Discover America - Past & Present
We are just wrapping up our second visit to the Katy Trail in Missouri. At 240 miles The Katy Trail is the longest developed rail-trail in the States. Last year we rode 140 of those miles over three days. It is part of the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail as well as the American Discovery Trail that is planned to connect coast to coast. The Katy Trail spans the distance from Clinton to Machens, Missouri. It is an excellent way to experience this section of the country while learning about our nation's past.
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The Katy Trail: SCENIC AND SERENE
We enjoy cycling and initially became interested in The Katy Trail while researching destinations for a camp-along-the-way biking adventure. The Katy is not only great for biking as we also encountered just as many people walking and jogging the trail. There are even sections of the trail where horses are allowed. The Katy has 26 trailheads which make it a convenient option for some outdoor recreation time.
This post offers insight on biking and camping with a focus on the section of trail between Rocheport and St. Charles. During our first trip on the Katy Trail, we were traveling with our then 5-month-old puppy. So many of our options were influenced and dictated by this fact.
Included In This Post
• General Information - Safety and Regulations
• Choosing Your Route
• Rocheport to Portland - 62 Miles
• Portland to Augusta - 50 Miles
• August to St. Charles - 27 Miles
• Return Trip - Shuttles
• The MKT Trail - Connection to Columbia
• Missouri as a Destination
• Inspiration - The Katy Trail
General Information - Safety and Regulations
The Katy Trail is open April 1st through October 31st. The trail itself is considered a State Park of Missouri and all State Park rules do apply. The trail is open from sunrise to sunset and helmets are required. Not all of the posts offer water, and it is crucial that you bring enough - especially in the hot summer months. We made sure to fill up our bottles every chance we got and still managed to not have quite enough at times.
Camping is not allowed right along the trail. However, many towns offer camping options, or you can indulge in the luxury of staying at one of the many bed & breakfasts along the way. Whatever lodging you decide to go with, I highly recommend making reservations ahead of time.
Choosing Your Route
The hardest part was deciding the route we would take. First, we came up with an endpoint - St. Charles. Then we backtracked, taking into consideration what we thought we were physically capable of riding each day. I will admit we almost bit off a little more than we could chew with this trip! We didn't believe that all of our camping gear, a 35 lb puppy and an equally heavy dog trailer was going to wear us out quite as much as it did. This is in part due to the nature of the crushed limestone trail surface which can bog your bike tires down a little more than you would think.
Regardless of what you decide to haul, heading east from Rocheport is a good option for several reasons. Rocheport has a large parking lot where you can leave your car and a bike shop for any last minute adjustments. Also, you will be starting out on one of the most scenic portions of the trail. Except for a few small inclines, you are generally headed downhill until you reach St. Charles. Nice!
This site was an excellent resource for us when planning our trip across the Katy Trail. It lists distances between towns, accommodations and more. Be sure to check for any closures and verify the current condition of the trail. As of May 2019, there are unfortunately several sections closed due to flooding.
Rocheport to Portland - 62 Miles
Despite being a tiny town, Rocheport has a lot of amenities and character. This charming historical town still has buildings standing from the 1830s and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is filled with bed & breakfasts, restaurants and quaint shops. It was pouring rain the morning of our ride, so we huddled under a table umbrella enjoying a long breakfast at the Meriwether Cafe and Bike Shop. However, this year (2019), we were able to wander around town even more while enjoying locally made ice cream from the Rocheport General Store.
The trail out of Rocheport offers beautiful scenery! You ride through a tunnel of tree cover with views of the river and the giant rock faces of the bluffs. There were cardinals everywhere, and we even spotted a few box turtles. There are many historical markers and points of interest along the way as well as benches to rest on for a quiet moment.
We had planned to stop in Hartsburg, Missouri for lunch and Evan had his heart set on a piece of pie from Dotty's Cafe (now closed permanently). Sadly, they were closed as were all of the other restaurants in this town. We were glad that we brought along some snacks for backup! We refueled and rested our tired legs before hitting the trail again.
We arrived in Portland and set up camp as the sun set. We found camping very close to the trail at River's Edge RV Park. They had a few very basic tent sites and offered a restroom facility with a hot shower. We were absolutely beat and were happy to find Holzhauser's Bar & Grill literally steps away from the campground. (Evan had called ahead to ensure they’d still be open when we arrived.) We voraciously scarfed down some food on the front porch of the restaurant while celebrating our long-distance victory with a few drinks.
Portland to Augusta - 50 Miles
Against all odds we got up early, packed and headed toward Rhineland for breakfast. We stopped at the Trailside Bar & Grill (also known as The Corner) and ate outside. This restaurant is very close to where the trail crosses Highway 94. We were optimistic about the day's ride, especially since it was 12 miles shorter. It was amazing to feel the difference a paved surface could make in our efficiency as we biked the short distance to the restaurant. We felt like star athletes on the asphalt!
This next section of the trail proved to be the most grueling. Our gear was heavy, and our legs tired. The long stretches of exposed trail didn't help much either. It was only late May, but the Missouri sun was scorching. (Be sure to bring lots of water and sunscreen!) We stopped in Treloar for a quick break, grabbing some well deserved beers at the popular Treloar Bar & Grill. They offer food as well if you are looking for a lunch stop.
