In June, 2017, we attended the memorial service for Warren Humble, a good friend from Rifle. At the service, his wife mentioned how much she and Warren had enjoyed their rail trail bike trips, starting with the Katy Trail in Missouri. Gene Byrne, another friend from Rifle, and I talked about it later, and as it turns out, both of us wanted to ride the trail…so we talked over the winter and planned it. Our wives, Georgia and Maggie, agreed to accompany us and be our sag wagons. We decided to meet up in Kansas City and ride at least some of the new Rock Island Spur to the Katy Trail to St. Louis. Unfortunately, the trail won’t go all the way, but it is close.
We decided that we were a bit beyond the camping stage, so I found several AirBnBs along the way, and we alternated them with hotels.
As one of the oldest and longest rail-trail conversions, there’s a lot of material available online and by mail on the Katy Trail. Almost too much information.
Books & Pamphlets
- The Complete Katy Trail Guidebook by Brett Dufur is invaluable. It’s also well written and filled with useful information about the trail and your trip. It cost about $20 and you can buy it through Amazon or directly from the publisher, http://www.pebblepublishing.com. Make sure you get the most recent edition, which as of 2018 was the 10th.although the website still advertises the 10th Edition
- The Missouri State Parks maps of the Katy Trail and the Rock Island Spur. These are free, and are the best parks maps I’ve ever seen, full of ideas and tips. They’re available at each of the trailheads,
and you can request a copy by mail at https://mostateparks.com/park/katy-trail-state-park or by writing to Katy Trail State Park, 5901 South Highway 163, Columbia, MO 65203. Phone 573-449-7402.
- http://www.bikekatytrail.com/ has a wealth of information and advertisements including facilities available at each of the towns along the way. The web style is 1995, and some of the information is outdated, but it’s still by far the best resource available online. There is also an active message board of others who want to take the adventure.
- The Rails to Trails conservancy’s website, http://traillink.com, has maps, photos and reviews of the Katy Trail, the Rock Island Spur, and every other worthwhile bike trail in the US. Consider joining the Conservancy. It’s a §501(c)(3) charity, so your membership may be tax deductible.
- Google and YouTube list hundreds of personal blogs like this one and videos of adventures along the trail.
- The chambers of commerce and tourist bureaus of the towns along the route have websites of varying usefulness, and listings of hotels and traditional Bed & Breakfasts.
- The ubiquitous AirBnb has listings in many, but not all, of the towns along the route. We were very pleased with the AirBnB in Hermann and Jefferson City.
- The Missouri State Parks website includes information on an annual supported trip along the trail. If you want someone else to plan for you, and you enjoy camping with several hundred of your new friends, this is a good option. If you don’t, several companies offer shuttle and reservations for a semi-supported tour; I have heard good things about Independent Tourist. The senior-oriented educational group Road Scholar (formerly known as Elder Hostel) also advertises Katy Trail adventures.
These are my subjective opinions. Take them for whatever they’re worth.
- We went from west to east in 5 days. It was just the right amount of time for the trip, and I’m glad we went in this direction since the winds and afternoon sun were favorable, and the trail got much more interesting the further east we went. We went in early May, and the weather was perfect. Until the last day, no thunderstorms. We also didn’t see or hear of any tornadoes or flooding. But it happens. Same, I understand, for the bugs. I wouldn’t want to go in the heat and humidity of July and August, but September and October sure look appealing.
- Bring sunscreen and insect repellent.
- The Rock Island Spur is new, interesting and worth taking instead of the Katy Trail from Clinton to Windsor.
- Our overnight stops weren’t chosen well; I didn’t read the fine print in the guidebook. If we had it to do over again, I would stop at:
- St. Charles
- If we’d taken Amtrak to Sedalia, and were interested in a less ambitious schedule, I would have stopped at:
- St. Charles
- There are, shall we say, better overnight choices than McBaine/Columbia and Jefferson City.
- The old Sedalia depot, now a museum/gift shop/bike shop is worth an hour, and is a great place to buy souvenirs, jerseys and T shirts, but it closes at 4. The museum in the Boonville chamber of commerce (located near the Boonville depot) is worth a stop to learn about Lewis & Clark. You’ll see lots of interpretive signs about their expedition along the trail.
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