Missouri’s Katy Trail State Park is the longest developed rail-to-trail in the United States
MISSOURI (KSNF/KODE) — For those who love to get outdoors and pedal, Missouri has some of the best biking destinations in the nation. The Show-Me-State is well-known for its diverse landscape, featuring rivers both large and small, limestone bluffs, prairies, farmland, and rolling hills. According to local bicycling enthusiasts, there’s one trail in Missouri that beats out all of the others: The Katy Trail.
Stretching across the state, Missouri’s Katy Trail State Park is the longest developed rail-to-trail in the United States. The park, built on the former corridor of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (MKT or Katy), is 240 miles long and runs between Clinton and Machens, with 26 trailheads and four fully restored railroad depots along the way. The Katy Trail is flat and scenic and ideal for cycling on just about any kind of bike and any type of rider, from beginners to advanced riders on a cross-country journey.
In 2018, Carl Junction resident and cycling enthusiast, Patrick White biked the full length of the trail for the first time. Since then, he has gone back many times to ride different sections of the Katy Trail.
“Because most of the trail is converted railroad beds, it’s generally very easy to ride since there’s not a lot of elevation change. It doesn’t have a lot of steep inclines; the trail is very gradual. A lot of the trail is located in some very scenic parts of Missouri,” said Patrick White.
Cyclists on the Katy Trail have the opportunity to wind through some of the most scenic areas of the state with the majority of the trail closely following the Missouri River. The park also takes visitors through a piece of rural history as it meanders through the small towns that once thrived along the railroad corridor. Information at the trailheads makes a ride on the Katy not only a healthy adventure, but also an educational one.
“When you’re biking the Katy Trail, you see things that you wouldn’t see from the car. I like the trail because you don’t have the traffic to worry about, like you would on a road,” said White.
Another bicycling enthusiast who has traveled the Katy Trail is Patrick Tuttle, Director of the Joplin Convention and Visitors Bureau. From beginners, to the most experienced cyclists, Tuttle says the trail is a great experience for all.
“Whenever you’re riding on a protected trail like the Katy, it’s very memorable because you’re not concerned about cross traffic or motorist or whatever coming your way. It’s unique in itself that it’s packed gravel. So it’s not really a dirt bike trail, but also it’s not a trail just for a road bike, you’re kind of in between as far as the surface goes. But the fact that the trail is already established makes it fairly easy to travel, because obviously trains don’t like doing steep grades. It’s a protected trail, and one you can just ride very passively,” said Patrick Tuttle.
If you’re not ready to take on “The Katy,” Tuttle suggests that you start somewhere close to home. For those in Southwest Missouri, the Frisco Greenway Trail and the Ruby Jack Trail are two short, easy routes to consider.
“The Frisco Greenway and the Ruby Jack are rails-to-trails, meaning they’re former railroad beds that are no longer in use and they’ve developed into protected trails that give you a fairly good length of distance to practice on. The Ruby Jack Trail is 13 miles between Carl Junction and Carthage, and the Frisco Trail between North Joplin and Webb City is only about four miles, but it’s still a good trail to learn from. Those can be a basic bike without having a lot of skill and a lot of equipment to do it,” said Tuttle.
- You can find more information on Katy Trail State Park, HERE.
- Information on the Frisco Greenway Trail can be found, HERE.
- If you’re looking for information on the Ruby Jack Trail, you can find that, HERE.
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