Thought I’d write a little story to start this post about the Katy. Forgive my silliness. I hope you enjoy it. 🙂
“Look, another turtle.” Bill slowed his recumbent and moved the turtle off the trail. The sunlight filtered through the canopy as the sound of bicycle tires on chat thrummed in their ears.
“It must be The Day of the Turtle.” Lora laughed at a recurring joke between the two of them. It seemed that every time they rode the Katy Trail in central Missouri, a different species of wildlife came out to welcome them.
“Ready for a break?”
“Sounds good to me. Let’s ride to the next bench.”
They stopped by the bench, moved their trikes to the side of the trail, and stood drinking from their water bottles. Lora read the marker about the Native American petroglyphs on the bluff behind her. While part of her brain absorbed the information, another part paid attention to the “heebie-jeebie” of the tufted titmouse in the tree above, the hum of insect noise and the rustle of a rabbit as it scurried into the bushes.
She turned toward her husband and smiled at the sight. Bill seemed fascinated by the fast-moving Missouri River as it rushed past the trail near Rocheport. Two people in a canoe waved as they floated downstream. Wildflowers bloomed purple and yellow between the former rail bed and the river. She reveled in the sights and sounds of summer in Missouri.
The Katy Trail (named after the M-K-T Railway) is one of 51 state parks in Missouri. As part of the Rails to Trails Conservancy project, it once bore the weight of many of tons of steel as the trains flew past the bluffs and fields. (If you look carefully, you can still see remnants of the railroad.) After the last train finished its run on the Katy in 1986, work began to join this rail bed to the growing number that were being transformed into hiking and biking trails. Officially dedicated in 1996, the Katy has seen thousands of visitors of all ages and from all over the country and the world. The flat, wide surface makes it easy for young and old alike to negotiate the trail with few problems.
Like any state park, there are plenty of areas for picnicking, getting some exercise and just enjoying nature. The trailheads are spaced at fairly even distances and are easy to find from the road. The eastern half of the trail follows state highway 94, making the trailheads especially convenient. Most have running water, places to purchase food and drink and rest areas. All the trailheads have historic information as well as pictures of flora and fauna to watch for along the way.
One of the most common ways to travel the Katy Trail is by bicycle. A few avid cyclists make the 237.6 mile journey, from Clinton to St. Charles, in a single day. Most do not. Others take 6-8 days to ride end-to-end at a more leisurely pace. They either camp along the way or stay in the many wonderful and hospitable bed and breakfasts.
One way to accomplish the end-to-end run, even for those who are not athletic, is to take day-trip-sized bites out of the trail. With a trail as flat as the Katy, it isn’t difficult to chew through 10-30 miles in a single day. There are many sites to see, shops to visit, and restaurants to try along the way. Weekend trips can be turned into romantic get-aways or girls’ gossip nights at the many bed and breakfasts.
Several stops on the Not-To-Be-Missed list include:
- Schoolhouse Bed & Breakfast in Rocheport – a schoolhouse turned B&B that retains its charm and grade-school décor. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, the garden area relaxing, and the breakfast is amazing.
- Iron Horse Hotel and Restaurant in Blackwater – This hotel is not on the Katy Trail, but close enough and fun enough to warrant a place on the list. This is a hotel turned doctor’s office turned hotel. It has a number of comfortable rooms named after rail lines of the past.
- Trailside Café and Bike Shop in Rocheport – This is right on the trail at the trailhead. They serve burgers and fries as well as other items including an extensive breakfast menu. Right next door bicycles of all kinds are available for rent, from recumbents to tandems.
- Central Dairy in Jefferson City – Ice cream is always a favorite on a hot summer day, especially after a long ride on the Katy Trail. The prices at the Central Dairy shop can’t be beat; neither can the smooth, rich coolness of their delicious ice cream.
- Katy Bike Rental in Defiance – Bike repair and accessories as well as rentals are available here. They also have a selection of ice cream and other treats.
Recently in Rural Missouri, the Katy Trail State Park made the list of Best of Rural Missouri’s category for best trail in four out of five regions. The Katy Trail offers a vacation that encompasses everything a good vacation needs: activity, shopping, good food, and relaxation. The bonus is that it displays Missouri in all her glory.