There might not be a trail in the U.S. better suited for a relaxed ride than Missouri’s popular Katy Trail. Car-free, virtually flat, and featuring a crushed-limestone surface, the trail dishes up plenty of towns and attractions (and ice cream stands) along the way to keep things interesting. We’ve also broken the riding into manageable daily distances.
Considered by many to be the crown jewel of North American rail-trail conversions, the Katy Trail will transport us through the heartland of America beside the Missouri River, along a corridor that’s also part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and the coast-to-coast American Discovery Trail. We’ll pedal through sun-drenched, prairie-turned-farmland and across the Missouri River to New Franklin, then follow the river gently downstream back to Historic St. Charles.
"I was very impressed by the leaders. They were very effective at getting us/gear/equipment/schedules organized, and they were all genuinely glad to be out riding bike with us and getting to know us. I also liked the way the tour was structured — I liked that everyone was able to depart when ready, and ride at their own pace, as long as they arrived before dinner. I felt no pressure to go fast or slow, and that was very liberating for me."
Day 1. St. Charles, Missouri, 0 miles
We will gather in St. Charles, across the river from St. Louis, to meet our fellow travelers. We’ll then hop in a shuttle to the start of the trip in Clinton, the westernmost part of the Katy Trail, which is the railbed of the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad. This railroad became defunct in 1989 and has been providing recreational opportunities for cyclists, joggers, and horseback riders ever since.
Day 2. Clinton to Sedalia, 40 miles
This will be our first day on the bikes as we head toward Sedalia. This is a gentle section with an American Flag–painted caboose being the highlight in Windsor. Sedalia is host to numerous festive events, including the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival and the Missouri State Fair. This small city is packed with great shops and restaurants, and it’s definitely worth stopping in at the Katy museum, housed in the town’s beautiful 1896 depot. Come evening, you may also be inspired to visit the suds-sational Fifth Street Brew Pub.
Day 3. Sedalia to Boonville, 42 miles
Today we’ll head northeast through sun-drenched prairie-turned-farmland on another easygoing route. We will be heading toward the Missouri River, and we’ll have a nice gentle downhill to the terminus of the day in Boonville. Once there, make sure to check out the Boonville Trailhead/Depot and the Riverside Diner, a pair of popular stops for trail riders. Enjoy the quaint town and take a stroll along the mighty Missouri River.
Day 4. Boonville to Columbia, 31 miles
Boonville to Columbia, 31 miles. Say goodbye to the Katy Trail today and hop on the MKT Trail, which heads to Columbia, the home of the University of Missouri. Columbia has many interesting places to check out — feel free to walk around, grab a piece of pie and some coffee at one of the many cafés, or have a ride through the beautiful campus of the Tigers.
Day 5. Columbia to Jefferson City, 39 miles
We’ll ride the MKT Trail back to the Katy trail today. Watch for red-headed woodpeckers and other birds today in the huge cottonwood snags in a slough between milepost 177 and 176. In historic Rocheport, with its numerous antebellum homes (the town suffered attacks by both sides in the Civil War), check out the old railroad tunnel on the trail just west of the Trailside Café, then stand awhile on the adjacent bridge spanning Moniteau Creek. Peer down, and sooner or later you’ll see a red-eared slider come bobbing slowly downstream on a log. We will end the day in Jefferson City, the capital of Missouri.
Day 6. Jefferson City to Hermann, 48 miles
Before we leave Jefferson City, it’s worth spending a little time visiting the capital city’s picturesque downtown, which brims with specialty shops and restaurants. And don’t miss Central Dairy, an ice cream shop that’s famous throughout the Midwest for good reason! We’ll then head through Tebbetts and Mokane before we make it to Hermann.
Day 7. Hermann to Augusta, 37 miles
Our pathway continues along the Missouri River today as we encounter more hardwood forests, prolific wetlands, sheltered valleys, and manipulated croplands. We’ll ride through several rural towns, such as Rhineland, which flooded four times and was devastated during the Great Flood of 1993. It’s said to be the first community in the U.S. whose residents voted to accept federal funds to move out of a flood plain; about 60 percent of the town’s 50 houses were relocated to higher ground more than a mile away from the original town site. We’ll also pass through McKittrick and Treloar today as we meander our way toward the Matson-Augusta area, which is home to numerous wineries as well as to the Augusta Brewing Company.
Day 8. Augusta to St. Charles, 28 miles
We’ll proceed along the trail through dense hardwood forests, past marshlands, beneath towering bluffs, and past wide-open pastures and gently rolling farm fields. The route is steeped in frontier history, and not just that of Lewis and Clark. Daniel Boone and his family lived in this area, and located a few miles off the trail is the impressive Historic Daniel Boone Home and Boonesfield Village. We’ll have to say farewell as we ride back to where we started the trip in St. Charles.
Know before you go
Information for eBike riders:
Because every rider, eBike, road condition, and elevation profile is different, it is ultimately up to the participant to judge best whether their battery will last through each tour day. We recommend using pedal assist in its lowest setting or off when not needed to maximize battery range. Bringing a second battery is also recommended. Remember, there is no vehicle support on our inn-to-inn trips, and you would need to carry the extra battery along with all of your other things.