One of our happiest moments was finally reaching Augusta after a long day of biking. We headed straight to the Augusta Brewing Company. This restaurant has a very large, shaded yard with several sections of outdoor seating. There was live music and a friendly crowd. We found a somewhat quiet table and then took turns attempting to clean up a bit in their restroom. We ate so much, I feel like we tried everything on the menu! (I may have taken a nap in between dishes? I know the dog passed out instantly.)
If you find that you arrive in Augusta with energy left over, I recommend checking out the town. It is a cute, historic town that attracts many visitors to their vineyards and wineries. We would have stayed longer, but we needed to reach our campground before dark, which meant we needed to ride another 4 miles. We rented a tent space at the Klondike Park. We put up the tent, showered, and were sleeping well before the sun went down. Again, if you don't absolutely wear yourself out, the Klondike Park looks really cool so make time to check it out.
Augusta to St. Charles - 27 Miles
Finally, the home stretch! We woke up in Augusta and after such an exhausting trip couldn't wait to get to St. Charles. The closer you get to St. Charles, the more urban the trail becomes and the closer you are to roads and traffic noise. After arriving in St. Charles, we bee-lined to the Bike Stop Cafe & Outpost to rest and refuel. (They also rent bikes if you happen to be visiting without a bike and want to jump on The Katy Trail).
Afterward, we checked into the charming Boone's Colonial Inn. Talk about luxury! Our room in this historic Inn had a jacuzzi tub stocked with salts and soaks for sore muscles (how did they know)?! They also offered a safe place to store the bikes and were surprisingly dog-friendly. The location is excellent with views of the river.
The Inn is also right next to Frontier Park. This is a large park, and it was pretty happening at the time with an Irish Festival. We walked to the Missouri River and back, checking out the giant Lewis & Clark (and regal dog Seaman) statue along the way.
St. Charles is an absolutely gorgeous historical city. Their downtown is lined with colonial architecture and cute shops. There are many places to eat and drink. We enjoyed sitting on the patio at Bradden’s for a few drinks, and they were very king to the exhausted puppy Harvey. Afterward, we celebrated Evan's birthday with dinner at Bella Vino, which we enjoyed despite being more beer aficionados than wine. The cobblestone streets of St. Charles are nicely lit at night, and an evening stroll is recommended. At night, the day-trippers from St. Louis and elsewhere have moved on, leaving the city open for you to explore.
Return Trip - Shuttles
Another great reason to end your trip in St. Charles is having access to their shuttles. We had booked a shuttle back to Rocheport with the Bike Stop Cafe & Outpost (the very same place we stopped at after biking in to the city). They can shuttle almost anything to several locations throughout Missouri and Illinois. It was a pleasant experience - they were super friendly and even welcoming to our dog!
We were happy to find our car just as we had left it in Rocheport. We took one last quick ride on the Katy Trail by going west to see the tunnel before loading the bikes up and heading home.
The MKT Trail - Connection to Columbia
Now for our second trip to Missouri, we opted to take it much, much easier. Instead of riding a large section of the Katy Trail we rode a portion of the MKT Trail that connects the Katy Trail to Columbia, Missouri. This trail was absolutely beautiful and reminded me of our start on the Katy Trail out of Rocheport. The MKT takes you through wetlands and wooded areas before ending in downtown Columbia at Flat Branch Park. We found this ride delightful thanks to its trailside waterways, rocky walls and murals. Columbia is a lot of fun as well! This college town has many restaurants, breweries, and a nice farmer's market. However, the city's health code is not dog friendly at all. Dogs are not allowed on restaurant patios or in the Farmer's Market. Their abundant and beautiful dog parks are wonderful, though.
Missouri as a Destination
A relaxing way to enjoy the Katy Trail is by taking a day to casually ride a section of the trail you find interesting. On our most recent trip we found a lovely place on Airbnb in the country outside of Boonville. We are close enough to easily access the Katy Trail and explore the cute towns located along the way. This time around, we were able to add Boonville to the list of cities we have visited. They, too, have a charming historic downtown. We enjoyed a drink at the Hotel Frederick with views of the Missouri River.
Please note, right now the Missouri River is experiencing some record-breaking flooding. If you are planning on visiting Missouri (or even Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas) anytime soon be sure to check with local authorities for road closures and river conditions.
Inspiration - The Katy Trail, Missouri
I was inspired by our two very different experiences on and off the Katy Trail. Looking back I am glad we went all in the first time. It may have been almost miserable at times but the sense of accomplish far outweighs that now. In celebration of Missouri’s wildlife, I created a fun sketch of some of the creatures you might encounter during your trip across the Katy Trail.
Cheers! To biking your butt off!
Freelance Graphic Designer
This trip took place during the spring of 2019. When planning your own adventures, please be sure to check for any current travel alerts or changes in destination conditions first. Keep in mind that businesses mentioned may no longer exist or offer the same products recommended in this post.