restrooms are closed and water is turned off November through March. Check the Katy Trail State Park webpage for specific information. If you plan to be out on the trail for several hours or days, ensure that you have a plan for drinking water, meals and snacks. 

If you plan to leave a vehicle overnight or for multiple days at a trailhead or parking lot, please contact the Katy Trail State Park Office at 573-449-7402 and provide them with your vehicle details.

An overhead image of a steel bridge spanning the Missouri River.
Most of the trail follows the Missouri River.

What’s on the Route?

Historic Sites to Explore

Historic St. Charles on the eastern edge of the trail marks the beginning of Lewis and Clark’s expedition west. Frontier Park alongside the Missouri River is a great place to stop before heading downtown to eat, drink and shop. 

You can visit The Historic Daniel Boone Home by taking a short detour off the trail outside the town of Defiance. The house represents life in the early 1800s and helps bring the legacy of the famed frontiersman to life. 

The Missouri State Capitol is located just south of the trail in Jefferson City, accessible by a pedestrian/bike bridge over the Missouri River.  

At the Katy Depot in Sedalia, explore the history of the MKT Railroad and how the Katy Trail came into existence. If you happen to be visiting in August, you can load up on funnel cakes and enjoy the rides as Sedalia hosts the Missouri State Fair.

Eat, Drink and Stay on the Katy Trail

Many restaurants, wineries and bars offer services specifically catering to people enjoying the trail. 

Bike Stop Cafe in St. Charles has more than fantastic sandwiches, coffee and baked goods. They also offer bike rentals and a shuttle service for trips of any length to make it easy to hit the trail and get back to your car. 

Along the trail, you’ll pass through the heart of Historic Missouri Wine Country, home to Augusta, Defiance and Hermann. Enjoy Missouri’s unique wines made from local grapes before checking in to one of the inns or bed-and-breakfast accommodations in the area. 

Camping is available at public and privately owned campgrounds but is prohibited alongside the trail itself. 

Visit the Missouri State Parks website for more information about services along the Katy Trail.

Looking for more inspiration for your adventure? Check out our spotlight piece on the Katy Trail.