Spend Some Time in the Open Air


Article Tags:

biking / walking trails , walking trails , walking , outdoors , Outdoor Adventure , equestrian trails
Pathways for Exploration
Author: Scott McCullough


When delightful weather comes to Missouri, car rides just won't cut it. Now is an ideal time to check the air in those bike tires and head out on a two-wheeled adventure. Not a bike rider? Lace up those walking/hiking shoes and hit the trail. In many locations, bicyclists and walkers/hikers share the same route; you might even encounter someone on horseback in some spots.

Three miles east of Troy, you find more than 38 miles of biking, hiking and equestrian trails at Cuivre River State Park. As you travel through the park, admire vibrant trees, expansive prairies and glimmering ponds. Take a lunch and refuel at one of the park’s picturesque picnic areas.

Adventurous mountain bikers and hikers flock to the 30 miles of the rugged and challenging Eleven Point River Section of the Ozark Trail near Doniphan. The trail features several stunning lookout points along the Eleven Point River. Other available activities include horseback riding, floating, canoeing, fishing and camping. (No motorized vehicles are permitted on any section of the Ozark Trail.) There are four trailheads. Go prepared – no drinking water is available in the parking areas or along the trail.

The Ozark Trail System is comprised of more than 390 miles of trails, divided into (mostly) linked sections, including several of spur trails. Most of the trail is multi-use: hike, backpack, cycle and horseback (there are some restrictions). This natural surface trail is often strenuous, passing through rugged wilderness areas. Hikes can range from just a few miles to a 230-mile "thru hike" lasting several days. This system is not designed for the casual walk.

Twenty minutes north of Columbia, Finger Lakes State Park provides the perfect path for non-motorized mountain bikers and hikers alike. The 2.75-mile path, which loops from the northern picnic area to the park’s southernmost point, includes wooded areas, steep mounds, a waterfall and the remains of a mining bridge. The park gets its name from seven abandoned strip-mining pits which have been flooded for swimming, canoeing and fishing. Camping sites are available.

Experience a significant piece of history at the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis. Once part of iconic Route 66, the bridge no longer carries automobile traffic across the Mississippi River – it is repurposed as one of the world's longest pedestrian/bicycle-only bridges. The vistas include unbeatable glimpses of the Mississippi River and the St. Louis skyline. Memorabilia and interpretive signs share the tale of Route 66, as well as the history of the Chain of Rocks Bridge. Access is by way of the 11-mile St. Louis Riverfront Trail, a walking/biking trail beside the Mississippi River between the Gateway Arch and the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge.

Looking for something a bit calmer? Get an up-close look at nature when you visit Table Rock State Park, 10 miles south of Branson. Take in picture-perfect views of the lake along the popular Lakeshore Trail amid centuries-old oaks. Bald eagles, osprey, hawks and other birds call this area home.

For long haul bicycling, the Highway 36 Bicycle Route stretches approximately 260 miles across northern Missouri. The route follows county and state roadways that generally parallel Highway 36, with some stretches on MO-36 itself. This trip is for experienced riders, as there is generally no shoulder on the secondary roads that have sparse vehicular traffic; caution is advised along these “country roads.”

Crowder State Park, four miles west of Trenton, provides a picturesque backdrop for enjoying the outdoors. It features camping, hiking, mountain biking and equestrian trails, picnic sites and a lake for fishing. The park's campsites encourage visitors to make a weekend of it.

In an approach that combines natural beauty with urban convenience, Springfield’s Ozark Greenways system has several trailheads linking a network of paths throughout the city. These trails, including the 35-mile Frisco Highline Trail, are suitable for bicycling, walking and running. Three of the trails are designated National Recreation Trails by the National Park Service.

Budding geologists definitely want to visit Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, five miles south of Columbia. As you trek through this captivating park, you are sure to spot geologic formations, a large cave system with a natural rock bridge, sinkholes, a spring and underground stream coming from the Devil's Icebox. You can explore Connor's Cave in the light of the opening for a taste of the underground world.

In the village of Arrow Rock, 20 miles northwest of Boonville, investigate Arrow Rock State Historic Site, where visitors can include some Missouri history with their hike. Established where the Santa Fe Trail once crossed the Missouri River, this quaint settlement brings the past to life; do some sightseeing at the Old Single-Room Jail, see artist George Caleb Bingham's home and chow down in the J. Huston Tavern (opened in 1834, it is the oldest continuously serving restaurant west of the Mississippi River).

As lush and beautiful as its name suggests, Big Oak Tree State Park comprises more than 1,000 acres of old oak tree forest, marshy terrain and rolling farmland. Ramble along the boardwalk and admire the soaring trees that average more than 120 feet in height. Big Oak Tree State Park, 15 miles south of East Prairie, offers an interpretive center, picnic sites and a small lake.

Fun excursions are easily found in Missouri. Report back to us on our Facebook page and tell us what you found.

  Cuivre River State Park
More than 38 miles of hiking, backpacking and equestrian trails wind through this 6,393-acre park. Camping, ...

  Eleven Point River Section of the Ozark Trail
The 30-mile trail is popular among mountain bikers, hikers, backpackers and horseback riders. Allow ...

  The Ozark Trail
The Ozarks, in a word, are splendid. The Ozark Trail system contains more than 390 miles of trails, ...

  Finger Lakes State Park
This reclaimed strip-mine area, 20 minutes north of Columbia off Route 63, is one of two state parks ...

  Old Chain of Rocks Bridge
Once part of Route 66—the Mother Road—this bridge across the Mississippi River was reopened ...

  Table Rock State Park
Visitors to Branson can make their headquarters at this park, located along Table Rock Lake. The park ...

  Highway 36 Bicycle Route
This established bicycle route connects a number of historic sites, points of interest, recreational ...

  Crowder State Park
This park, four miles west of Trenton, is dedicated to Gen. Enoch Crowder, founder of the selective ...

  Ozark Greenways
Ozark Greenways is a trail network throughout the Springfield area, for bicycling, running, walking ...

  Rock Bridge Memorial State Park
Fascinating geologic formations are the principal features of this 2,272-acre day-use park. Connor’s ...

  Arrow Rock State Historic Site
The Santa Fe Trail crossed the Missouri River here. Landmarks include artist George Caleb Bingham's ...

  J. Huston Tavern Restaurant at Arrow Rock State Historic Site
The J. Huston Tavern has been serving meals to travelers along the Santa Fe Trail since 1834. The brick ...

  Big Oak Tree State Park
Driving along the rural highways in southeast Missouri, travelers may notice an abundance of farmland. ...